University of Maine wins CFA Society Maine 2020 Research Challenge

A team of three University of Maine undergraduate business and MBA students took the top prize at the CFA Society Maine 2020 Research Challenge in Portland last week. 

Nargiz Ali Zada, Samuel Varga, and Nikki Yutuc presented their research and analysis on WEX, Inc. to a panel of judges comprised of CFA Maine members.

“The research process for the was about exploration and evaluation,” says Varga, a senior finance and management major at the Maine Business School (MBS). “We found a wealth of information [on WEX], so the critical point of writing the report was to distinguish successfully what data points were significant business drivers, evaluate the outlook, create projections, and build a convincing investment thesis.”

The group began work last fall, first competing in October against 16 other teams from universities across Maine. Dr. Pank Agrrawal, professor of finance at MBS, advised the winning group. He also lead a second UMaine team comprised of MaineMBA students Marie-France Georges, Sai Krishna Katta, and Amanda Mancheva.

“The 2020 Research Challenge has given me a unique opportunity to work with a group of highly motivated academic achievers,” says Agrrawal. “Finance is a passion of theirs. My role was to set the bar high, yet make it realistic by providing actionable, albeit unconventional thinking.”

The CFA Institute Research Challenge is an annual global competition. It provides university students with hands-on mentoring and intensive training in financial analysis and professional ethics. CFA Society Maine Board of Directors member Michael Moore served as mentor for the winning UMaine team.

Each of the Maine state competition teams was required to conduct valuation research and defend a buy/sell recommendation on WEX, Inc. Located in Portland, Wex, Inc. is one of Maine’s publicly-traded companies.

“Research for the challenge involved looking at many of WEX’s reports and learning about the industry they are in,” says Yutuc, a senior finance and management major. “Without many direct competitors, we had to be strategic with our valuation.”

The team now moves on to the Americas Regional in New York City in April. There, they will present their research and compete against winning teams from other US local competitions.

“I am really excited to represent the University of Maine at the next round,” says Ali Zada, a MaineMBA student. “It is an excellent opportunity to have a tougher experience and present to a big auditorium. It’s great to watch and learn from the other teams and professionals.”