UNILAG Reclaims CFA National Title

  Emerges First-runner Up in EMEA Regionals

UNILAG Representatives with the 2020 CFA National trophy
Favour Olusola, Faith Enang, & Daramola Esther

Being the defending champions of the CFA National title, UNILAG bunch of investment society intellectuals records another feat of achievement as they uphold the title once more; thus emerging winners of the Chartered Financial Analysts National Research grant, and first runner up at the EMEA — Europe, Middle East, and Africa Regionals 2020 Edition.

Five young researchers: John Oyadougha, Department of Finance; Nkechi Okochi, Department of Accounting; Ataranshe Oluwaseyi, Department of Accounting; Timileyin Idowu; Department of Economics and Folasade Akinbowale, Department of Finance who are members of the investment society through what was described by the team as “a rigorous selection process” were chosen to represent the institution.

Having groomed the winners of the last edition of the competition, the investment society — a student association that aims to bridge the gap between theory and practice in the finance world — has yet produced award-winning analysts.

The Chartered Financial Analysts Institute, CFA is the premier global association for investment management professionals. They organize an annual competition in Nigeria and other parts of the globe ahead of the international finals, where students are to prepare an equity report in the report writing stage on a target company and pitch the stock based on the recommendations.

Recall that upon assumption of office, the 12th Vice-Chancellor of UNILAG, Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe expressed his commitment towards improving research and innovation in the university.

The Winning Team 

What could be described as a society for students of similar interests with no deep friendship ties became a catalyst to bond the five student representatives together as a team for the competition and planted a seed of friendship.

The set of intellectuals who didn’t only afford themselves the opportunity to compete, but also emerged first runner up at the regional in Dead sea, Jordan, representing Nigeria at the EMEA — Europe, Middle East, and Africa — had met through the Investment society.

According to the President of the society and team member, Timileyin Idowu, “...we've known each other before the competition started, majorly because we were all members of the investment society. Two teams were selected, one for ethics and one for the research. John was selected as our team leader then we decided to come together to organize our strategy.” 

The team which was selected as the representative of the school after a thorough three-stage screening was forced to rub minds together and learn to accept each other’s differences for the win.

For John who believes in team spirit and teamwork, harnessing the opinions of the team was not so much of a herculean task as according to him, no decision was made without having the general consent of the team. He attributed the team’s success to his democratic strategy where everything had to resonate around the team – with everyone’s opinion and idea put into consideration.

Despite being an experienced person in his portfolio, the team leader admitted that trying to meet the needs of everybody within the team was a challenge.

The school to beat

The team couldn’t have been more pressured to win at the national level as according to them, they were representing the “school to beat”. They were faced with defending their title, making it to the regional where they emerged first runner up, after Serbia in a close margin and subsequently the final at New York.

According to Seyi, “There were pressures internally as people were expecting us to win which made it intense. A lot of people were looking up to us and asking us how we were fairing. They kept assuming UNILAG is going to win again this time.

“Also, the past representatives were always coming to review our presentations and reports to make sure it was standard. There were some times that they gave us a lot of corrections and we were like, it's not that deep. To them, it's deep because we have to maintain the title. It was very rigorous.”

He also noted that they could not let down the investment society where they all belonged. 

The Research Analysts’ Experiences

For business professionals and industry players, you are only as good as the last task you embarked on. Having blazed the national stage, the winning team whose last task speaks volumes of their various abilities in financial and economic analysis shared their various experiences gained during the challenge where they assumed roles of research analysts.

Speaking on the real-world experience gained – the aim of the CFA research, Timi noted that the competition at the national level allowed her to apply what she had been taught in class for the past three years in practice.

She said, “My part involved a lot of gathering data so I was exposed to checking the GDP for Nigeria ten years back, looking at the inflation trends in Nigeria, what are the recent regulations by the central bank of Nigeria, what is happening in other parts of the world that might affect Zenith bank, what are the key industry trends, how have the assets been growing in the industry over time and how does Zenith bank compare to its peers based on all these.

“As I said earlier, I'm a student of economics, so you should think it was easier for me to do the industry analysis which was looking at the macroeconomics space and the banking industry as a whole.

“The task allowed me to apply what I had been taught in class for the past three years in practice –I found out that it goes beyond what we know in class and I needed to learn more. So, I was going to analyze Nigeria's GDP, forecast into the future, the impact of the GDP inflation on the banking sector, and the impact of the banking sector on Zenith bank.

“I had to apply some of the things I had learned in class already, put them into practice, go the extra mile to understand, and also come up with a conclusion. I also used different frameworks to be able to analyze the industry. Some of them were familiar, like personal analysis and SWOT analysis.

For Nkechi, the new graduate who handled the corporate governance aspect of Zenith bank on the research report said she was able to learn how to work independently and develop her teamwork skills.  

