Archive for January, 2012
My name is Rachel Li. I am an international student from China and I’m now a candidate in the Master of Financial Risk Management (MFRM) program at SFU.
The MFRM program is an excellent program from which I have learned a lot of new and useful material. I came to SFU in August last year. I have learned a lot in this program about not only finance, but programming and statistics as well. The subjects taught outside of finance were completely new to me. With the help of the Career Management Centre, I’ve learned that a multitude of employers in financial industry are looking for potential employees who know about more than just finance. Since the financial crisis in 2008, financial institutes have attached more importance to financial risk management. Thanks to this program, I’m now on my way to having a more diverse level of knowledge. I believe my decision to enroll in the MFRM program was a wise choice.
Besides the courses offered, this program also provides a lot of real-world experience. In the student-run endowment fund, SIAS, I’m a fixed income analyst. In the first semester, I was mainly focused on the analysis of the whole fixed income portfolio against the benchmark. I was fortunate enough to meet two professionals in fixed income to learn about how a fixed income portfolio is managed. This semester, I’ve shifted my concentration to the credit risk analysis of bonds. This is also quite new for me, so I’ve been reading some books about it. My teammate and I have made a template of credit risk analysis based on credit rating agencies and financial ratio analysis. I look forward to learning more about this as I take the course offered later in this program on Credit Risk.
Before joining the SFU’s MFRM program, I attained a Bachelor of Finance from Shandong Financial University. I was awarded the “National Scholarship” and graduated as an “Excellent Graduate Student”. I also passed the CFA level I exam in the fourth year of university, and am now a CFA level II candidate. In this process, I have learned a lot about finance and now I’m trying to put what I have learned into practice in SIAS.
Vancouver is really a wonderful place to live in. The weather here is always cool; neither too hot nor too cold. There are many scenic spots to visit; I have been to Stanley Park, Cypress Mountain, Central Park and a lot of other beautiful places. Throughout my stay in Vancouver, I have gotten more of an idea about western culture such as food, lifestyle and how to be open to people from different cultures.
As an international student who first arrived in Canada five months ago, I still need time to adapt to the environment. Language is one of the biggest difficulties I’ve faced. However, throughout the first term my English has improved a lot. This improvement has come from communicating with people around me as much as possible.
The following months will be much more fulfilling and intense. However, I’m confident that I can manage my time very well to balance the social & academic activities and the participation of SIAS.
Rachel Mingying Li
“How do you feel about getting on your hands and knees and pretending to be a bull? We need to get in some practice rides before the next round”.
I was prepared to be confronted with a number of new experiences when I enrolled in the MBA program but I did not see this coming. Not a problem, I adapt, I have a wide variety of skills and I thrive under challenging circumstances. More importantly, I have 51 classmates who help me on a daily basis and for whom I will gladly return the favour. If that means bucking around on all fours… yee-haw!
Now I don’t mean to minimize the other components of the MBA Games experience – the athletic competitions were thrilling, the academic teams’ performance was inspiring, and the networking was rewardingly social – but what I will remember most is the deepening of the friendships that have been building through the first months of our program.
More than money, more than performance metrics, and certainly more than mined data and regression analysis, business is about people. The hard skills I learn in class will stand me in good stead but I will also gain considerable advantage from the soft skills that I hone during long hours spent in the company of my cohort.
The MBA Games afforded many such opportunities. I learned about teamwork and the power of working in concert to achieve a common goal. I learned about encouragement: cheering my friends’ success and standing with them to face challenges. I witnessed countless acts of heartfelt kindness and I shared in joyful camaraderie. Through it all I gained a greater appreciation for the amazing collection of friends with whom I share my days and nights at the Segal Graduate School.
So be it a pressure-filled presentation or a make-or-break exam, whether I am still in school or charging forward in my new career, with a team like the one I was a part of at the MBA Games, I am confident that I can tackle anything.
I am ready for the rodeo.
