Waterloo students win the global finals at CFA Institute’s research challenge in Poland

Waterloo students at the CFA Institute’s Research Challenge in Poland hold
Waterloo students at the CFA Institute’s Research Challenge in Poland holding their award

How a team of accounting students sweep more than 1,000 universities with their pitch to buy Cargojet Inc. Stocks

A team of University of Waterloo students were riding high on adrenaline after a whirlwind trip to Poland that involved countless hours of preparation, a little sightseeing, very little sleep and a massive victory that’s sure to impress their future employers. The team included Ryan Trainor and Coco Dai, Master of Accounting students, and Aryaman Dhillon, Arnav Sheth and Ronis Goel, students in the Accounting and Financial Management program. 

The five students from the School of Accounting and Finance competed in the CFA Institute’s Research Challenge and after beating out hundreds of teams from all’over North and South America, they dominated at the global finals in May and took home the grand prize of $10,000.  

The team competed against 1,100 schools and 6,700 students from all’over the world in six rounds of competition. 

"The most unique aspect of competing in the global finals was truly how "global" the competition felt. Each team and country had their own company in a completely different landscape, which meant that we were exposed to many unique perspectives," Goel said.

The CFA Institute Research Challenge is an annual global competition that provides university students with hands-on experience and intensive training in equity research, financial analysis and professional ethics. Each team is evaluated on their analytical, valuation, report writing and presentation skills. They gain real-world experience as they assume the role of a research analyst.  

The winning university team from each local competition advances to the sub-regional, regional, and finally, the global final competition where one team emerges as the global champion. 

Buy, sell or hold? 

In the first round of the competition, all’Ontario schools that competed in the research challenge within CFA Society Toronto and CFA Society Ottawa were assigned the company Cargojet Inc. (TSX: CJT), a Canadian scheduled cargo airline. 

The team was immediately intrigued by the company due to its unique dedicated freight model and lack of domestic competitors. Their research showed that the stock had performed incredibly well during the pandemic. 

The students were tasked with pitching a buy, sell or hold on the company and compiled a research report and presentation in front of a panel of judges over six rounds of competition. Based on their extensive research, the team determined that Cargojet was an exceptionally well-positioned business with significant growth opportunities that could now drive meaningful shareholder returns. This in-depth analysis led the team to issue a "buy" recommendation on the company’s stock. 

The team’s strategy was to do as much research on their assigned company as possible. Their research involved interviewing 15 experts, including leaders at client and competitor organizations, industry executives, former employees, legal experts and macroeconomists. They also conducted their own e-commerce survey that helped validate key aspects of their analysis.  

Their commitment to thoroughly understand every aspect of Cargojet and the industry allowed them to draw unique insights that strengthened their perspectives. The team was accompanied by their faculty mentor, Steve Balaban, CFA, and an industry mentor, Jeannine LiChong (MAcc ’92), who helped the team refine their presentations and connect with other industry members. 

The team also expertly handled the Q and A period after each of their presentations. They practiced with professors and alumni and even built a detailed appendix with more than 150 slides that covered everything they believed could be questioned by the judges - this was key to their success. 

Why students should get involved in the CFA Institute’s Research Challenge 

Sheth, a second-year Waterloo student, credited the competition for helping to "hone our presentation, analysis and critical thinking skills, all’of which are crucial to both our academic and professional careers."  

The team’s advice for fellow students who want to get involved in CFA Institute’s Research Challenge  is to become an expert on the assigned company and go all’in.  

"Focusing on one company over the course of seven months made us experts on the business we analyzed and deepened our knowledge of the broader industry as a whole," said Dai, another member of the team. "The challenge provided us with an excellent opportunity to connect with professionals who work in various areas across finance. Overall, we highly recommend that students get involved in the CFA Institute Research Challenge."  

When the team was asked about their biggest learnings and takeaways, their responses were unanimous - the importance of feedback and seeking contrarian opinions. 

"At every stage our team was consistently building, receiving feedback and improving. We actively sought out critical perspectives that would challenge our views and we were very welcoming of criticism and advice to help us improve," Dhillon said.  

Trainor, the team captain, emphasized this point by saying, "Our system of continuous improvement meant that we were always looking for ways to refine our pitch, presentation and skills, which paid off as we advanced through each round. By the end, every single team member walked away more knowledgeable and experienced. Actively seeking critical feedback is very important to becoming competent and this fact remains true across many avenues of life." 

Watch the team’s winning presentation for Cargojet 

Rachel Doherty