It’s down to the Sweet Sixteen.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga SMILE Fund (Student Managed Investment Learning Experience) team of senior Jacob Barber and juniors Grant Fetters, Claire Hoeke and Nick Morris has advanced to the Americas region finals in the worldwide Chartered Financial Analyst Institute Research Challenge.
On Thursday, April 13, the four Gary W. Rollins College of Business undergraduates will square off against student teams from Universidad EAFIT (Colombia), University of Waterloo (Canada), Creighton University (Omaha, Nebraska), California Polytechnic State University and California State University, Fullerton—with two of the groups advancing to the May 3 global finals in Washington, D.C.
Each of the teams will make presentations via Zoom analyzing HCA Healthcare (NYSE: HCA), a Nashville-based for-profit operator of health care facilities. Each presentation, consisting of a 10-minute talk followed by a 15-minute Q&A session with judges, is open only to the competing team, their faculty advisor, an industry mentor and CFA society representatives.
More than 6,400 students from 90 countries and nearly 1,300 university teams were competing when the 2023 version of the yearly CFA Institute Research Challenge began. There are only 16 overall teams remaining.
“Our students’ success in this global competition is an exceptional accomplishment and I’m incredibly proud of their hard work and dedication,” said Dr. Robert Dooley, dean of the Rollins College of Business. “Their accomplishment is even more impressive when you realize they are an all-undergraduate team, competing against teams of graduate students.
“They are truly great representatives of UTC and the Gary W. Rollins College of Business.”
Barber, majoring in finance (investments track), is the SMILE Fund’s chief health care analyst. He is a graduate of Hixson High School.
Fetters, a native of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, is pursuing majors in both accounting and finance. He is the SMILE Fund’s lead analyst in the consumer discretionary sector.
Hoeke, who hails from Greeneville, Tennessee, is majoring in finance (investments track). She is vice president of operations for the SMILE Fund and one of the organization’s chief analysts.
Morris is an accounting major from Alpharetta, Georgia.
“Our students all have a specific area that I would call their niche area of expertise, but what we’ve worked really hard with them is what we call double- or triple-coverage; if the judges ask about a certain topic, everybody can chime in,” said Dr. Hunter Holzhauer, a Robert L. Maclellan and UC Foundation associate professor of finance and director of the SMILE Fund. “We’ve also worked with piggybacking on questions so that if somebody answers something and somebody else has an excellent point to make after that, we get two people to answer a question instead of just one.
“There’s a little bit of strategy involved with how you prepare for this level of the competition, and I think we are very balanced regarding the Q&A session with the judges. To be honest, most teams have one or maybe two people answer all their questions, so I think that our balance is a difference-maker for us.”
Two teams from the Asia Pacific region and two from the Europe, Middle East and Africa region also will move on to the global finals.
The CFA Institute Research Challenge is an annual equity research global competition that provides hands-on mentoring and intense training in financial analysis and professional ethics. University teams, typically comprised of graduate students—as opposed to the UTC all-undergrad squad—analyze a company’s financial health, document it in a professional research report and submit findings to a panel of judges.
In February, the SMILE Fund team took home top honors in the Greater Tennessee Research Challenge for a seventh consecutive year. The organization’s best overall finish occurred in 2018, winning the CFA Americas regional semifinals and advancing to the regional finals.
The CFA Institute hosted its first Research Challenge in 2007.
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CFA Institute Research Challenge Americas Region Finalists
- California Polytechnic State University (representing CFA Society Sacramento and CFA Society San Francisco)
- California State University, Fullerton (representing CFA Society Los Angeles)
- Creighton University (representing CFA Society Nebraska)
- Universidad EAFIT (Atlantic Islands and Latin America, representing CFA Society Colombia)
- University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (representing CFA Society East Tennessee and CFA Society Nashville)
- University of Waterloo (Canada, representing CFA Society Ottawa and CFA Society Toronto)
CFA Institute Research Challenge Asia Pacific Region Finalists
- Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, New Delhi (representing CFA Society India)
- Universitas Indonesia (representing CFA Society Indonesia)
- University of Queensland (Australia, representing CFA Society Sydney–Brisbane Chapter)
- University of Sydney (Australia, representing CFA Society Sydney)
CFA Institute Research Challenge Europe, Middle East and Africa Region Finalists
- BI Norwegian Business School (representing CFA Society Denmark and CFA Society Norway)
- Polytechnic University of Milan (representing CFA Society Italy)
- Toulouse Business School (representing CFA Society France)
- University of Belgrade (representing CFA Society Serbia)
- University of Neuchatel (representing CFA Society Switzerland)
- University of Osijek (representing CFA Society Croatia)