Going Global

Benjamin Roe discusses his team's analysis with alumni and Finance chair Cyrus Ramezani.

Benjamin Roe discusses his team's analysis with visiting alumni and Finance chair Cyrus Ramezani, left. To his right is team member Jivitesh Kamboj. (Photo/Pat Pemberton)

Written by August 7, 2023

Even though the CFA Investment Research Challenge featured 6,400 participants from universities in 90 countries, finance professor Cyrus Ramezani regularly reminded his Orfalea College of Business team that they stood out.

“After every long night preparing for this project, he always signed off with, ‘We’re going to the global finals!’ — and really installed that confidence in us from the very start,” said Brenden Rogers, one of five seniors on the team that spent months preparing for the competition.

While no previous Cal Poly team had even made it to the national finals, Ramezani’s prediction proved prophetic when the five-member team advanced to the May 3 global finals in Washington, D.C.

“I was so excited to learn we had advanced and was almost in shock because I knew how competitive it is to be one of six college teams out of almost 1,500 to advance to the final round,” said team member Samantha Gottlieb.

Participants perform an in-depth analysis of a single company, which tests their analytical skills, valuation modeling, report writing and presentation skills. The Cal Poly team members included finance students Gottlieb, Rogers Athénaïs Mortier and Benjamin Roe and accounting student Jivitesh Kamboj.

Photo: Jack Sann
Photo: Jack Sann
Photo: Pat Pemberton
Photo: Pat Pemberton

Photo: Jack Sann

Photo: Pat Pemberton
Photo: Jack Sann
Photo: Pat Pemberton
Photo: Jack Sann
Photo: Pat Pemberton
Photo: Pat Pemberton
Photo: Pat Pemberton
Photo: Pat Pemberton
Photo: Jack Sann
Photo: Jack Sann
Courtesy photo
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PHOTO GALLERY: Team Luna prepares for the CFA competition.

Beginning in the fall, the team members prepared the 10-page analysis report for Advanced Micro Device (AMD) that evolved through each phase.

“This is an analyst initiation report,” said Ramezani, faculty mentor on the project and chair of the Finance Area. “The most detailed report issued on a firm by Wall Street analysts.”

AMD competes with Intel, another Santa Clara, California-based corporation in the semiconductor industry, the report noted, designing chips for computing applications. Yet, AMD “possesses a weak economic moat despite recent innovations,” the team noted. The report included graphics, figures and research, analyzing the industry, global competition, the regulatory environment and AMD’s business model.

“They have researched everything about this company. No stone has been left unturned,” Ramezani said just before the competition began.

The team worked several 40-hour days preparing for the first round in San Francisco. Named Luna — after Mortier’s dog and unofficial mascot — the team advanced through five rounds, starting in March, which led them to the May finals.

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Even as the team advanced to New York and ultimately Washington, D.C., Team Luna had to continually revise its analysis.

“Our team has learned how quickly information becomes stale, and adjusting our unbiased analysis has been a requirement throughout the competition as new data and news is released constantly,” Rogers said just before the global round. “Q&A from the judges is our main challenge in these most recent rounds since they get an extra five minutes to dive deeper into our analysis and push us to defend our work.”

When Team Luna qualified for the global finals, the CFA Institute paid for the team to travel to Washington, D.C., where they stayed in the famous Watergate Hotel.

“It was also very cool to meet the international teams, talk with other students about their college experience, and how it compares to the college experience in America,” Gottlieb said. “They had a lot of interesting questions.”

At the finals Cal Poly competed against Polytechnic University of Milan (Italy), University of Neuchatel (Switzerland), California State University, Fullerton, Universitas Indonesia and the University of Sydney.

University of Sydney was the overall winner for its review of Australia’s Qantas Airways Limited, the nation’s largest airline by fleet, flights and international destinations.

Cal Poly’s Team Luna recommended a sell order on AMD, citing economic headwinds, dwindling demand for computers as an offshoot of COVID-19 and the cross-strait tensions between China and Taiwan, markets which account for nearly 38 percent of corporate revenue. A quintessential Learn by Doing project, the competition provided students a top-to-bottom holistic view of the equity research process, Rogers said, and a look at how industry professionals apply the high-level concepts students learned in class.

“Beyond the financial knowledge we all gained from this project about valuation models and industry research, we learned a lot about presentation skills and how to effectively communicate an analytical story,” Rogers said.

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