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Smeal Finance Student Team Advances in Regional Leg of CFA Research Challenge

A team of Penn State Smeal College of Business Nittany Lion Fund students recently won the regional CFA Research Challenge stock pitch competition, advancing their team to the Americas finals in Denver next month.
February 26, 2014

Regional CFA Stock Pitch Contest Winners
Regional CFA Stock Pitch Contest Winners Alec Lucente, Emily Zheng, and Matt Manocchio.

A team of Penn State Smeal College of Business Nittany Lion Fund students recently won the regional CFA Research Challenge stock pitch competition, advancing their team to the Americas finals in Denver next month.

The Nittany Lion Fund is a student-managed investment fund with more than $6 million in assets and is one of the few student-managed funds supported by actual investor money, not endowment dollars.

CFA Research Challenge participants were tasked with analyzing the financial outlook of PPG Industries—a global supplier of paints, coatings, optical products, and glass—and defending their market valuation of the company to a panel of CFA judges.

"As part of the Nittany Lion Fund, we’re constantly pitching stocks, and we’re used to handling questions like the ones the judges asked us.”

The Nittany Lion Fund team consisted of Emily Zheng, Alec Lucente, and Matt Manocchio. The three are junior Finance majors with senior leadership positions in the Nittany Lion Fund.

Before arriving in Pittsburgh, each team submitted a 10-page report; at the competition, they delivered 10-minute presentations to the judges, who then asked tough questions about the students’ findings.

The Smeal team predicted that PPG shares would be priced at $200.50 one year from now, or about a 7.5 percent increase over market close at the time of the competition.

Lucente explained that the rigorous Nittany Lion Fund activities he and his teammates were accustomed to prepared them well for the competition.

“As part of the Nittany Lion Fund, we’re constantly pitching stocks, and we’re used to handling questions like the ones the judges asked us,” he said. “We went into the competition with a level of confidence because we’re used to presenting in this capacity.”

The team was also familiar with PPG, as they own the company’s stock in the Nittany Lion Fund.

The Americas finals are slated for March 18-19 in Denver. Winners of that competition will advance to the global contest in Bangkok.

The CFA Research Challenge is organized by the CFA Institute, a professional group for certified financial analysts based in Charlottesville, Va. The annual challenge is organized to give students real-life experience analyzing a publicly traded company.

The Nittany Lion Fund offers a unique opportunity for high-performing Finance students to connect to real-world investors. The fund’s student managers operate out of the Rogers Family Trading Room, a state-of-the-art classroom and laboratory that replicates real-world trading experience. Students in the Trading Room use dataset resources to simulate trading, portfolio management, and other finance-related models, and real-time stock tickers and data boards offer important financial information.

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