Finals – Term 3

How is it March already? I swear just a few days ago we were learning about basic capital structure in our “turbo-finance” course in the middle of August. All of a sudden, Christmas break had come and gone. I guess time really does fly when you are busy learning in courses that you enjoy. I knew six courses would be a great deal of work but I didn’t know they would go by so fast! May marks the turning of a new chapter in my life and I am not ready to leave this place just yet! Columbus is home.

On February 29th, I had three finals for my third term courses. As a reminder, the SMF program is split up into five separate “terms”. There is the pre-term or “turbo-finance” course in the middle of August followed by two semesters that are split into two terms each. For the most part, the SMF program offers single term classes but some full semester courses are available. My first exam was Derivatives II at 10am followed by Corporate Financial Reporting at 3pm and finally Financial Statement Analysis at 6pm. Sound like a lot to handle? It wouldn’t have been if I had prepared correctly. Let’s just say I had some distractions when I was trying to studying.

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The week before that Monday, I told myself I would start studying and get ready in advance for my three finals. What happened? Classic procrastination – “I can wait, I still have five days!” “No worries, Monday is three days away still” “Oh no, my finals are tomorrow!”. It also doesn’t help that there were some distractions. Saturday and Sunday just happened to be the nicest days Columbus has had in weeks. So naturally, I indulged by wasting my studying time walking around the North Market and Goodale Park. Then came Sunday night. This just happened to be the night my favorite EDM DJ, Hardwell, decided to play a show in Columbus at the Bluestone. I couldn’t and wouldn’t miss this show.

Hardwell close (1) Hardwell far

Somewhere between walking around downtown in the beautiful weather and going to the concert, I found time conceptually understand Derivatives II. I still needed to practice and start studying for the other two exams. Monday morning was a little stressful, waking up at 4am to do practice problems and start Corporate Financial Reporting. Derivatives II came and went pretty well (I believe) and then came crunch time. Would I be able to study enough to be successful on my other two exams? You bet! I even had time to grab a coffee with a friend as a study break. I guess it goes to show that when you are studying material that you truly enjoy, it sticks much easier and makes a whole lot more sense (especially when I think about the physics and chem exams I used to have to take).

Speaker Series 2 – Mike Kaufmann – CFO of Cardinal Health

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Speaker Series = Equality in the workplace & challenging the status Quo

I would first and foremost like to give a shout – out to Rebecca Kimball for making this happen. The other Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending CFO Kaufmann’s speaker event at Gerlach Hall. This has become one of the top speaker series that I have actually been to. The subject revolved around professional development in the workplace and equality of the sexes in the workplace. The latter in my view is not talked about enough. When he started outlining how he championed the initiative to encourage more women to speak out and take the international assignments and promotions as well as other positions, it hit home with me. I have had the pleasure of working with women who I thought were the best candidate for the promotions offered but whom did not put their names in the boxes for fear of not having the complete qualifications and reprisal by their workmates. I definitely have always asked myself how that issue can be tackled.

In his answer to tackling the issue, he alluded to what most of us fear doing but always imagine doing. He said just do it in short. If a workplace does not respect equality, then it behooves us as the employees to decide whether our values are aligned with the company’s. I definitely agree with that viewpoint, especially in this age where the workforce is so diverse and firms can benefit from diversifying and the different outlooks that different sides of the sexes can bring to problem solving. It definitely reinforced what I want to see in a culture at work.

He did also go over his personal professional growth which struck me as very courageous. A trained accountant, he decided that he did not want to keep going through that track and went the sales route which he had a passion for. It shows how doing the uncomfortable can often result in our utmost success. I think it hit a nerve with me because when I was working, I had those thoughts where I would see myself in the future and ask if I was challenging myself enough….if I was doing what I needed what I needed to do so that in the future, I could do what I wanted to do.

Overall it was a great speech and I learned a lot from his speech and again a big shout-out to Rebecca Kimball.

CFA Research Challenge Pt. 2

Well, after almost five months of research, writing and preparation, we were finally readyEditing to give our presentation. On Tuesday, my research team and I got up in front of a panel of CFA charter holders to give a recommendation on Owens Corning, a basic materials company headquartered in Toledo. Just to recap, every year The CFA Society puts on a research challenge open to all colleges. The challenge consists of writing a research paper (my last blog) and giving a presentation to the local CFA societies (in our case, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati). We successfully made it past the paper stage a few weeks back and have since been preparing a slide deck and presentation based on our paper. The presentation was to be 10 minutes long and broken down into a few sections: company introduction and recent events, business segment descriptions, industry overview, financial analysis, valuation (the most important part) and risks. After the presentation there was another 10 minute session but this time the panel could ask us any questions they had.

So we knew exactly what the presentation would be like, we just needed to finalize what we wanted to say and practice until we had it down. It took almost no time to put together our slide deck…memorizing what we were going to say took a bit longer. As a team, we met a few times in the week leading up to the presentation to practice. In the end, we knew that getting up in front of the panel would be a beast all on its own.

