While the University of The Bahamas (UB) team to the subregional final of Atlantic Islands division of the CFA Institute Research Challenge did not walk away with the win, they still had reason to celebrate as team member Tiasha Lewis won “Best Female Presenter” at the global intercollegiate competition, that offers students the unique opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge to real-world practice in equity research.
“I honestly did not expect to win that prize,” said Lewis, 21, who is in the fourth-year of a five-year program at UB studying banking, finance and Spanish. But winning she said felt “amazing”.
“It took confidence. I love to speak and have been a part of JA [Junior Achievement Bahamas] and did speaking competitions and won. I just did not expect to go to a competition and win that. I just wanted the team to advance. It definitely came with confidence.”
Despite not winning – that honor went to University College of the Cayman Islands – Lewis said her team, which also included Shania Darville, Courtney John, and Rashorn Fraser, put its best foot forward.
“All I know is that me and my group, we had told ourselves we would put our best foot forward in the presentation [considering what we were going through] because when we initially did the paper, we were crammed with school work and end-of-term final exam work. We were just super busy.”
The UB team submitted a research paper in which they provided detailed analysis of a company by applying their classroom knowledge in a practical scenario. A panel of research professionals, portfolio managers, and investment officers from some of the top firms in the world evaluated the submissions of the students against papers presented from groups from across the region.
Lewis said they advanced by God’s grace, considering their hectic schedules and what they were able to produce. After advancing, she said they realized their potential and did not want it to go to waste.
“Every Sunday, we met on Zoom and keep putting pieces together to finish the presentation, which we wanted to finish before deadline, which we did a week early. That gave us seven days to perfect our lines.”
Pre-COVID, the team would have traveled to the competition, but in the pandemic, the competition was held virtually.
“This is our new normal and we have to make do with what we are given,” said Lewis. “I would have loved to travel for it, especially as I haven’t traveled in a while, but what matters most is the experience and being in the competition like that. And I would rather be safe than sorry.”
The quartet is grateful to their UB lecturers for encouraging them to enter.
“There is a course that we have at UB that prepared us for this. So, we put our best foot forward and I thank the lecturers for pushing us and preparing us to do it,” said Lewis. “I really had a great team and we worked well together. We were just professional, had fun doing it, laughed a lot, were stressed a lot, but I’m grateful for what it turned out to be. Team work made the dream work.”
Prior to the competition, Darville, a senior studying finance, said the CFA Institute Research Challenge allowed her and her teammates to gain real-world experience with financially analyzing publicly traded companies. In addition, she said the research challenge gave her the opportunity to communicate and learn from financial professionals.
Courtney John, another fourth-year finance major with aspirations of becoming a financial analyst, said the challenge expanded her grasp of how a business works. She said the entire project helped her to gain a greater understanding of how to analyze the inner workings of a company. And that the project has shown her the importance of diversification. As she examined how major areas of the company were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, she said she came to realize that smaller areas became big revenue earners for the company during the critical time.
Rashorn Fraser, a senior majoring in economics and finance, said one of the lessons he learned through the process was when analyzing the company, or any company, the smallest details “spoke the loudest” and are what will give a true outlook on how a company is performing. He said companies today are starting to take a more purposeful approach with how they’re run, including more social responsibilities within their operations and the company they analyzed was an example of that.
For Lewis, her greatest challenge was time having to juggle college classes, research projects, exams, student government association duties, work, and tutor sessions while trying to break down the annual reports for the company. Luckily, she said the challenge was solved by having a great team of students who, together, were able to complete the analysis.
Darville, John, Fraser and Lewis also competed against three groups of students from the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, Barbados; and University of Technology, Jamaica in the sub-regional challenge.
The University College of The Cayman Islands team earned a spot to compete at the virtual Americas regional finals in mid-April for a chance to participate in the global final against students from the Asia-Pacific region and the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa.)
Each research challenge is organized by the CFA Institute and local CFA Society volunteers mentor and support students through the process.
Raschard McKinney, trust officer at J.P. Morgan Bahamas and Angelo Butler, senior research analyst at CFAL, served as industry mentor and faculty advisor respectively for the UB team this year.