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PLNU beats other San Diego business schools in research competition

Five PLNU business majors won the San Diego Region Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Student Research Challenge March 4 against SDSU, USD and UCSD. Now the team advances to the Americas Regional Final in Atlanta, Georgia April 15.

Team members and seniors Blair Messner, Matthew Herskowitz, Chad Krause, Sam Sadler and Trevor Shaw, each were awarded a year’s subscription to, which normally costs $15,000 a year. This was PLNU’s third year competing and its first victory.

Group picture for display case
Dean of the Fermanian School of Business Dan Bothe, seniors Matthew Herskowitz, Sam Sadler, Blair Messner, Trevor Shaw and Chad Krause won the San Diego Region Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Student Research Challenge March 4 against SDSU, USD and UCSD. (Photo courtesy of Kelsey Smith)


The project, called an equity research report, consisted of two parts. The first was a thorough, written report and the second was a 20-minute presentation that included a rigorous round of question and answer from portfolio managers for some of the biggest investment firms in San Diego.

Each team was assigned a publicly traded company in San Diego to analyze and evaluate. The PLNU team was assigned Jack in the Box, and had to decide whether to buy, sell or put a hold on its stock. The team determined the best option was to put a hold on the stock, but they still needed to support their answer with evidence.

The team put hours of work into the project over the course of nearly three months creating a team chemistry that allowed them to beat the bigger business schools. Herskowitz, who is not only a senior finance major but also PLNU’s director of finance, attributed the victory to the team dynamic.

“They [the other teams] were just meeting each other for the first time and trying to coordinate meetings,” Herskowitz said. “We’ve had classes with each other since freshman year. It is what made me want to go above and beyond.”

Fellow teammate Trevor Shaw is also a senior finance major.

“It was definitely the team; it was the mentors that we had,” Shaw said. “And then we wanted to win. We put in the time; we put in the effort.”

Each team was granted a representative or mentor to help guide the team members in their research. Dan Bothe, the dean of the Fermanian School of Business, was assigned to the PLNU team. He brought over 20 years of management consulting, accounting and senior level financial management experience to the team. He was impressed with their teamwork.

“When they worked hard and were thoughtful, it was as a team, not as individuals,” said Bothe.

Bothe was joined by Luke Jacobson, a financial analyst for Wall Street Associates based out of La Jolla.

Shaw found the project to be a perfect mixture between conceptual learning and real-life application.

“It is a really good bridge between [reading] it in a textbook and doing it in real life,” Shaw said.

Because of their win, they will continue to the regional competition, where the team will present the same presentation to a new panel of judges and must be prepared to answer a new set of questions. They will be competing with 47 other universities from across the country, and if they win, then they move on to the Global Final on April 17.

For now the team will make small changes to their presentation in preparation for the Americas regional final Wednesday.

“We are not allowed to change our written report, but we are allowed to change the content of our presentation,” Herskowitz said. “Most of the work is already done; we just need to go out there and execute our presentation.”