Sydney university student Sahil Arora and his team win Global CFA Research Challenge

Left to right: Jeffrey Brown, Jassis Chen, Jessica Wu, Sahil Arora and Tom Luo, a win was written on this talented team’s enthusiasm much before the Covid-19 as they prepared for the challenge


By Neena Badhwar

It is a difficult time as Covid-19 has brought everything to a standstill, every activity, exams, competitions, education of students in universities, even school students are doing home schooling. The virus charts its killer journey throughout the world though Australia comparatively has been lucky as infection cases have slowed down with the curve flattening and life slowly coming back to normal.

In all the chaos there is still hope and a victory to be celebrated by the Finance students of Sydney university, a team of five that won the Global CFA Research Challenge an annual global competition in equity research hosted by the CFA (Chartered Financial Analysts) Institute that started the comp in 2007 with an aim to provide university students with hands-on training and mentoring in financial analysis. The competition started with twenty universities and ninety students then which has now spread globally to all the continents. This year the competition took an unusual turn with the onslaught of Coronavirus. Sydney team comprising of Sahil Arora, a fourth year Commerce/Law student and four others, Tom Luo, Jassis Chen, Jeffrey Brown and Jessica Wu beat all odds, the isolation, their preparation for a competition the final done during lockdown, of the final round of challenge which was to be held in New York city. It got cancelled, for obvious reasons but was conducted virtually as Sahil and his team won it, nevertheless, to their surprise when they were announced global winners. Sahil’s team competed against five other teams representing Norway, the US, Denmark, Switzerland and Brazil.

We talked to Sahil who while in lockdown is celebrating the win with his family members and with the rest of his team through Face Time and WhatsApp.

Sahil Arora with Jessica Wu

Hi Sahil, Congratulations to you and your team, how was the competition final conducted during the lockdown?

Sahil: Yes, never thought this would happen, it is a historic win for our country. In the final round which was conducted in New York, we were sitting in our separate homes and talking through Zoom, the competition was streamed live and was watched virtually by thousands across the globe.

How many countries took part in this years’ Global CFA Research Challenge?

Sahil: There were 95 countries and a thousand universities that took part with 6400 students competing in this challenge.

How did you celebrate the win considering you were separated and speaking from home?

A moment of elation and surprise on being announced winners of CFA Global Research Challenge

Sahil: We talked to each other after the win, all very very proud. We video-called each other and celebrated with our families. Once the restrictions ease we will be sure to celebrate in person. Some of our team members live inter-state in Queensland.

Tell us all about the competition and how did you reach the finals?

Sahil: Initial rounds happened here in Sydney university only, next round was in South Korea to which also we could not fly due to Coronavirus there. And the final was to be held in New York City. We were all excited to go to NY but that also got cancelled, as you know the countries went into strict lockdowns everywhere. The South Korea round was among the APEC countries, we competed against the teams of China, India, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.   In New York the teams represented each continent. It was a team effort by all in our group, each participant discussing different aspects, the complexity and the depth of financial analysis.

How did you prepare considering that everything had come to a standstill?

Sahil: We did a lot of preparation by discussing on Face Time and Zoom. We did discuss how our discussion about the topic will go, each one spoke from a different angle, and we did touch upon how it would affect the current environment and the impact of Coronavirus on the banking sector, the stock we chose was CBA. Best part of the competition was that we were required to formulate our arguments in relation to the real economy, a practical approach which is often lacking in the classroom.

If you and your team were to go and compete in New York, how it would have helped you, what was planned for you while you were there by the organizers?

Sahil: Going to New York to celebrate this victory would have been a dream come true. Previous winners have had professional photos and videos taken and put up around the iconic Times Square! We were also going to ring the bell which signifies the start of the trading-day on the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street.

How winning this challenge will help you in your career in the future?

Sahil: Competing in this challenge has taught me valuable skills in relation to financial analysis and techniques, professional writing ability and presentation skills. These are all highly sought after in a competitive graduate market. I also have an in-depth knowledge of CBA’s valuation fundamentals, which is a notoriously difficult business to value.

We congratulate Sahil Arora and his team who have done Sydney university, the Indian community and Australia proud. They have proved that we have the capability to rise above all obstacles and still win. These talented students learnt to adapt to education process suited to new and a difficult situation created due to Covid-19 and successfully applied that to their chosen path of education and career.

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