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Business finance majors from Appalachian win CFA NC Society Investment Research Challenge

winners_t.jpgBOONE—Five undergraduates from Appalachian State University’s Walker College of Business won the inaugural CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) North Carolina Society Investment Research Challenge held Feb. 21 in Greensboro.

The students, all business finance majors, competed against graduate students from UNC Chapel Hill, Duke University and Wake Forest University, and a team of undergraduate and graduate students from UNC Charlotte.

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A team comprised of business finance majors from Appalachian State University won the inaugural CFA NC Society Investment Challenge. They are Bixby Stewart, seated left, and Taylor Boyle, and Marshall Hargrave, standing left, and Chris Simmons, right. Delbert Goff, center, a professor in Appalachian’s Department of Finance, Banking and Insurance, helped prepare the students for the competition. Also participating on the team but not pictured is Josh Gates. (Photo by University Photographer Marie Freeman)

Team members are Taylor Boyle, Marshall Hargrave, Josh Gates, Chris Simmons and Bixby Stewart. They each received a scholarship that will cover the cost of taking the Level 1 CFA exam, a $1,000 value, and the opportunity to attend some CFA North Carolina functions.

The team will travel to New York in mid-March to compete against 35 other universities teams in the Americas Regional competition. The winner will compete in the global challenge held in London in April.

“I have never seen a group of students work so hard,” Delbert Goff said. Goff is a professor in the Department of Finance, Banking and Insurance at Appalachian where he teaches courses in corporate finance and investments.

The students are members of Bowden Investment Group at Appalachian. Students in the group manage the Bowden Investment Fund, an investment portfolio owned by the department. Goff advises the student investment group.

The competition required teams to research a publicly traded company, Horizon Lines Inc. (HRZ), write an equity research report, and present their position to a panel of industry experts.

“They assumed the role of a security analyst for the competition,” Goff said. The students analyzed Securities and Exchange Commission filings about the company, met with company executives and talked with the company’s investor relations representative.

“The students gained real world experience that they can’t get in a classroom setting,” Goff said. “They had the chance to talk to company executives and work closely with a mentor who is a Chartered Financial Analyst. During the presentation, they were judged as if they were on the job. The setting and the pressure were very real.”

The students were mentored by Kay Norwood, who is a CFA charter holder and director of equity research for Evergreen Investments in Charlotte. Norwood, an Appalachian alumna, also is a member of the Appalachian State University Foundation Board of Directors.

“I challenged them to make sure they were comfortable with their assumptions, that they had considered everything, understood what they were writing and the impacts of their recommendation,” she said.

Students in Goff’s classes conduct similar equity research and present reports as part of their coursework, but not on a level as intense as what they experienced during the CFA North Carolina Society competition.

“I have known for a long time that Delbert has been doing something special with this class,” Norwood said. “It just shows how far along Appalachian is at the undergraduate level compared to other schools in the competition.”

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