“During the challenge, I was able to, first of all, develop my teamwork skills because we're a very diverse group of people with different personalities from different backgrounds and departments. So it taught me how to work independently and also as a group. In the research report, I handled the corporate governance aspect of Zenith bank and it exposed me to various aspects of analyzing the corporate governance of a bank.

“I had to use the institutional shareholder services methodology and in that, I got a lot of insight. That was so much similar to what I did as my final year project but the analysis was not as in-depth as what I was exposed to. So it broadened my understanding of that.”

Speaking on the competition, Seyi said, “My part of the analysis was the financial analysis. I was to look at the financial statements, look at the ratios, how the company is faring financially, what are the strengths and weaknesses of their financials. That brought me to the practical aspect of what financial analysis entails because we just do it in class to solve questions. But this one, we had annual reports of almost a hundred and something pages that we have to go through.

“You also have to go through the notes of their accounts and we have to cumulative -it was more than five, ten years data for us to study the trends of different banks and to be able to compare them to their peers like GTB, Access Bank.

“We had to deal with a lot of data. That was the major thing that I actually learned how to do, yes to deal with a lot of data and also how to analyze banks’ finances as well as forecast into their future. How it will affect their future operations.”

As for Folashade, the challenge seems to have exposed her to the sector’s dynamics as she said, “Talking about my experience, I'd say I got real experience in teamwork which is very crucial. The ability to work with others under pressure and was also able to gain and have some experience in what it feels like having to value a company.

“I was also exposed to the dynamics of the sector. I was exposed to the terminologies and there were a lot of things to learn and a lot of things to put in.”

John, a new graduate and team leader who prides himself as one who has acquired a new level of knowledge about the Nigerian banking industry stated that “The biggest experience has been the new level of knowledge I have about the Nigerian banking industry. I have also been able to learn how to work with people more and also meet new people as well.

“The entire competition has exposed me to the banking industry and I feel like I am a banking analyst now more than ever before that is good because whenever I am engaged in a conversation, I know how to contribute meaningfully so far it has to do with banking,” he said.

Regional Optimism In Retrospect

Prior to the regional, the national champions who were poised to win had expressed their concerns about the challenges they were most likely to face ahead of the competition which was held in March.

According to Seyi, “Our pressure is not here, it is global. This is because they don't have data issues over there and they get everything that is needed. If you check the annual report of a global firm, they disclose everything but Nigeria firm apart from the annual report we have to still check other sources, but they don't have to stress. Here, you have to manipulate it yourself.

“Another issue is that when we get there we have to prove that we are better than the people who came second and make sure we proceed to New York. So our pressure is global because we have spotted all these international competitors, see how they present, they have data, internet. But here you have to create data yourself like you have to estimate.”

“Our competitors have it easier than we do, at least they have light and data, but here we are trying to make do with the little information we have,” Timi added. 

The team leader who described the region as a stage that would be “quite interesting” expressed his optimism about winning the regionals — which would have afforded them the most envied opportunity to the finals at New York.

“For the regional stage, we think it is going to be quite interesting and more challenging – because we are going to compete with people that are more exposed than we are.  

“However, we corrected all the mistakes we made in the locals and also changed our strategies to make sure that we are well prepared to compete at the regional stage and to win as well,” he added.

COVID-19 & Surmounting Regional Odds 

The total lock down in countries as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic dashed the hopes of this bunch traveling to Jordan. A new date for the regional was not fixed, rather the participants had to make their presentations via the zoom app. 

When asked how they were able to surmount the unprecedented odds, Seyi said, "We had to gather in school to practice our presentation so it was like a real time presentation. As we were presenting they asked us questions and we were able to answer those questions too.

"When they sent our results one of the things considered as the greatest feedback for us was they actually wrote in our report that they can't believe university students did this thing. It is a good thing for us because for somebody to be doubting students of this level can do what we did means we did a great work".

Speaking of their competitors at the regional, Seyi said, "We had the team from Serbia, Pakistan, Romania and some other European countries I can't recall now. So it is EMEA (European,Middle East and Africa) and in the group we came second. Serbia was ahead of us so they were the ones that were able to proceed to the finals. But we were second, just like a little margin. We had 70 and they had 71. So that was just the margin".

 Gloating Over Victory or Sulking Over Loss?

The next move of the national champions brings to mind the words of the late Chuck Knox — ’Winning or losing are both very temporary things. Having done one or the other, you move ahead. Gloating over a victory or sulking over a loss is a good way to stand still' — seeing they are not resting on their oars due to the loss of the regional title. 

"We already have a team representing next year and they have started working on the report and presentations. And of course, we've been mentoring them on how to go about it. My faculty adviser, Dr Amah has been mentoring them too. 

“Hopefully they get to move past the place where we stopped at the regionals and move to the finals. We will mentor them in our way and we're hoping that all what we've done will pay off in the end" Seyi stated.

Highlighting one thing the team is grateful for, Seyi said, "The competition made us grow ourselves and reach the potential where we are currently".



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