Student Team Increases Rank in Financial Research Challenge



A team of finance students from Southern Adventist University’s School of Business participated in the Greater Tennessee Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute Research Challenge this school year. Despite this being only the second year for Southern to compete in the challenge, the team placed second among the 10 participating colleges and universities. increasing its position from third place last year.

In the annual research challenge, students assume the role of financial analysts, evaluating a company and advising a panel of judges on whether to buy, sell, or hold stock in the company. The competition tests students’ analytical, valuation, report writing, and presentation skills.

For this year’s local-level competition, colleges and universities researched and reported on Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. Southern’s team, comprised of four students, logged over 300 hours of work conducting research, putting together the report, and creating the presentation. Each team is allowed to have one advisor from its respective school, with Southern’s team selecting Joelle Akiki, professor in the School of Business.

Southern’s team members are all involved in the Student Managed Asset Risk and Return Training (SMARRT) Fund at Southern. Students who hold membership in the SMARRT Fund manage an endowment for Southern that is currently valued at more than $600,000.

Using the Bloomberg terminals located in Southern’s finance lab, the team was able to access Cracker Barrel’s financial data, such as 10-K filings and financial statements, a privilege of SMARRT Fund members. A Bloomberg terminal is a software system that enables finance professionals to monitor and analyze real-time financial market data.

“Our success in the CFA challenge is a testament to the support of the Bloomberg terminals and our finance lab, as well as the dedication of the School of Business professors,” Akiki says.

According to senior finance major Abi Cornelius, this year’s SMARRT president and team lead of Southern’s CFA research team, the team built the framework and did early research for their project in the fall and over Christmas Break. When they returned to school in January, the bulk of the work began.

The team’s final report was due in early February, at which point they had approximately three weeks to create and prepare their presentation for the panel of CFA judges, where each team would present their research in the Alliance Bernstein Building in Nashville.

“We were given a mentor from the CFA Institute and had Professor Akiki and some of last year’s team members provide some guidance, but the challenge still involved many hours of work and late nights in the finance lab,” Cornelius says. “Pretty much all of the research we conducted was done on the Bloomberg terminals. … We got analysts’ insights, saw the latest financial news, read through documents, and listened to earnings calls.”

Akiki says that it is vital to have resources like the Bloomberg terminals available for students as well as business professors who can be strong mentors: “The commitment to excellence by the professors in the School of Business and their tireless efforts in nurturing the next generation of professionals played a pivotal role in shaping the team’s success in the challenge.”

With this being Southern’s second year participating, both Akiki and Cornelius are hopeful that future teams from Southern can continue to grow and excel in future years of the CFA Research Challenge.

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