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Wofford investment team competes globally

Students among top 16 teams in CFA Institute Research Challenge

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The Wofford CFA Institute Research Challenge team, from left: Dr. Michael Merriman, associate professor of finance, mentor and coach, along with students Livingston Moyd, Stuart Robertson, Thomas DeLoache, James Lane and Jack Murphy.

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – A team of five Wofford College seniors competed recently in the Americas Regional of the annual CFA Institute Research Challenge in New York City, a global competition open to undergraduate and graduates who are preparing for careers in the investment field.

Of the 44 teams competing, Wofford advanced to the semifinal round of 16 top teams before losing to the eventual challenge winner, Illinois Institute of Technology, whose team was composed of five MBA students, including two recent MBA graduates. The Wofford team had earned the right to compete in the regional April 9 and 10 by winning the Southern Classic in Atlanta, which included representative teams of MBA programs at Auburn, Georgia State, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. 

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is a mark of distinction that is globally recognized as the gold standard for investment analysts. The organization sponsors the Research Challenge global competition. 

Wofford’s team is composed of Thomas DeLoache of Charlotte, N.C., a triple major in economics,finance and Spanish; James Lane of Beaufort, S.C., a finance major with minors in accounting and economics; Livingston Moyd of Greenville, S.C., a finance major with a minor in government; Jack Murphy of Simpsonville, S.C., a double major in accounting and finance; and Stuart Robertson of Auckland, New Zealand, a double major in finance and mathematics. Dr. Michael Merriman, assistant professor of finance, was their mentor and coach. 

A member of Phi Beta Kappa at Wofford, Lane will be attending graduate school in business at either Vanderbilt or Wake Forest in the fall. He notes that the Research Challenge provided tremendous experience in making presentations, including the challenge of answering difficult questions from a panel of investment professionals in front of a large audience. 

“This was a unique experience and great training for the work I will soon be doing with Wells Fargo,” says DeLoache, another Phi Beta Kappa member who will return to New York after graduation to work in investment banking with Wells Fargo. Robertson also is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

The Americas Regional is one of four in the competition. The others are Asia-Pacific, Europe/Middle East/Africa, and New York. The Americas Regional started with more than 1,500 students representing more than 300 teams from the United States, Canada and Latin America, with most teams composed of MBA or other graduate business students. Forty-four teams, including the Wofford team, earned a trip to New York paid for by the CFA Institute by winning their local competitions.

All of the teams in the Southern Classic in Atlanta evaluated the same publicly traded company, AGCO, an international agricultural equipment firm headquartered in Duluth, Ga. The Wofford team received this assignment on Nov. 8 and immediately began working on the 10-page report that was to account for 50 percent of the team score. The team members divided the project into sections to do the research. Upon returning to campus after the year-end holidays, they held a series of sessions to prepare and finalize their report; they submitted the report on Feb. 6 and subsequently learned that the team would take a relatively large lead into the presentation competition based on the quality of the written report. Then, in Atlanta, the team members faced tough question-and-answer sessions in which investment professionals queried the team on valuation methodology, industry analysis, financial statement analysis, and other areas related to the its “Hold” recommendation on AGCO stock.

“Wofford had finished in the final four of the Southern Classic in both 2010 and 2011,” coach Merriman says. “Thus, I was confident that we would be competitive, but our team is somewhat unusual in that our competitors are undergraduates at a liberal arts college, rather than MBA candidates in a graduate school of business. We might have disadvantages in age and experience, but we make up for that with writing skills. Also, the liberal arts background helps our students think broadly and anticipate questions. Finally, our team’s round-the-clock residential experience in the Wofford Village allows our students to know each other very well and work as a team rather than individuals.”