Illinois Tech Reaches Americas Regional Finals of Global Business Competition

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By Scott Lewis

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A team of students from Illinois Institute of Technology’s Stuart School of Business reached the Americas Regional Finals of the 2020 CFA Institute Research Challenge, a premier international business competition that annually draws student teams from more than 1,150 universities on six continents.

This is the second time in three years that a Stuart team has won in the Americas Regional semifinals, as it defeated five other university teams to advance to the regional finals, just one step away from the CFA Challenge Global Finals.

Sponsored by the CFA Institute, a global association for investment management professionals, the contest places students in the role of equity research analysts. Each team conducts in-depth research and a valuation analysis on a company, prepares a comprehensive equity research report, and presents their recommendations to a panel of industry professionals at each stage of the competition.

The CFA Challenge opens with local-level competitions. The team from Stuart won the Chicago local in late February to earn a spot in the Americas Regionals, which covers North and South America, on April 17 and 21. This was the eighth time in the past nine years that Illinois Tech has won the Chicago local-level competition, which typically draws around a dozen university teams, including yearly rivals such as the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Loyola University, and DePaul University.

All five members of the Illinois Tech team come from Stuart’s highly ranked M.S. in Finance program. Dean Ardavani, Shikha Doshi, Maitri Shah, and Richard Hill, who is also in the co-terminal B.S. in business administration program, are current students in the finance program; team member Ahsan Lodhika (BA/M.S. FIN ’19) graduated last December.

While the Chicago local competition was held in-person, the regionals and global final were held virtually, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That required the team to adjust their presentation, with frequent online practice sessions leading up to the regionals.

“In virtual presenting, hand gestures, presentation tone, emphasizing key points, and background noise are all points that matter more than in person,” Lodhika says. “Presenting virtually, you are presenting to the screen versus actually being able to look at the judges and audience, so that was also an adjustment factor.”

The team’s faculty adviser, Senior Lecturer in Finance Michael Rybak, has led the Illinois Tech teams in the CFA Institute Research Challenge since the Chicago local competition was started nine years ago, and he has seen the value of the experience for participants.

“When you bring the research report [submitted for the CFA Challenge] with you to a job interview and tell them about the experience,” he says, “it’s really impressive.”

Employers pay close attention to academic competitions like this one, Rybak explains, because the team’s work has been judged at a high level of quality and the students have shown that they can work well with other people on substantial projects.

“These students have worked together intensively for six months,” he says. “I’m very proud of this team, which accomplished so much through their incredible dedication and teamwork.”

Photo: The Illinois Tech team after winning the Chicago local competition of the CFA Institute Research Challenge [left to right] Richard Hill, Shikha Doshi, Dean Ardavani, faculty adviser and Senior Lecturer of Finance Michael Rybak, Ahsan Lodhika, and Maitri Shah