Scholarship Recipient Advances in CFA Research Challenge


A team of University of Arkansas at Little Rock business students has advanced to one of the final stages in the global CFA Institute Research Challenge financial analyst competition.

Next, the four-member UA Little Rock College of Business team heads to Seattle April 7 for a Research Challenge round that pits 50 teams from throughout the continents of North, Central, and South America. The top two squads from the Americas competition will advance to compete against the best teams from the rest of the world during the April 28 global final in Prague, Czech Republic.

“I’m proud of my team,” said faculty adviser Ashvin Vibhakar, the Joe T. Ford chair of finance in the UA Little Rock College of Business. “They’re all still pumped.”

The UA Little Rock squad already advanced further than it ever has by winning the Mid-South competition Feb. 25 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Members of the UA Little Rock team include:

  • Autumn Bauman, finance major from North Little Rock
  • Tanner Whisenhunt, finance major from Maumelle
  • Andrew Fielder, Master of Business Administration student from Little Rock
  • Bryan Sparks, recent graduate of the UA Little Rock Master of Business Administration program from Little Rock

Participating students get real-world experience as they research a publicly traded company and present their stock recommendations — buy, sell, or hold — to judges who play the role of investors.

Vibhakar said the process is extensive. The team studied its company for about two months, analyzing factors such as the industry outlook as well as the company’s earnings, management, and risk. The students even participated in an earnings call that gave them the opportunity to speak with the company’s top leaders.

“The students are learning what is done in practice,” Vibhakar said. “This is a great opportunity for students to work with industry mentors.”

In addition to help from Vibhakar, mentor Barry McCarver, senior vice president of fixed income institutional sales for Little Rock-based Stephens, Inc., assisted the UA Little Rock team with its preparation.

“Dr. Vibhakar’s obviously very good at getting them on the right track,” McCarver said.

McCarver used his professional experience to help the team prepare. Along with members of the Stephens research team, McCarver critiqued the practice presentation by the UA Little Rock students and provided feedback.

“I thought that was a lot of fun,” McCarver said. “They did a great job. I love working with them.”

One of the more challenging aspects of the competition was that participants didn’t choose the company they would analyze; it was assigned to them.

The teams that competed in the Memphis portion of the competition analyzed Mid-America Apartment Communities, Inc., a residential real estate investment trust publicly traded as MAA.

In preparation for the April 7 competition, the UA Little Rock team is updating its analysis of the company and using feedback from Memphis judges to refine its research for the next round of competition.

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