Another year, another win for the Titan Capital Management Program.
For the third straight year, a team of top-flight students from Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Capital Management program took first place in the first round of the Charter Financial Analyst Investment Research Competition, an annual competition in which college students take on the role of financial analysts who decide whether to buy, sell or hold shares in a particular company.
Given the hours of research, the diverse skill set required, and the right team chemistry, it’s tough to win this competition even once.
Winning twice is an amazing achievement.
But three times?
In the history of the competition, there has only been one other school to win three consecutive times, which was Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2014-2016, said the team’s faculty advisor Kelly Ko, CFA equity director at Titan Capital Management.
TCM students gain first-hand experience preparing for careers in finance by managing actual investment portfolios in consultation with the Chartered Financial Analyst Society of Orange County.
“We were really lucky because the kids at Fullerton were great kids,” Ko said. “You are trainable. You are humble. You have a passion for hard work and for taking on the challenge. There is not a shred of arrogance among them. They just want to do well and improve.”
The TCM team of Alexandra Mendoza, John Gomez, Connor Joe and Eira Tobrand outperformed teams from seven other universities, including three MBA teams, two from UCLA and one from Claremont, along with Loyola, Pepperdine, Cal State Northridge and Cal State dominguez
Poplar Forest Capital’s partner, Derek Derman, was the team’s professional mentor.
Mendoza, the team captain, said every member of the team has been 100 percent committed since they were selected for the competition earlier in the fall semester.
“Everyone made sacrifices,” said Mendoza, who is doing an internship at a financial planning firm and is working towards a career in financial analysis. “It was literally our blood, sweat and tears that went into it. There were definitely times when we met late. Everyone was exhausted but we just kept going.”
Simply put, the competition challenges student teams to conduct a thorough evaluation of a company and then provide a buy, sell, or hold rating, depending on where the research takes them.
Teams submit a research report on the company and then make a presentation to a panel of judges, who rate the teams on a variety of criteria.
Each team rates the same company.
“It mimics exactly how you would feel about it if this was a company you recommended investing in, or recommended a short position on, or recommended holding,” Ko said. “Everything you would actually do professionally, you do here.”
Effective writing, research and presentation skills are key for a team to receive high scores from the judges,” he said.
“Each of these guys has one or more of these traits,” Ko said.
While the TCM team decided on a “sell” recommendation for the company, the teams win not on their recommendation but on the strength of their arguments against the judges.
“Obviously, winning felt great,” said Joe, who is on his way to becoming a financial planner and is currently an intern at Morgan Stanley. “We competed against graduate schools and it was impressive how we were able to overcome so many challenges in the future. It’s just great to see how our work has paid off.”
Aspiring TCM students attend summer boot camps prior to the fall semester, learning about presentations, modeling, and portfolio management.
The students were then evaluated and the strongest students were given the opportunity to represent the TCM program and the university in the competition.
“It was definitely exciting,” Gomez said. “We’ve put so much work into researching the company over many months and to see it all pay off… it’s been a rewarding process. We learned a lot. We learned to analyze companies, work on our presentation and writing skills.”
All team members were challenged to balance their responsibilities for the team with the workload of their regular classes.
However, Tobrand had a third commitment.
She is also a member of the Titans tennis team.
But Tobrand didn’t want to pass up this excellent opportunity.
“It’s such a great opportunity to represent TCM, to represent the school, to be able to do something outside of what you do… and to be able to build your skillset for your career,” said raging.
After winning the Los Angeles competition, the TCM team was among 55 US teams that advanced to the America Sub-Regional round.
Of the 11 teams in the Sub-Regional, TCM was not one of the three to advance to the Americas Semifinals.
But even though TCM didn’t progress, Ko assured the team that it was an epic achievement to get promoted to the sub-regional for three straight years.
The global finals take place every year and kick off with more than 1,000 universities from around the world, Ko said. So getting it through to the second round is a credit to the students’ commitment to learn and improve during the process.
Winning or losing isn’t the most important thing, he said.
“The more times you win something, the more pressure there is, and these guys definitely felt some of that pressure,” Ko said. “But the most important thing is the work you put in and the experience you get in the competition, whether you win or not. It’s the growth you get from actually doing this and learning about stock research and learning how to work in a team and put all the pieces together.”