Someone recently told me that 20 years from now, it won’t be the lessons we’ve learned in classes like accounting and economics that we remember from our MBAs, but rather that the memories will come from the connections we make with our classmates and the moments of fun and excitement that we experience together. But that’s not really accurate. These aren’t two separate things. The knowledge we’re gaining in the classroom is constantly being reinforced and built upon and shaped by the people we’re gaining it with. Every single one of us brings a unique combination of experiences, talents, and skills that influence the group and allow us to see the world in new ways, or to discover an insight that would have remained hidden, or to accomplish a goal we couldn’t have reached on our own.
Never was this more clear than in Edmonton this weekend at the MBA Games. 35 of us traveled to Alberta to represent the Beedie School of Business in academic, athletic, and spirit competitions. We went up against the best and brightest of 18 other business schools in Canada, and not only did we hold our own, we learned some valuable lessons in the process.
Our academic teams did the school proud with excellent results. Our marketing team was able to combine their considerable skills and and backgrounds to build a presentation that carried them into the semi-finals. Our strategy team took the lessons of professors like Craig Emby, Mark Moore, and Leyland Pitt, as well as their own personal insights and skills, and channeled them all into a presentation that earned them fourth place. Finally, the strong finish of our operations simulation team demonstrated that how we use information is just as important as the information itself.
In ultimate frisbee we earned a hard-fought third place, despite facing teams with far more experience and training, and in the process learned important lessons about having trust in our teammates and the power of sheer determination. Likewise, we had strong showings in volleyball and dodgeball, proving that leadership and teamwork is every bit as important as finance and marketing. These might seem like small insights; they’re not. An MBA is more than a pile of formulas and concepts, and learning to work together to get a frisbee across a line while a determined group of people are doing their best to stop you is every bit as legitimate as learning to read a balance sheet, and it can’t be taught in a classroom.
In fact for me, the most impressive performance of the whole weekend was how well we acquitted ourselves in the spirit category. When you spend your days looking at numbers and case studies and formulas, it can sometimes be easy to lose sight of how important people are to accomplishing anything. And we have the best people. We were always the loudest; we were always the biggest; and we were always the brightest. I can’t tell you how many times I heard people say how intimidating we were to compete against, because our cheering section was relentless.
And I can’t tell you how important it is to know your people are behind you when you’re trying to find the strength to jump just a little higher for the frisbee, or you’re trying to calm your nerves before presenting to a panel of judges. Anyone can make lip dub videos and learn dance moves and order some t-shirts, though we did all of those things better than anyone. The real test of a team is seeing who shows up to cheer their teammates on at the end of an exhausting day, when they could be napping or shopping. The real test of a team is whether we get angry when someone fumbles a ball or whether we cheer twice as hard. The real test of a team is whether pressure brings them together or drives them apart. I met a ton of people this weekend. They were all smart, welcoming, good people. But they weren’t my people. I know I’m not alone when I say that the biggest lesson of the weekend was confirming that I made the right choice when I chose SFU.
SFU MFRM Team: Peter Tong, Alex Mak, Lisa Lin, Steven Sivorot
The NIBC Final Round took place on January 10th – 12th at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver, BC. The competition consisted of the top 14 Undergraduate and 10 Masters teams from across the country out of the initial pool of 132 teams. The Finals consisted of two parts:
1. A real-life M&A case that was pitched to industry professionals
2. A final presentation to an audience of 350 delegates and a panel of Senior Managing Directors from the major investment banks (Top 2 MBAs, Top 3 Undergrads)
January 10th, 2012
We arrived at the Pan Pacific in the early afternoon, and were pleased to find that the hotel was only a few blocks away from our school. Once we had settled into the 5-star hotel, we worked intensely doing last minute research and revisions to our PowerPoint template. The only events scheduled that night were registration and orientation, so we had plenty of time to ourselves to work and stock up on food and water for the competition (everything at the hotel was expensive!).
January 11th, 2012
This was a day full of listening to presentations and panellists. The opening keynote was from Mr. Matthew Quinlan, Managing Director and Co-Head of Global Mining at CIBC World Markets. The morning progressed into an overview of investment banking with presentations from representatives from Macquarie Capital, RBC Capital Markets, CIBC World Markets, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. After a brief lunch run to get dim sum, we proceeded to attend four sets of panels that varied from sales/trading to corporate finance. To finish off the night, there was a career fair and a networking event put on by RBC.
