Experiential education pays dividends for tomorrow's accounting and finance

Friday, February 28, 2014

by: Patty Mah

Experiential learning is one of the best ways for students to successfully integrate their classroom learning with real-world expectations. The School of Accounting and Finance prides itself on providing our students with opportunities that range from co-op to conferences and competitions. "It's a fun, unique way to take the knowledge you get in school and apply it. It helps us realize why we put in all those hours learning the fundamentals," says Joanne Toporowski (BMath ’14).

2014 CFA Investment Research Competition team

Joanne, along with Jason Gong (BAFM CA ’14), Sunny Guo (BAFM ’14), Nitish Sharma (BMath CA ’14), and Michael Wang (BMath ’14), represented Waterloo for the 2013/2014 CFA Investment Research Challenge (CFA IRC) team, an annual global competition providing senior level students with hands-on experience in financial analysis. Participants assume the role of a research analyst and are tested on their ability to value a stock, write an initiation-of-coverage report, and present their recommendations. The team had advanced to the CFA Local Competition (provincial) level.

Earlier in February, Tiffany Chung (3A AFM), Mayank Gupta (3A AFM), and David Chan (3B AFM) participated in the two-day 2014 Battle on Bay Street venture capital finance competition and conference. Placing second, the team expressed “It was an amazing 2 days and we are very grateful for all the support and mentorship our professors provided for the event.”

SAF faculty members often volunteer their time to mentor these and other student teams - providing feedback and challenging the students in mock judging and Q&A sessions. In addition to this training, these experiential learning opportunities can pay further dividends. . SAF students have exposure to virtually every major area of the professional accounting and capital markets sectors through Waterloo’s co-op program. Competitions and conferences can help our students develop the skills they need to secure great co-op jobs in these areas that can lead to full-time employment upon graduation.

2014 SAF teams at the CPAO CA$H CompetitionUWaterloo SAF students also compete at junior level competitions. Thinisha Gunasekera, Katherine Chan, and Samantha Tjong, all first year AFM students competed as a team to win the 2014 CPA CA$H Competition. The CA$H Competition is an Ontario-wide competition that tests future Chartered Professional Accountants (CPAs) on their soft skills. "It was basically a simulation in which you traded investments. The goal was to increase your net worth and maintain healthy relationships with other groups." Faizan Siddiqi (3A AFM), who was part of the 2012 winning team, credits his competition experience with improving his business skills and helping him to secure his current co-op placement.

When asked what gives UWaterloo its competitive edge in the competition world, Donna Heng (BAFM ’13) who was part of the 2013 CFA IRC student team explains that it's the School’s innovative approach to experiential education – an academic Learning Model that’s closely integrated with co-op. "The lessons that we've learned from working in the industry truly sets us apart from the competition in many regards, from technical proficiency to our professionalism. The blend of real world experience with a strong academic foundation makes UWaterloo students a force to be reckoned with at these competitions."

2014 NIBC team who made it to the finals.At the beginning of this year, three SAF student teams advanced to the finals for the National Investment Banking Competition (NIBC) on January 7-9, 2014 in Vancouver, BC, with one of the teams placing in the top 3. 

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