MSFA Students Place 2nd in Financial Analysis Competition

By Financial Analysis Program Posted Wed, 04/01/2015 - 17:00

CFAinstituteUniversity of San Francisco (USF) students in the Master of Science in Financial Analysis (MSFA) program recently bested rivals Stanford University and Wharton School of Business, placing second in the Charter Financial Analyst Institute’s regional research challenge. USF’s student team of Steve Meeker, Zach Leonard, Colin McCune and Jason Martel researched and analyzed the financial performance of the company Gilead and presented their findings to a panel of financial professionals. 

"We looked at the performance analysis of the company's financials," Meeker said, "then had to evaluate and project how they will do in the future. We assigned them a fair value stock price and had to be able to justify the decision we made." 

With the help of Adjunct Professor Michael Maestas and equity research analyst Jennifer Dugan, the team spent time using what they had learned in their MSFA program at USF to research the company to find interesting or telling about Gilead’s future for their 10-page report and presentation.

“Most of our classes directly applied,” said Meeker. “Our accounting class with Professor Maestas taught us how to dig out those little bits of information that made all the difference in our report. We were the only team to assign the company a hold stock and we had all the information we needed to justify our decision.”

Team member Colin McCune also credited the success of the group to what he is learning in his courses and said this experience even put his team ahead of the class with some of their lessons. “Based on advice from Professor Maestas, we actually used a few valuation methods in our final project that we had not covered in class yet,” he said, “so when they were presented in class after we competed it was pretty cool to say that we had that experience already.”

In addition to placing second, Meeker said that one of the most exciting things about the CFA competition was the opportunity to network with professionals and peers. “When we presented in front of everyone, we were basically doing a practice interview,” he said. “By participating, we also showed that we can work well on a team, do professional level research and can answer tough questions on the fly.”

The Charter Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute holds research competitions on a local, regional and international level, allowing finance students hands-on mentoring and training in financial analyses. More than 15,000 students from more than 1,000 universities compete in the global competition. The regional competition USF’s students participated in pitted them against 18 other research teams, most of them made up of advanced MBA students.

I think placing second was particularly impressive for this team,” Maestas said. “The CFA Research Challenge is structured around traditional two-year MBA programs, and the competition was comprised of mostly second-year MBA students. The 18-month USF MSFA program has a non-traditional calendar and our student team is relatively early in their graduate studies. I'm impressed that they placed very well in a very competitive field, and they hadn't yet taken the advanced courses in finance.”

Meeker compared the experience to having a part-time job for the duration of the project. He said it was not only professionally beneficial to have the opportunity to participate, but also to foster an association with the CFA. Meeker credits his advisors for helping with research and feedback.

“Finance is a very competitive field,” Maestas said, “one that favors motivated and assertive people. I think they demonstrated these two key characteristics by taking on a big project like this, balancing the time requirements with their studies, and managing to compete very effectively. If I were an employer, I'd be looking for new hires like these who show perseverance and dedication to the industry.”

By Sage Curtis