January 12th, 2012
This was the big day. The competition. We woke up bright and early for breakfast at 6:00am, and began the case at 6:30. The case was on gold mining, and it was our duty to establish the terms of an M&A transaction. It involved financial models, comparables, precedent transactions, and qualitative analysis. For a time constraint of roughly six hours, there was certainly a lot on our plate. We managed to complete the case to the best of our ability, and were then cabbed to National Bank Financial, where we made a seven-minute presentation followed by a seven-minute Q&A to a group of investment bankers. Unfortunately, we were informed that we did not finish at the top in our division of five, so we missed out on the opportunity to present at the Gala Dinner. The team that advanced was from the University of Toronto and they went on to win the competition with a very polished presentation. After the competition, the Chairman of the Board for Goldcorp, Mr. Ian Telfer, made a humorous speech about his thoughts about the competition and offered some general advice. To wrap up the night, there was an exclusive party at a club called Barcelona, with complimentary limousine service. This competition gave us a real insight on the life of investment bankers and was a great learning experience.
Our team would like to thank Derek Yee, Ashkan ZiabakhshDeylami, Milton-Andres Bernal, and the current students in our program for helping us prepare with all of our practice rounds.
SFU Beedie School of Business team: Scott Gage, Matthew Harris, Dave Crozier and Lindsay McIvor
SFU’s Beedie School of Business was honoured by the invitation to Schulich’s inaugural Case Competition on Sustainability in the Mining Sector and was thrilled at the opportunity to engage with this increasingly pressing issue. The team of four was assembled about a month out from the competition, with Scott, Dave and Matt having had experience in the mining sector, and Lindsay’s education being in the field of Sustainability. With two representatives from the 2010 MBA cohort and two from the 2011 MBA cohort, the team enjoyed the opportunity to get to know each other and to reconcile our visions for the case.
As soon as we got together we started to reach out to the Mining community in Vancouver, with the help of Stephanie Bertels, who acted as our “coach” during the preparation period. The team received the case two weeks out from the competition and it entailed a property in Papua New Guinea which is owned by Barrick Gold, who was the main sponsor of the competition. This particular property was acquired in 2006 as part of a bundle acquisition of 12 properties in total. The problem is, the property came with serious “legacy issues” such as human rights infractions and a method of tailings disposal which entails dumping the tailings directly into the river system – something that has been outlawed at all but two mines in the world due to the real and perceived environmental impacts of the practice. The construction of a conventional tailings pond at the site has been deemed unsafe as a result of the highly unstable geographical characteristics of the region. While this mine is proving very profitable for Barrick, there has been some backlash from the investing community attributable to the perception that the company’s ownership of the property is not up to international ethical standards. The questions posed in the case asked how mining companies can factor into their acquisition model the risks and rewards of sustainability issues, and upon acquisition, how can mining firms ensure that their corporate sustainability values and policies are effectively integrated into the acquired operation?
The issues at hand and the questions put forth in the case are incredibly complex, challenging, and relevant to the problems which the industry as a whole is increasingly faced with. The overwhelming participation of key industry actors as judges – including dozens of CEOs and other high level executives from some of the world’s largest mining companies – was impressive and demonstrated the serious tone which the industry is taking in regard to sustainability issues in mining. While we did not finalize at the competition, working on the case and engaging with these issues has been one of the most rewarding experiences of the program. The team would like to take this opportunity to thank SFU’s Beedie School of Business for fully supporting our participation in the Schulich International Case Competition and to sincerely thank Stephanie Bertels for her dedicated assistance to the team.
All the Best,
A team of MBA students travelled to Toronto to represent the Beedie School of Business and the Financial Executives International (FEI) Vancouver in the Best in Class Invitational Case Competition, presented by the Toronto chapter of FEI Canada. Teams of four competed in a real time environment where they were given business situations and crises based on an existing public company. The teams then presented solutions and recommendations to a panel of judges.
The members of the Beedie MBA team—Rachelle, Matt, Tim, and Rob—recount their experience in the competition.
