Like winning Miss Universe
Everyone knows the Philippines has an excellent track record of winning beauty pageants. In the past 10 years, we won two Miss Universe crowns, one Miss World crown, two Miss International crowns and three Miss Earth crowns.
However, there’s another less known but equally prestigious competition where the Philippines has an excellent track record of winning—the CFA Institute Research Challenge.
The CFA Institute Research Challenge is one of CFA Philippines’ activities that I have helped organize during the past 11 years and I am proud to say our consistently strong performance has caught the attention of CFA societies around the world, making them view the Philippines as one of the strongest contenders for the global title.
On March 29, the Philippine team, composed of students from Ateneo de Manila University, won the Asia-Pacific regional leg of the 2019 CFA Institute Research Challenge held in Sydney, Australia. This brought the number of regional championships won by the Philippines to five in a span of 11 years: one each in 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2019.
On April 25, the Philippine team will go to New York City to represent the Asia-Pacific region in the global finals of the CFA Institute Research Challenge. If the Philippine team wins, it will be the third time for the country to win the global crown, the first two being in 2010 and 2014. This will also cement the Philippines’ position of having the best track record among all CFA societies participating in the competition.
As a background, the CFA Institute Research Challenge is a global finance competition where teams composed of three to five students research and analyze a listed company. The students share their findings in a written report and defend their recommendation—to buy, sell or hold the stock—to a panel of judges comprised of industry experts. The team that does the best job in defending its recommendation wins the competition.
The reason why winning the CFA Institute Research Challenge is prestigious is its global scale. In 2018, more than 5,700 students from over 1,100 universities in 85 countries participated in the competition. Moreover, the judges are comprised of senior finance professionals, mostly CFA charter holders, who work for big financial institutions managing billions of dollars globally. Convincing these judges to buy, sell or hold a stock is an impressive feat considering the depth of their experience in evaluating stocks.
For the recently concluded Asia-Pacific regional leg of the research challenge, the Philippine team bested 26 teams from all over Asia, including those from more developed economies such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Korea and Australia. The Philippine team won by defending its buy recommendation on PSE-listed company D&L Industries Inc.
The members of the Philippine team that won the 2019 Asia-Pacific regional finals are Katreena Dachelle Chang, Carina Monica Chua, Vince Benedict Say, Gabrielle Marie Tayag and Christine Abigail Yu. Their faculty adviser is Professor Alfonso Miguel Sevidal while their industry mentor is Mark Alan Canizares, who is also vice president and head of equities at Manulife.
Although the members of the Philippine team are undergraduates taking up management engineering, which has only a few units of finance, this did not stop them from beating even the strongest teams comprised of students pursuing their masters in finance, making their victory even more impressive.
While winning beauty pageants is important because beauty queens can leverage on their talent and beauty to advance important advocacies, winning finance competitions like the CFA Institute Research Challenge is equally important because it inspires the best and the brightest students to pursue careers in finance.
The local finance industry needs ethical and highly competent professionals who put investors’ interests first and make sure our funds are prudently invested. That way, we can be assured the funds we have set aside for our children’s college education and our retirement are safe and secure.
In an ideal world, fund managers should know how to identify poor companies and scams or deals that are too good to be true, avoiding substantial losses. They should also know how to identify good companies that can continue to generate higher profits year after year, providing attractive returns for investors.
With more competent finance professionals, companies that want to raise funds will need to be more transparent and provide more information to convince investors to subscribe to their bonds or stocks. Although companies with weaker finances can still raise capital, their costs should be higher as they need to pay investors higher returns for taking on more risk.
I am proud to say that since I started helping organize the CFA Institute Research Challenge 11 years ago, a good number of participants have become finance professionals. Some became analysts, fund managers and investment bankers, while others worked in corporate finance and became investor relations managers. Still, others went back to the universities to teach finance. In fact, this year’s victory is very meaningful because D&L’s investor relations officer Crissa Bondad and Ateneo’s faculty adviser Alfonso Miguel Sevidal are products of the research challenge.
Although I still want the Philippines to win the research challenge every year we join, this goal has gone down in terms of priority. It has been overtaken by the goal of inspiring more students to pursue careers in finance. Seeing past research challenge participants succeed and knowing that I had a part in their success gives me the greatest fulfillment in helping organize the competition.
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