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University of Pittsburgh Business Students Shine in CFA Institute Research Challenge

Pitt Business students celebrate their win at CFA Institute Research ChallengeFive University of Pittsburgh business students recently won the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute Research Challenge and advanced to the regional round of competition. The University of Pittsburgh sponsored team, which included four undergraduates from the College of Business Administration and one graduate student from the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, was comprised of Ethan McCarthy, Taha Ahmed, Yuguang Li, Megan Vogel, and Jun Jin.


The Pitt team was one of nine university-sponsored teams that participated in the local competition. Among the teams were Pennsylvania State University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Duquesne University.


The CFA Institute Research Challenge is an annual, global competition that provides university students with hands-on mentoring and intensive training in financial analysis. Teams research an assigned publicly traded company, prepare a written report on the company, and present their findings to a panel of judges. The judges include heads of research, portfolio managers, and chief investment officers from some of the world’s top firms. Local champions advance to regional competitions and ultimately to the global final.


With over 5,000 student participants in 81 countries, the CFA Institute Research Challenge offers intensive training in company analysis and presentation skills.


"For this challenge, we were tasked with developing a sell-side equity research report on a company called WESCO International, an electrical distribution company," McCarthy says. "After our research and analysis, our team presented recommendations to a panel of CFA Charterholders, which consisted of a 10–minute presentation followed by a Q&A portion."


"The biggest takeaway for me was the idea that sell-side finance is just as much about telling a story as it is crunching the numbers. Anyone can build a financial model that results in a certain stock price, but generating a story about the company’s future is what gives the numbers meaning and credibility," McCarthy says.


"The students representing the University of Pittsburgh were praised for their excellent research report, very strong performance in the Q&A session, and their diversity and knowledge, all of which are hallmarks of Pitt Business Programs," says Akin Sayrak, faculty advisor for the CFA Research Challenge and visiting assistant professor of business administration at the University of Pittsburgh.


Having secured the local win, the team will now compete in the regional round on March 20, 2018 in Boston. Winners from that round could have a chance to compete in the global portion of the competition in Malaysia.


During the competition, the students were also assisted by industry mentor, Nick Stone, the founder and managing member of Airacobra Capital Management. 

All the Pitt Business students are enrolled in the Pitt Practicum in Portfolio Management and Security Analysis, an experienced-based learning course taught by Sayrak. The goal of the course is to expose students to "real world" investment portfolio management.  


"I would highly recommend this challenge to anyone interested in finance. It gave our team an opportunity to apply classroom principles and gain practical insight into how financial analysts develop an understanding of a corporation," McCarthy says.


Students interested in next year's CFA Institute Research Challenge can apply with the CFA Affiliate Program Director Akin Sayrak at