Commencement is around the corner and the real world is waiting, and now Ryan Zimmer can add an impressive credential to his résumé: world champion financial analyst.
Zimmer and four other Canisius College students recently won an international financial analysis skills competition that pitted them against 4,000 students from 865 colleges across the globe.
The Canisius victory marked the first time since 2007 that a team from the United States captured the CFA Institute Research Challenge Global Final title.
“I feel like the opportunities are endless for me now,” said Zimmer, a Canisius senior and Lancaster High School graduate. “I can show a company, ‘This is what I did in college.’ ”
Zimmer joined Matthew Coad, Stephen Miller, Kevin Monheim and Carl Larsson in presenting and defending a detailed equities research report on a publicly traded company to a panel of investment industry experts. The Canisius team advanced through several rounds to the Global Finals in Atlanta, where it beat teams from the Philippines, Ukraine and the University of Florida. Team members shared a $10,000 prize.
“This is bigger than what a national championship in a sport would be,” said Steven A. Gattuso, assistant professor of economics and finance at Canisius. “It’s hard to overstate what kind of achievement this is for a small school, out of a region that’s not known for this.”
Canisius teams have won the Western New York regional CFA competition each of the past five years. But before April, a Canisius team hadn’t advanced beyond the top 16 in the international event. This year’s team was determined to rank among the top six.
“We thought it was a lofty goal, but we thought it was possible,” said Monheim, a senior who also graduated from Lancaster High School.
Monheim and Zimmer have been friends since they were youngsters.
“We said going in that we wanted to be the best Canisius College team ever,” Monheim said.
The road to the big win began last fall, when Gattuso and team adviser Richard A. Wall, the college’s vice president of academic affairs and professor of economics and finance, selected team members from the Golden Griffin Fund, a student-run investment fund at Canisius.
“They’re stars now. People in the professional finance community know the magnitude of this,” Wall said.
The win also was testament to the strength and depth of Canisius’ finance program, which has about 180 students and now ranks as the college’s fifth-most-popular major, Wall said.
Schools competing in the Western New York region, which includes the Buffalo and Rochester areas, were charged with researching Sovran Self Storage Inc. and completing a written analysis of the company. The Canisius team wrote its analysis – a key component on which each team is judged – largely over the college’s winter break, even though Larsson returned home to Sweden and Miller to Boston during much of that time. Larsson and Miller, both members of the Golden Griffins hockey team, gave up their senior seasons to focus on the CFA Challenge. Coad, Zimmer and Monheim spent most of the break in the college’s Financial Markets Lab, sometimes pulling the dreaded “all-nighter,” even though they weren’t getting any college credit for their work. They communicated on additions and edits with Larsson and Miller via email and Google Docs. Monheim, who commutes to Canisius, slept on the floor of the lab a couple nights. He and Zimmer estimated that each of the team members dedicated at least 400 hours preparing for the competition.
After its submission by a January deadline, the 40-page report could not be modified. At each stage of advancement, the Canisius team gave a presentation and defense of the report.
Monheim said he hadn’t thought about how the competition might enhance his future career prospects. “I wanted to be part of this legacy the school has,” he said.
Nonetheless, he added, “as far as my field, this does unspeakable things for me. This is like having another job on my résumé.”
Monheim said he received several congratulatory phone calls from people at Manning & Napier, an investment firm in Rochester where he will begin work in June as a research assistant.
Zimmer has a paid internship as an analyst lined up with Wells Fargo. Miller has a job lined up in Boston, and Larsson, who interned on Wall Street last summer with Miller, is figuring out whether he’ll try to stay in the U.S. or return to Sweden. Coad, who was the team leader, has another year left in the MBA program at Canisius and already has a job.
Executives at Buffalo-based Sovran, which operates Uncle Bob’s Self Storage, were as impressed as anyone with the Canisius team’s performance. They recently donated $125,000 to support the Golden Griffin Fund lab.