Illinois Institute of Technology Takes Top Prize in Chicago’s Local Level Final of the CFA Institute Research Challenge

DSC_2393The CFA Institute Research Challenge is an annual global competition for university students who assume the role of a research analyst. This multi-round competition provides hands-on mentoring and intensive training in financial analysis. Students value a stock, write an initiation-of-coverage report, and present their recommendations to a panel of judges, each of whom is a Charterholder and a highly regarded industry professional. Chicago’s Local Level Finals was held on February 5th and included five teams from local universities. The winning team advanced to the Americas Regional Finals, which will be held the week of April 11th in Chicago.

Each team had 10 minutes to present their reports on Mead Johnson Nutrition which sells nutritional products for infants and toddlers across the globe. The firm sells most of its products in the United States and China and primarily focuses on infant formula. The teams were given wide latitude to use any financial modeling and business analysis tools they believed to be most appropriate to generate a target price and to make a buy/sell/hold recommendation on the stock. Following the presentation, the judges had 10 minutes to ask the teams questions about their research process and the results. Teams were assigned colors to disguise their university affiliations.

DSC_2477The Purple Team (Illinois Institute of Technology) went first, focusing on Mead Johnson’s brand loyalty among customers as well as the growing Asian market. A detailed projection of the firm’s financials and a SWOT analysis were among the modeling tools used to determine a target price of over $93 and to issue a Buy recommendation on the shares. Drivers of their positive view included the lifting of China’s one-child policy, a strong brand presence in the U.S. and Asia, good customer loyalty, extensive supply chain and distribution channels, a robust financial position, and their belief that  the firm’s introduction of more premium priced products would add to the bottom line.

DSC_2483Next, the Blue Team (University of Illinois at Chicago) issued a Hold rating with a target price of $76. Positives for the firm according to this team were the lifting of the one-child policy in China, low dairy costs, and high brand loyalty, but they had concerns about downward currency pressures on the Yuan. The group’s valuation analysis combined a discounted cash flow analysis with relative comps among similar firms, including price to earnings data. They also included a scenario analysis, focusing on currency movements. In all, they believe that Latin America and Asia have strong growth potential for the firm, but have concerns about currency headwinds.

DSC_2468Team Orange (University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign) also issued a Hold rating with a target price of $78. They pointed to China’s one-child policy as a potential positive, but noted that a rise in breastfeeding could put pressure on the firm’s sales. The team noted that revenues and EBITDA have been growing, but the rate of growth has slowed. They also pointed to volatile currency movements as a risk factor for the firm. Multiple valuation models were used, including comparing similar segments of competitors and Monte Carlo simulation to generate a price target range. Finally, they used discounted cash flow models to pinpoint their target price.

DSC_2471The Gold Team (Loyola University Chicago) was decidedly more positive on the firm, issuing a Buy recommendation at $83, but noted that this recommendation was an upgrade from their initial Hold based on recent share price decline. The team determined that industry rivalry was a critical factor for the firm to contend with and pointed to a new contract with the U.S.’s WIC program which will help the firm’s products gain more shelf space in those markets. Valuation models used by the group included discounted cash flow, multiples valuation, and dividend discount. Before closing, the team noted the firm faced some head winds including commodity prices, foreign exchange risk, and a slowdown in China.

DSC_2475The final team, Brown (Valparaiso University) was the most pessimistic of the five groups and issued a Sell recommendation with a target price of $27. This team believes the threat of substitution is very high and was most concerned with the rising popularity of breastfeeding. They also believed the firm was pinning a lot of hope on the rising share of revenues from the Asian market and said the elimination of the one child policy may not have as big of an impact on increasing the birth rate as many believe. Their price target was built around a risk-adjusted discounted cash flow analysis which took into account a “macro risk” which upped the discount rate significantly.


Winning Team! Illinois Institute of Technology

In the end, Illinois Institute of Technology won the judges favor. The team included Venkata B. Chintaluri, Thai (Samuel) H. Doan, Ming-Tao Lee, Rasinee Pongchairerks, Salonie Sehgal, and faculty advisor Michael Joseph Rybak, CFA. Congratulations IIT students and good luck at the Americas Regional Finals!

We would like to thank everyone involved with making this event possible including all the students, faculty advisors, judges, scorers, graders, and CFA Chicago’s Membership Engagement Advisory Group. Special thank you to Mead Johnson Nutrition for participating as this year’s feature company, Michel Cup, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (Mead Johnson Nutrition), and Kathy McDonald, Vice President – Investor Relations (Mead Johnson Nutrition for taking the time to present to the participants at this year’s Company Presentation kickoff on November 20th, 2015. Thank you!


