- July 22, 2023
- Posted by: CFA Society India
Dr. Shagun Thukral, CFA
Adjunct Faculty - SCMHRD
Co-Chair, CFARC, CFA Society India
What makes a young student of finance into a stand-out investment professional? Real-world experience that is guided by mentors, who are industry practitioners. While that is not a trick question, the tricky thing is that there are not many programs that offer this to University students.
The CFA Institute Research Challenge (CFA IRC) is among the few such, structured as a global competition. Given its reach and impact, it is often quoted as the ‘Investment Olympics’. In 2022, over 6,400 students from 1000 universities participated and the mammoth program was driven by 3,000 volunteers from the local CFA Societies, globally.
So how does it work? Students from Universities invited to be a part of the program form teams with 3-5 students. They are guided by a professor as well as a charterholder who mentors them through the many months to research, prepare, write and if selected, present a sell-side equity research report on a listed stock that has been assigned to them. Winners in each round progress to National, regional and global rounds. The uniqueness of this challenge is the real-world experience the students gain through the in-depth research on the market, competition, valuation as well as ESG analysis. They write a detailed report with their recommendation, just as an equity analyst would do. This is graded by charterholders who are practitioners. The research is presented to a panel of Judges (equity fund managers typically) who provide feedback to the students. This process, which runs for six months typically, provides a lot of hands-on experience and learning.
It is hence no wonder that over the years, the interest in the program has grown in India. From 7 Universities in 2008, there are about 50 universities and about 250 students participate per year.I have seen the progress of the program through the years, since I first became a part of the CFA IRC as a Faculty Mentor at one of the universities in 2012 and 2013.
The program, as you may guess, needs a lot of volunteer time – at least 100 volunteers are needed every year to ensure the smooth running of the competition that includes Industry Mentors, Faculty Mentors, Graders, Judges and of course the driving force of the initiative, the core volunteer team. Over the last 11 years, Industry Mentors and Graders alone have given over 9000 hours of their time to this competition!
For me, the two years as Faculty mentor showed the potential and impact this challenge had on the students and the fantastic learning experience it offered. In 2014, I joined the core volunteer team and there has been no looking back since. The COVID period brought its challenges with moving the competition to a virtual platform and still retaining the experience for the students. The team started conducting various workshops and interactive sessions with the experts, ensuring that the learning continued and engaging with the mentors closely.
The joy of volunteering is very evident from the number of repeat volunteers. For instance, Kazi Arif Uz Zaman, CFA, Ajay Limaye, CFA, Priyank Singhvi, CFA, Seshadri Nathan Krishnan, CFA and many others have been volunteering for the CFA IRC for over 8 to 10 years! Kishor Bagri, CFA who has been the driving force over the last 15 years of running this competition; Meera Siva, CFA, Dr. Monika Chopra, CFA, and many others from the core team have been part of the team for long.
So what motivates the volunteers? Priyank Singhvi, CFA notes that – “it is an extremely productive exercise for the mentors as they get a chance to interact closely with bright young students over few months, to many it helps in finding suitable recruits to others it gives a chance to interact and understand the upcoming professionals better. It is immensely satisfying to see how the quality of work done has been improving over the years. It is a good proxy of increasing sophistication of our financial markets”.
CFA IRC is a great example of the power of volunteering and the impact it can create. Have you renewed your membership? Have you signed up as a volunteer yet?