Preparing for the global stage

Isaac’s experience competing at the CFA Institute Research Challenge

The CFA Institute Research Challenge (IRC) is a global competition that offers university students one-on-one mentoring and training in financial analysis and professional ethics. Each student is tested on their analytical, valuation, report writing, and presentation skills. The competitors gain real-world experience as they assume the role of research analysts. 

Isaac WongIsaac, a 4th year AFM student met with SAF to talk about his experience with this program and how it prepared him for the recent CFA IRC.

How have your academic, and experiential opportunities prepared you for this competition?

There were ultimately three aspects of my undergraduate career that really prepared me for the CFA IRC. The first being the Introduction to the Applied Finance (AFM 204) course led by Private Equity and Venture Capital Lecturer Steve Balaban (who is also the staff advisor for the CFA IRC Waterloo team). The second being my past co-op work term in investment banking. The skills I learned on the job like financial modeling, building client-ready slides, and presenting to high-value stakeholders were directly transferable to this competition. The third was the smaller stock pitches I competed in that were less demanding but helped develop skills and prepare me for the global stage.

What do you think your team did differently that made the difference between winning the Regionals and not winning?

Primary research is a tool that the CFA IRC teams from the University of Waterloo have historically leveraged as a differentiator in the competition. Furthermore, as the University has traditionally done very well at the competition we wanted to continue the legacy of success and not disappoint faculty members and alumni.

Did you or your team have to overcome any challenges to make it to the CFA IRC Regionals?

The biggest challenge for our team was time. As three of our four team members were working in investment banking, we would often find ourselves tied up at work for long periods. Additionally, as some of us were on a study term in Waterloo and others were working in Toronto, a lot of things that we wanted to do, such as calls with industry professionals, could not be done as a team as we would not be able to place calls during regular business hours. Our team was only able to meet remotely for most of the process and met for the first time in person the weekend before submitting our report for the local competition.

Why did you get involved with this competition, and why this competition specifically?

Every student coming into SAF had heard about the 2016 team’s win on the CFA IRC international stage with Canadian Tire. As a result, I was always keen to represent Waterloo on a larger stage and knew this was a great opportunity. I took on the challenge knowing that I would be super busy but also knowing that I would do as much as I could to commit myself to the process.

How did you balance your academics with extra-curriculars during this competition?

The CFA IRC is extremely tough. At the peak of it, we were probably committing 40 to 50 hours a week just doing this challenge. The most important thing is understanding who you are, where your priorities lie, and what your capacity is. Once you understand those things, you will be able to prioritize your time and ask for help whenever you need it.

To us, the CFA IRC was the highest priority. We really wanted to do this, not just for us, but for the school. Whenever it came to a question of should we take this extra time to study versus should we really commit and push this piece of work out for the CFA IRC, the decision for us was pretty easy.

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