Polish universities can not only be proud of their improving global rankings, but also of their engaged youth. The CFA Institute Research Challenge attracts ambitious and talented students who can boast analytical skills of the highest level. What do they get in exchange for participation? We have spoken to Uma Shah and Taras Datsenko, members of the winning team, which represented Kozminski University in 2017/2018 CFA Institute Research Challenge.
What have you learned thanks to a participation in the last year’s Research Challenge? What are the benefits of participating in the competition?
Taras: First of all, it’s all about the team-play: the ability to hear each other, do your work properly and always being ready to help your team-mate – one of the most valuable skills learned during the Challenge. The second benefit was the opportunity to obtain a priceless mentorship from our faculty and industry advisors – Julia Kavalenka and Michał Szemraj, always challenging our assumptions and ready to advise on how to improve our report and presentation to the best possible extent. The last, but not the least, participation in the CFA Institute Research Challenge helped us to develop the critical way of thinking and desire to make our report corresponding to the highest standards of the industry, promoted by the CFA Society Poland.
Uma: Participation in the Research Challenge last year was a great learning experience not only in terms of developing technical and analytical skills but was also helpful in honing our soft skills. I got an insight into the equity research industry and an overview of the best practices in the business. I also received the opportunity to work in a team with my colleagues and to interact with our faculty advisor and industry mentor both experienced professionals who gave us interesting perspectives and guided us through the entire competition. The competition has helped me to develop problem solving skills and has played a major role in boosting my self-confidence.
What are some other benefits of participating in the competition?
Uma: For starters, you get to improve your financial knowledge base and presentation skills. This competition gives you the chance to work in a team and collaborate with experienced professionals who mentor you during the whole competition. You get a chance to understand best practices in the industry and apply everything that you study at university. Besides all of the above, it adds great value to the CV. Another benefit I see is the chance to network with other participants, mentors and successful CFA society members both at the local and regional competitions.
How long did you prepare for the competition? How do you rate the Research Challenge level of difficulty? What (which part of the competition) was troubling you most?
Taras: Actually, our four-months CFA Institute Research Challenge path started at the university qualification stage. That was the moment when our team initially realized the anticipated level of difficulty and degree of the responsibility to be taken in the following stages.
Uma: In terms of difficulty, I would say it was perfectly structured in such a way that we would be challenged and would need to push ourselves to perform but at the same time we were given the necessary resources like a faculty advisor, industry mentor, access to Bloomberg and any other guidance that we might require so as to ensure that we were not overwhelmed with the task ahead of us. As a team, I believe the part we struggled with most was that of how detailed and in-depth the analysis had to be within the limited time frame allotted to us. The process of elimination of information so as to keep the report concise and precise was tedious. Also, the subjectivity involved in the process of writing the report was something we found difficult to define.
Taras: The other issue that emerged was the need to dig deeper and deeper in order to understand the peculiarities of the industry and how did the analyzed company manage to overcome the obstacles historically and what were the steps to be taken in order to secure the leading position in the future.
Do you think that the participation in the local and regional level of Research Challenge has improved your presentation skills?
Taras: The presentation stages in Local final and Regional semi-finals were one of the most exciting moments of the whole CFA Institute Research Challenge. The main task was to compress 4 months of hard work, tones of information processed into a 10-minutes presentation, which was easier said than done, because by the end of the Challenge everyone in our team could literally talk hours about the analyzed company and its industry.
Uma: One of the most important aspects of the research challenge was that we were also required to hone our soft skills in order to be able to present before highly qualified members of the CFA society. Each member of our team worked extensively in speech delivery, voice modulation and body language to ensure that our presenting skills were on point and this is something that will help us in the future through our careers.
Did the competition meet your needs?
Uma: I think the competition exceeded most of my expectations. I entered the competition thinking of it as merely a challenge and something fruitful to do with my time but was surprised at how much I got to expand my knowledge base through the course of the competition. I came out of the competition not only with a great experience, but also with a network of colleagues who would be my future counterparts in the industry as well.
Do you agree that Research Challenge is important and valuable initiative for students?
Taras: Definitely. To my mind, CFA Institute Research Challenge is perfectly designed and executed competition for the young, aspiring individuals to confront the real world issues imposed by the industry. The only thing the participant should ask themselves at the beginning is whether they are ready to fully devote few months of their time and show constant dedication to the Challenge, being ready to deliver the result under the tremendous time and psychological pressure. For those who are not threatened with such scenario, the reward will be well-deserved: gained experience as well as meeting with open-minded people during the Challenge will play a huge role in the future professional life.
Thank you for your answers. Make sure you check out the current edition of the CFA Institute Research Challenge – join it at www.researchchallenge.pl!