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03/09/2010

Fordham University Wins NYSSA Investment Research Challenge


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IRC winners at the NASDAQA team of students from Fordham University edged out the competition from Rutgers Business School, Cornell University, and Stony Brook University to take top honors at the 8th Annual Investment Research Challenge. The students from Fordham—Thomas Messineo, Alex Ng, Jonathan Ball, and Ravi Misra—will now move on to the 4th Annual Global Investment Research Challenge in Hong Kong, where they will once again present their analysis of the subject company, Bitstream (NASDAQ: BITS). Messineo, the team captain, and Ball took some time out of their preparations to answer a few questions.

NYSSA: Congratulations on your win. Going into the competition, did you think you stood a good shot to take the big prize?

JB: Thank you—even though it's been a few days since the finals the win still feels great! When we started out in the fall I would say we were more focused on the educational experience of participating in the IRC and the opportunity to practice some of the skills we've learned in the classroom at Fordham. But as we continued with our research and became more familiar with Bitstream, we began to sense that we might bring a unique insight to the competition.

TM: The team devoted many hours to gather the data, assemble the report, and refine our presentation. Much like the competing university teams, we also had to juggle coursework, schedules, and other responsibilities external to the competition. I have a one-hour commute to the Fordham campus, and I recall some nights when I would arrive home after two o’clock in the morning. However, it is clear that our efforts paid off, and we are very excited that we have the opportunity to represent Fordham and the other universities that participated in the NYSSA IRC, in the CFA Institute Global IRC.

NYSSA: The other teams also seemed well prepared. What do you think helped to distinguish your presentation from theirs?

TM: I believe one reason our presentation was well received was because our message centered on why our conclusion was a buy recommendation. Our message was also clear and consistent. In addition, our team responded well during the Q&A session. This also helped to support our recommendation.

JB: We realized early on that the success of Bitstream's new mobile browser product (BOLT) would be critical for creating value for shareholders. Rather than diving into a purely quantitative analysis, we built our case by telling the story of the company and identifying the qualitative reasons why BOLT could be monetized successfully.

NYSSA: Which portion of your research was the most enlightening? Did meeting with the CEO give you a good sense of the business, or did digging into the raw data provide the most insight?

TM: In order to support our assumptions, it was equally important that we gather information both from our discussions with the CEO and the raw data. It was definitely a challenge. Much of the subject company’s competition was private. In addition, certain contract details and financial projections were not available. We utilized historical data in conjunction with our conversations with executives to derive our projections and interpolate estimates. In addition, we also researched competitors, appraised the industries and markets our subject company operated, and evaluated the company’s product to assemble a more complete analysis.

NYSSA: Will you be making changes to your presentation before the Global IRC competition in Hong Kong? What do you want to drop/expand upon?

TM: We received insightful feedback from the panel of judges, and new developments are always factors to consider. We plan to emphasize certain items in the appendix and fine-tune our presentation. I also believe many analysts would agree that staying current is crucial to ensure that one’s analysis is timely, accurate, and relevant.

NYSSA: How much direction have your coach and adviser provided? Have they been really hands on, or did they let you take the reins?

JB: Professor [John] Hunter and Mr. [Tom] Galvin provided invaluable guidance to us at key junctures in our research. They were pretty much hands-off between our check point meetings but helped point us in the right direction at the beginning and provided constructive criticism when we veered off-course. Our experience in the IRC was far richer and more enjoyable thanks to their contributions.

NYSSA: What do you expect from the international competition? Do you think that the other teams’ presentations will be influenced by different cultural approaches to conducting business?

TM: I believe it is reasonable to expect that the other team presentations will be culturally influenced to some degree. This is an important factor to consider whenever an organization conducts business internationally. It requires being flexible and sensitive to the needs of stakeholders abroad. Therefore, we will be tailoring our presentation for the audience. 

NYSSA: Will this be the first time everyone on your team has visited Hong Kong? Will you be around long enough to take in some of the city? What are you looking forward to seeing? 

JB: One of our team members, Alex, was born and raised in Hong Kong and has already volunteered to be our guide around the city including some trips off the beaten path. Personally, I hope to spend an extra day or two after the competition to visit where my mother and grandparents lived while in Hong Kong in the 1970s.

NYSSA: What recommendations would you make for the students participating in next year’s IRC?

TM: Students must realize the IRC is a substantial commitment. It requires time and dedication. I would recommend students begin early, utilize the tools and seminars available through NYSSA, and be prepared to spend hours revising and fine-tuning their work.

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