When the 2023 edition of the CFA Institute Research Challenge got underway, nearly 1,300 university teams and more than 6,400 student participants from around the globe were competing—including a group of four University of Tennessee at Chattanooga SMILE Fund (Student Managed Investment Learning Experience) students.
On Friday, March 31, the four Gary W. Rollins College of Business undergraduates learned UTC was selected as the winner of the competition’s Southeast sub-region. The group was one of 42 sub-regional champion teams advancing to the regional semifinal round.
Senior Jacob Barber and juniors Grant Fetters, Claire Hoeke and Nick Morris will be competing again on Thursday, April 6, making a live presentation via Zoom. The SMILE Fund group will analyze HCA Healthcare (NYSE: HCA), a Nashville-based for-profit operator of health care facilities.
Regional semifinal Zoom presentations, consisting of a 10-minute talk followed by a 10-minute Q&A with judges, are only open to the competing teams, their faculty advisor, an industry mentor and CFA society representatives.
“It’s so rewarding to be on the mentoring side and see them get the recognition for all their hard work,” said Dr. Hunter Holzhauer, a Robert L. Maclellan and UC Foundation associate professor of finance and director of the SMILE Fund. “These are the best students wanting to prove their worth and rising to the challenge.
“It’s probably what it might be like if you were a coach of a sports team; they’re putting in the blood, the sweat, the tears. When they buy into the process and do everything, they get to see success.”
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.
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.
University teams from 90 countries are separated into three global brackets, with only 42 remaining in the competition: 17 from the Americas, 11 from Asia Pacific and 14 from Europe, Middle East and Africa.
“When you get down to just 17 teams left in North America and South America, it’s really special,” Holzhauer said.
Americas teams have been divided into three breakout groups, with two teams from each group advancing to the regional finals—taking place April 13-14.
The UTC SMILE Fund students will compete against Babson College (Wellesley, Massachusetts), California Polytechnic State University, Concordia University (Montreal, Quebec), San Diego State University and Universidade de Sao Paulo (Brazil).
“What I like about this round is that it’s going to be live,” Holzhauer said, contrasting it to the Southeast sub-regional stage when teams were judged based on submitted recorded videos. “Each team has to present and do a Q&A. If we don’t win, a better team beat us.”
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 Sub-Regional Champions
Atlantic Islands and Latin America
- ITAM representing CFA Society Mexico
- Universidad EAFIT representing CFA Society Colombia
- Universidade de Sao Paulo representing CFA Society Brazil
- Concordia University representing CFA Montreal and CFA Quebec
- University of Waterloo representing CFA Society Ottawa and CFA Society Toronto
Central and Southwest U.S.
- Creighton University representing CFA Society Nebraska
- Texas State University representing CFA Societies Texas
- Babson College representing CFA Society Boston
- Johns Hopkins University representing CFA Society Baltimore and CFA Society Washington DC
- Butler University representing CFA Society Indianapolis
- University of Michigan representing CFA Society West Michigan
- Walsh University representing CFA Society Cleveland
- James Madison University representing CFA Society Virginia
- University of Tennessee at Chattanooga representing CFA Society East Tennessee and CFA Society Nashville
- California Polytechnic State University representing CFA Society Sacramento and CFA Society San Francisco
- San Diego State University representing CFA Society San Diego
- California State University, Fullerton representing CFA Society Los Angeles
- National Taiwan University (Team A) representing CFA Society Taiwan
- Shanghai Jiao Tong University representing CFA Society Shanghai
- China Foreign Affairs University representing CFA Society Beijing
- University of Macau representing CFA Society Hong Kong
- University of Queensland representing CFA Society Sydney – Brisbane Chapter
- University of Sydney representing CFA Society Sydney
- Universitas Indonesia representing CFA Society Indonesia
- University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City (UEH) representing Vietnam Community of Investment Professionals
- Thammasat University representing CFA Society Thailand
- Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, New Delhi representing CFA Society India
- University of Sri Jayawardenapura representing CFA Society Sri Lanka
Europe, Middle East and Africa
- Corvinus University of Budapest representing CFA Society Hungary
- Westminster International University in Tashkent presenting CFA Society Kazakhstan
Middle East and North Africa
- Ain Shams University representing CFA Society Egypt
- King Saud University representing CFA Society Saudi Arabia
- American University of Beirut representing CFA Society Lebanon
- BI Norwegian Business School representing CFA Society Denmark and CFA Society Norway
- University of Belgrade representing CFA Society Serbia
- Polytechnic University of Milan representing CFA Society Italy
- University of Osijek representing CFA Society Croatia
- University of Ashesi representing CFA Society Ghana
- University of Mauritius representing CFA Society Mauritius
- National University of Science and Technology, Zimbabwe representing Investment Professionals Association of Zimbabwe
- Toulouse Business School representing CFA Society France
- University of Neuchatel representing CFA Society Switzerland