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Business students shine at competition, best M.B.A.-level students
Friday, August 22, 2014

Business students shine at competition, best M.B.A.-level students

Displaying Fredonia’s Western New York Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute Research Challenge medal are (from left): Nicole Sparks, Aaron Valeska, Mathew Sullivan, Victoria Wessel and Dr. Taihyeup Yi.

Does Fredonia turn out business students ready to compete with the big dogs and M.B.A. candidates for Wall Street-caliber jobs?

You can count on it!

A team of four Fredonia seniors majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance earned the bronze medal at the Western New York Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute Research Challenge, hosted by the University of Rochester. The impressive finish at the February event demonstrated that the Fredonia contingent — under the leadership of Dr. Taihyeup Yi — was clearly up to the challenge of competing against teams stocked with M.B.A. students. In fact, only the Fredonia and SUNY Oswego teams were comprised exclusively of undergraduates.

“Not only did we beat some good schools, we beat their graduate students,” beamed School of Business Dean Russ Boisjoly.

Fredonia finished behind Canisius College and the University of Rochester, respectively, and ahead of the University at Buffalo, Syracuse University, Niagara University, SUNY Oswego and Nazareth College. Its four members were Team Captain Aaron Valeska of Rochester N.Y.; Mathew Sullivan of Ashville, Nicole Sparks of Orchard Park and Victoria Wessel of Lakewood.

The CFA Research Challenge is a global competition in which student teams conduct research and analyze a publicly traded company and write an initiation-of-coverage report with a recommendation to buy, sell or hold the company’s stock. Major components of the report include a business description, industry overview and competitive positioning, investment summary, valuation, financial analysis and investment risks.

Dr. Yi said the crux of the report is to estimate the company’s share price given its accounting and financial data along with the economic data, and to provide the recommendation to buy, sell or hold the stock.

“The competition expects students to integrate their understandings in finance, accounting, economics and statistics, and requires professional oral and writing skills along with spreadsheet skills,” Yi noted. Students gain real-life experience as financial analysts plus hands-on mentoring and training from an investment professional.

“The actual competition was a great learning experience because of the real-world aspect,” explained Ms. Wessel. “As a result of working with a real company (Transact) based out of Rochester and talking with financial analysts, I have expanded my knowledge, which enhanced the overall experience.”

As the quartet’s chief, Mr. Valeska gained considerable leadership experience, with particular attention to allocating individual tasks so a unified objective could be achieved. Extracting the most important pieces of information to convey during the presentation was one of the biggest skills that he acquired.

“Most of the time, you are left with too much information that you want to present, so the hardest part is narrowing it down to the most essential points,” Valeska said.

Teams prepared a written report on Rochester-based Transcat, Inc., and gave a 10-minute presentation, followed by a question/answer session, before a panel of judges. Fredonia students met every two weeks during the fall semester to learn stock pricing models, discuss the data collected and begin writing the report. Considerable time was logged during the semester break to estimate the company’s share price and complete the written report.

“The students committed relentless efforts to make professional presentation slides and practice mock presentations,” Yi noted. Wessel and Valeska agreed that public speaking experience was another valuable attribute of the competition.

Enhancing presentation skills was a high priority for Ms. Sparks, who found that practicing every day with team members, “showed me a lot about my presentation style and strengths.”

Yi believes Fredonia students can enter the job market with confidence, knowing that the CFA competition will serve them well. “The experience will be very important and helpful for them to develop their careers as financial/accounting managers, financial analysts, bankers or researchers,” Yi said. “Most of last year’s team members found positions in the related areas.”\

The competition was a great networking and learning experience for Ms. Sparks, who was to start the Management Development Program at M&T Bank and relocate to Albany to work with their retail branches. She was able to listen to a panel of CFA holders and learn about their experiences to become licensed.

Wessel, whose post-graduation options include joining a bank or investment firm or attending graduate school, said the challenge represented a “perfect” opportunity for students to enhance financial analysis skills. “Whether I start my career right away or choose to attend graduate school instead, I know being a part of this CFA Research Challenge will be beneficial for my future career.”

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State University of New York at Fredonia