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Gabelli School Students Gain Invaluable, Real-World Experience Through CFA Institute Research Challenge

| Feb 06, 2024 |

Competing against teams from around the world, they learn to research, analyze, and present stock recommendations under the mentorship of top industry professionals

Since 2017, the Gabelli School of Business has taken part in the CFA Institute Research Challenge, an annual global equity research competition that provides teams of students from over 1,000 universities based in more than 100 countries with the chance to earn global recognition as they assume the role of research analysts. Given a new stock pick every year, students participating in the Challenge are judged on their ability to value a stock, write a research report, and present their recommendations. They compete with other teams at the sub-regional and regional level, and for those teams that advance to the finals, they compete at an annual global event which this year will be held in Warsaw, Poland.

For students at the Gabelli School, getting involved in the Challenge has benefits that extend far beyond what is stated in the competition criteria. “Through their participation in the CFA Institute Research Challenge, our students are given the chance to collaborate with their peers to research and analyze a publicly traded company and prepare a written report on the company that supports a buy, sell or hold recommendation,” explained Konstantin Tcherepachenets, CFA, CAIA, adjunct professor and faculty advisor to the Gabelli School team. “The Challenge simulates a real-life working environment and teaches them to undertake deep and thorough fundamental equity research.”

Students interested in joining the Challenge first attend an information session and are invited to be assessed via a thorough selection process similar to what they would experience during a competitive job interview. Tcherepachenets conducts these sessions in collaboration with Gabelli School alumni from previous Challenge teams. Team members become a part of the CFA Challenge Club, which helps facilitate the exchange of ideas and the experiences from teams in previous year’s Challenges. Abhishek Agrawal, GABELLI ’19, who is now a prime broker services associate at JPMorgan Chase, said the experience he had during the Challenge in 2019 as a participant and co-founder of the CFA Challenge Club, was excellent preparation as he searched for his current job. “I found it very useful to have had the real-life experience preparing a stock pitch,” he noted. “I was much better prepared after taking part in the CFA Challenge to start going on interviews.” Now, he and fellow teammate, Club founder, and alumnus Curtis Farfan, GABELLI ’19 help support and mentor the students on the current team. Farfan, who is now an equity research senior associate at RBC Capital Markets, commented, “It was a great opportunity for me to develop the technical skills I needed for my first job, as well as to improve my reading, writing, and presentation skills, which have been really useful in everything I’ve done since I was a part of the Challenge.”

Teams are expected to approach the process as professionals, utilizing classroom learning that is augmented through the practical training of writing a full equity research report. To help guide the team, Leo Schmidt, a CFA charter holder and society member, who is the chief investment officer at River Eddy Capital Management, has served as an industry mentor to Gabelli School teams since 2018. “One of my jobs is to help the team formulate an opinion—because that is a crucial part of what the Challenge is designed to teach them. They are expected to create a narrative that supports their research findings and the data,” he emphasized. “I work with them to understand the difference between a debate and a discussion, and to remain open to different points of view.”

The team that is currently engaged in the 2024 Challenge, is busy working to finish writing their report. Since being chosen to join the team in October 2023, they have dedicated significant amounts of time working together and with their mentors to do the extensive research and analysis needed to prepare. “Sometimes we spend as much time on our report as we do on some of our classwork,” said Ghaith Khmeydan, who is currently earning an M.S. in Quantitative Finance at the Gabelli School. He noted that in order to advance in the competition, team members have to make a significant time commitment spanning several months. Teammate and M.S. in Finance student Vladimir Lipin agreed and added that the extra effort to go above and beyond was well worth it. “So far, it is going very well. We work very well together and I have found a bond with the other members of my team.” His brother and fellow M.S. in Finance student Lev Lipin added, “With the valuable guidance of our mentors, we have significantly expanded the depth of our research and included some industry-specific metrics.” Denis Botezatu, who also is earning an M.S. in Finance and is the team captain, commented, “I was surprised by the level of detail we are expected to include in our report, but the support we’ve had from Professor Tcherepachenets and our industry mentor has been so helpful.” Nida Ahmad, an MBA student and team member, added, “It’s been an enriching journey of learning and gaining technical skills beyond the classroom. The blend of learning and working together as a team has helped me develop both personally and professionally.”

“We provide our team with support from alumni, faculty members, and industry mentors, and what they learn over the course of the competition really informs and supplements what they are learning in the classroom,” Tcherepachenets concluded. “We are thankful for the assistance of Lonnie Kussin, An Yan and Steve Raymar for their help each year.”

As a participating business institution of higher learning, the Gabelli School provides those students engaged in the Challenge with a chance to expand their network by establishing deep and meaningful connections with alumni, fellow students, and with members of the CFA Society. Each progressive round of the Challenge also affords students the opportunity to showcase their talents on a local, regional, and global stage. Applications for the 2025 competition will open in fall 2024.

Written by: Michelle Miller, associate director of communications, Fordham University Gabelli School of Business


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