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NJIT's Budding Security Analysts Move On to the Local Finals of the CFA Institute Research Challenge

Although they’ll be competing against three of the top business schools in the region later this month in what promises to be a nail-biting finish at the CFA Institute Research Challenge, NJIT’s team of amateur financial analysts already feels like a winner.

Having emerged as a finalist from the initial round of 18 on Feb. 7, they have achieved NJIT’s best finish to date in an annual competition that challenges student teams to assume the role of research analyst and then tests them on their ability to value a stock, write an initiation-of-coverage report, and present their recommendations to either hold, sell or buy. The competition is sponsored by the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Research Institute, a global association of investment professionals, and hosted by the New York Society of Security Analysts (NYSSA).

NJIT’s School of Management team will face the Gabelli School of Business and Graduate School of Business Administration at Fordham University, the Rutgers Business School, and the Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University on Feb. 20 at the NYSSA Conference Center in New York City.

The team, including Geoffrey Ching ’15, Rodolfo Marquez ’15, Pedro Santos ’14, and James Barr ‘14, won a spot in the Final Four for their savvy, well-researched analysis of Colgate-Palmolive Co.

The group imagined it would be assessing “an exciting new company with a technical edge” only to discover the assignment was a consumer products company founded more than 200 years ago, recounted Barr, of Bernardsville. At first blush, the task seemed easy.

"When we realized that issuing a buy, sell, or hold rating for this company was more complex than we initially thought, we dove into the financials and annual reports and learned as much about the entire industry as we could. We also looked for drivers of growth in emerging markets and how this could hurt or help the company moving forward," said Barr, a double major in finance and accounting.

The team’s faculty advisor, Zhipeng Yan, a professor of finance, said he was impressed by the group’s motivation.

“They also brought calmness, maturity, and of course, academic excellence,” Yan added, noting that some of the team members have excelled in both undergraduate and graduate level finance courses.

Barr called the contest an eye-opening new experience.

“It’s one thing to be graded by professors whose expectations you’ve come to know over the course of a semester – no matter how stringent their standards – but it’s an entirely new experience to be assessed by industry professionals who are total strangers. This is what we will encounter in the real world,” he said, noting of his fellow team members, “We all had a base in finance, but we each brought our own skills – one of us was especially good at creating the mathematical models, another at analyzing financials, another at research, and another at organizing the team and bringing everyone together. It really was a whole team effort.”

Finance professor Michael Ehrlich, who helped select the team, likes NJIT’s chances in the upcoming contest. In the finals, the team will once again be making a recommendation on Colgate.

”Our SOM student team of all undergraduates is competing against other schools’ graduate and undergraduate students, but our students are as good as any within the region. The team this year has the smarts, chemistry, and has done the hard work needed to get to this level,” he said.

The winner from each local competition will advance to one of the three regional competitions hosted by CFA Institute: in the Americas; the Asia Pacific; and the Europe, Middle East, and Africa regions. The winner from each regional competition will advance to the Global Final, where one team will emerge as global champion.