Bright and early flight at 0700, we were all a bit bleary, but after a few cat naps the fog cleared and we had arrived in the bigger “Big Smoke”. After a relatively short cab ride and check in at the hotel, we had about 45 minutes to get ready for the site orientation at Ryerson. We arrived at The Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson and were amused but amazed to find it above a Canadian Tire and Best Buy in the heart of downtown T.O. After a brief facilities orientation and a review of the FEI rules and introductions from the Ryerson coach and Dean, we were released for the evening. Following a brief reception at Ryerson, we found a little pub called the Fox and Firkin across the street from the hotel and began to formulate a strategy.
Bright and early, 0400 Pacific Time, we were back at Ryerson for the case presentation from the company executives. This year’s case was Cineplex, a Canadian entertainment giant. The presentation consisted of an investor-focused discussion of the performance of the firm over the past few years. One of the rules of the competition is team anonymity, which we nearly violated by bringing Beedie bags to the presentation. A quick solution by our resident engineer Matt and some electrical tape solved the problem before the executives arrived.
Probably the most interesting component of this case was the lack of a clearly identifiable problem. The firm had been performing well over the last several years, despite the global recession, and had generated $1 billion in revenues in the last fiscal year.
After some questions, we were led to the academic quarantine to discuss the case to decide the primary challenge and how to manage Cineplex’s growth strategies. We worked late into the evening, fueled by cold Pizza Pizza (similar to Little Caesars), Tim Hortons (gallons and gallons of Timmys), and pop. Once we had thoroughly and completely burned our brains and were satisfied with our presentation, we called it a night.
Back at Ryerson bright and early (and really missing our beautifully pristine campus), we had some time to review our slides and print copies out before the presentations began. We were called back to the main auditorium for the presentation draw. It was a highly technical process, whereby FEI Toronto Chapter Chair drew team names from a hat. We were selected to present at approximately 1100 and had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Brad Bardua, Vancouver FEI Chapter President, who had flown to Toronto to offer support to our team.
We returned to our meeting room to practice before our presentation. Before long, it was our turn and we presented our case analysis to a panel of judges. Despite some minor hiccups, the presentation went relatively smoothly. The question and answer period was definitely intense and we were met with some very challenging questions including some we had not considered during our discussion.
After the Q&A, Brad took us out to lunch and gave us some great feedback on what we had done and what we needed to focus our attention on. It was great to have a friendly face in the audience and even better to get immediate feedback on our delivery!
Once all of the teams presented their cases, the competition committee called us back and delivered the crisis: Netflix was in a position to offer same-day release for new movies (simultaneously with the box office). It was our task to determine a strategy to mitigate the threat.
We were allotted approximately 1.5 hours to complete an analysis and presentation of our crisis recommendations. A frenzy of discussions and PowerPoint generation ensued. We completed the deck, but much to our frustration and the frustration of a few other teams, one of the teams had decided to double-side print their deck. This tied up the only printer on the floor, producing one page every 4 minutes. We were not able to produce our deck, but as it turns out, we were not selected to present in the final.
The eight teams that did not present in the final were given a glass plaque in recognition of their participation and hard work. We were then able to relax a little, watch the final presentations, and learn from the strategies presented by some of the other teams. It is always interesting to watch others present the same materials and see what does and does not work in presentations.
After the completion of the presentations, we headed back to the hotel to drop off our gear and head out to the banquet at the Hart House at the University of Toronto, where we were able to meet and chat with some of the other teams before heading for dinner. There, we met some distinguished alumni including Brian Haines, Steve Wade, Rob, and Matt Yelavich. Following some great conversation, food and some drinks, we went to another pub near the hotel with the team from the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary.
Before we knew it, the time had come for us to catch our flight home to Vancouver.
The Best in Class Case Competition was an amazing learning opportunity to apply our academic knowledge to real-world problems and it was great to meet with other MBA Candidates from other institutions, compare notes, and develop some good connections.
We want to extend our thanks again to FEI Vancouver for the opportunity to represent the Chapter at the national level, and especially to Brad Bardua for coming to Toronto to offer his support and feedback. We also want to gratefully thank the Beedie School of Business for its support in this competition!
Rachelle, Matt, Tim, and Rob