Illinois Institute of Technology: Venkata Chintaluri, Thai H. Doan, Ming-Tao Lee, Rasinee Pongchairerks, Salonie Sehgal, Faculty Advisor – Michael Rybak, CFA

University of Illinois at Chicago: Collin Scott Baffa, Michael DeSalle Jr., Ritesh Ghosh, Matthew Thomas Lewellen, Faculty Advisor – John Miller

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign: Zulay A. Sosa Bazante, Siwei Li, Vanditha Mysore Ravindranath, Tanvi Rotkar, Ning Wang, Faculty Advisor – Kevin Waspi, CFA

Loyola University Chicago: Robert Joseph Englert, Bryan Madding, Trung V. Nguyen, Rick Osty, Faculty Advisor – Steven Todd

Valparaiso University: Benjamin John Coxey, Kyle J. Crawford, Trent Tanber, Faculty Advisor – Bruce MacLean


CFA Society Chicago Membership Engagement Advisory Group Research Challenge Committee:

Deborah Koch, CFA: Co-Chair of Research Challenge Committee, Northern Trust

Larry Lonis, CFA: Co-Chair of Research Challenge Committee, U.S. Trust

Maura Murrihy, CFA: Co-Chair of Membership Engagement Advisory Group

Daniel Welker, CFA: Co-Chair of Membership Engagement Advisory Group



Graders Industry Mentors
Bruce Ebel, CFA

Joseph Grandis, CFA

Justin D. Hance, CFA

Kerry Jordan, CFA

Alan M. Meder, CFA, CPA

Carla Norfleet Taylor, CFA

Dorothea C. Gilliam, CFA

William Hyatt, CFA

Stephen Moy, CFA

Branimir Petranovic, CFA

Daniel J. Phillips, CFA

Joan Rockey, CFA, CAIA

Edward Trafford, CFA

Kevin Clearly, CFA

James C. Goss, CFA

Ben Hier, CFA

Jaime M. Katz, CFA

Kenneth Perkins, CFA

Stefan Quenneville, CFA

Steven Schwartz, CFA

John C. Simmons, CFA

Marie C. Winters, CFA, CAIA

John T. Wong, CFA

CFA Institute Research Challenge

Regional and Global Challenge Schedule:

CFA Institute Research Challenge: 2015-16 Tournament Bracket

Chairman’s Message

I hope you enjoyed a great holiday season, and 2014 was a fulfilling year for your career.  It is the halfway point of CFA Chicago’s fiscal period, which makes a good time for us to review the strategic themes we established in July; and also to tell you about changes underway and upcoming events.

From the staff direction viewpoint, Shannon Curley, CFA, joined us in mid-December as Executive Director of CFA Chicago.  He brings a wealth of financial services knowledge to our organization.  In addition, he has had a distinguished career in the investment management profession.  I encourage you to introduce yourself to him at an upcoming event.

With respect to creating original content for our members, I want to highlight the Career Management Advisory Group’s work.  In particular, Co-Chairs Joan Rockey, CFA, and John Mirante, CFA, and their talented group, have undertaken a long-term project called “Career Map.”  This is an ambitious idea with multiple stages.  Importantly, it is designed to outline the industry jobs and career opportunities in our Chicago market.  Given the mature nature of domestic asset management, creating a taxonomy of companies, industries/asset classes and newly evolving job assignments will have multiple uses, including assisting you in navigating and maximizing your investment career.  More information will be shared as the project develops.  We welcome CFA Chicago members that are interested in participating in this project with the Career Management Group Advisory Group. Sign up today.

Another team pursuing a big agenda is our Education Advisory Group.  Under the direction of Marie Winters, CFA, and Larry Cook, CFA, we will host a Latin American Investment conference this May.  As you know the global nature of our profession warrants our continual search to learn, grow and seek evolving investment opportunities.  I hope you are able to attend this unique, mid-west opportunity to expand your acumen of countries, industries and companies in South America.  I view this single event in the context of a longer term portfolio of seminars which CFA Chicago will pursue over the next decade.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention CFA Institute’s upcoming first Annual Women in Investment Management Conference in San Antonio, June 2015.  Our society has been at the vanguard of advancing women in finance and has made demonstrable progress in this effort. CFA Chicago Vice Chair, Kerry Jordan, CFA, has been instrumental in this endeavor. Among those speaking at the conference will be CFA Chicago Past Chairman Heather Brilliant, CFA, and CFA Chicago Secretary/Treasurer Carmen Heredia-Lopez, CFA.

Lastly, let me acknowledge our Immediate past Chair Gautam Dhingra, CFA, and his wisdom in leading our Governance & Nominating committee.  The work of our Governance & Nominating group is vitally important, and in great hands as we build a future team of leaders.  If you know someone that would make a great leader – or if you’re interested in serving, please review the nomination process and selection criteria and complete the nomination form. To be considered for the 2014-2015 Board of Directors, complete the nomination form before 5:00 p.m. Wed., Jan. 14, 2014.