Leading the Way in a CFA Research Challenge

During his senior year, Hunter Coyle was part of a group of Dordt University finance students who won the state of Iowa’s local section of the Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute Research Challenge. They competed against 9 other teams, including University of Iowa, Iowa State University, University of Northern Iowa, and Grinnell College. All teams had to present buy recommendations for John Deere at an in-person competition in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“Our judges were very impressed by all of the times, and the competition was fierce,” states CFA Society Iowa, who judged the competition. “Ultimately, the team from Dordt University was declared the winner!”

Work began in October, when the team began preparing an analysis of John Deere, which would ultimately result in a written report and a presentation. Coyle, who also served as president of Defender Capital Management, says that they were provided with a competition rubric that included sections like company overview, description, risk, competitive landscape, financial analysis, valuation and investment, and more.

“Since this was Dordt’s first year participating in the Research Challenge, we didn’t know what to expect as far as competition,” he says. “Due to the sheer size of some of the larger schools like Iowa State or University of Iowa, we figured that they would have students who were really dedicated to doing well.”

Coyle and his teammates committed to spending as many hours as they could diving into the research and getting to know John Deere. This was no small feat for Coyle, as he also played varsity football and had Defender Capital Management president responsibilities on his plate, not to mention his regular schoolwork in business and computer science.

Still, he and his teammates kept at it. The group put together a 10-page analysis report and a PowerPoint presentation, both of which they had to present in a quick 10 minutes.

“Before leaving for the competition, the team did several practice runs of the presentation, and they ran through it many times during our 4.5 hour drive,” says Assistant Professor of Business Administration Dr. Jesse Veenstra, who served as faculty advisor for the team.

And the hard work paid off; the Dordt team moved on to a Midwest sub-regional competition, with hopes of making it to nationals in New York City.

“It was fun to see how we stack up against large and well-respected universities,” says Veenstra. “It shows that our students are well prepared for careers in finance. Plus, the challenge was structured like what CFA’s do daily. Dordt students experienced how difficult yet rewarding the process of analyzing companies really can be.”

Coyle was thrilled to have been part of this experience, in part because it helped put what he’d learned in the classroom to work. “We also were paired up with a CFA mentor—that is, someone who has their CFA designation. We were able to learn from them, show them our research, and get their thoughts on how we could improve our understanding and knowledge.”

Coyle plans on pursuing his CFA designation, which he describes as the “finance version of the CPA,” in the near future. He’ll have to study for 300 hours for each test, and he’ll learn the ins and outs of the finance industry.

“The team represented Dordt University extremely well,” adds Veenstra. “Several industry professionals commented to me afterward how impressed they were with the Dordt team. This is great for these students as they enter the workforce, but also for future students to come. Showing how intelligent, motivated, and skilled our students are positively influences the perception of Dordt in the industry. I look forward to more Dordt teams in the future competing in this competition.”