Practicing

Finally, presentation day came and what better way to bond with your team then to ride in a minivan together. We made our way down to Wilmington, Ohio (a midpoint between Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati) and signed in right around 4pm. The schedule was: Ohio University at 5:00, Capital University at 5:30, Ohio State Team Sheridan at 6:00 and Ohio State Team Wellman at 6:30 (that’s right, Ohio State sent two teams!).

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While Ohio University was presenting, we decided to find another room where we could practice a few more times. Needless to say, we were a little nervous. For the life of me, I could not remember one of my lines and I was worried it wouldn’t come to me when the spotlight was on. Time was drawing near as we headed back to the waiting room. Ohio State Team Sheridan came out of the presentation room looking confident which, honestly, made me more nervous! Nonetheless, it was go time!

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We walked in, greeted the panel, and off we went. I think we did pretty well and apparently the panel agreed! Ohio State Team Wellman took home the victory and will be headed to Chicago in April to compete in the national level competition. Who knows, maybe we can make the Americas competition or even the global level! Look for more to come on the CFA Research Challenge, the journey isn’t over!

(Winners!)

Speaker Series 1- Charles Brandes of Charles Brandes Partners

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Speakers = Knowledge outside of the Classroom

In addition to all the intrinsic value we get from going to such a great school, we are often privy to great speakers who add yet more value to our education. I have had the pleasure of attending a couple of speaker series and would like to share some of these series with all of you. As I am a Finance Major and am pursuing the Investment track within the Specialized Master of Finance Program, I am always intrigued by what standards are practiced in the Industry. Mr. Brandes is a proponent of the Value Investing method made famous by Benjamin Graham and further made popular by Warren Buffet.

Mr. Brandes came to speak to the business school at the beginning of the semester last year and shared his experiences with us. To the ones who wanted to do equity research, he drove the point of value investing home. To be more specific, he imparted the importance of fundamentally valuing firms rather than speculating to the performance of a company. It takes time to truly understand what a business is doing, how it operates, and what its drivers are. When one understands that, then it makes it easier to value a company and not be part of the crowd.

More interestingly is what I just recently learned in my Trading and Markets class. Mr. Brandes was the second Investor to put money into the Investor Exchange founded by Brad Katsuyama as portrayed in Michael Lewis’s book. I definitely was able to understand why Mr. Brandes was and is such a proponent of value investing. I could not do justice to the whole subject of Mr. Lewis ‘s book  (Flash Boys) in such few words but would recommend everyone who reads this blog post to read it and read his other books as well.

Down Time!!!

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Finals, Midterms, Job Applications, Projects……. All those are words that have become part of my daily vocabulary. In fact I am willing to bet that it has become part of everyone’s vocabulary who is a graduate student at the Fisher College of Business. It is though what makes the school such a great place for students to develop. We are exposed to so many things and facets of life in such a short time even if it is 2 years. At the end of the day it is what brings in the big bucks or to put it better; it is what makes us better people, better members of society, people who question the status quo and push for better things.

There is a word that is missing from the afore-mentioned list though, at least in my case. I get so engrossed in all the technical aspects of what I am doing and learning here that I forget to breathe. I forget to ask a classmate how their weekend was or miss a smile from a passing friend because I am think of how I am going calculate the zero yield of a certain bond. It is not always the case because as the picture shows above, I do remember sometimes and better yet that passing friend stops me in the hallways and asks me how my weekend was. They ask me if I am free for lunch so that we can go to Diaspora (Possibly best Korean food in Town). This aspect of my graduate career so far is my favorite because I realize that as much as I am thinking about that zero yield rate, they too are thinking about it or another thing regarding classes and we discuss the subjects in a nonacademic way relating it to our lives.

Pictured above are two of my classmates Elijah li and Taylor Snare who remind me that sometimes a smile and some breathing is all one needs to get through the day. The rest, we learn as we go and ask questions so that in the future we can answer other people’s questions as well.

Ohio Weather !!!

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I definitely think that I should have posted this earlier or for those not familiar with Ohio. We’re in February and I was driving back from Dayton Ohio this morning sliding ever so slightly on i-70 and I remember just how fast the weather can change in this great State of ours. I remember seeing runners two weeks ago running in shorts and even homeowners mowing their grass. That was at the beginning of February and I was amazed. I actually drove around the city with my windows down so that I could enjoy the warmth and sunshine. I even took a walk by the river but I had a sweater on because I know you Ohio and weather appearances can be deceiving.

I have to digress of course because I have lived in this state long enough to know how fast the weather can change. As mentioned above, appearances can be deceiving. I have had days where I have been wearing shorts inside the house to sweats, socks, a sweater and the heater blowing all in the same way. It in fact happened to me last week. I got caught off guard because I assumed that since we had had a mild winter so far (mild by polar vortex standards), the worst had passed. Of course I was fast reminded of that when yesterday while grabbing some groceries from Walmart I saw people people sliding all around as if there was a secret audition to “Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift ” that I did not know about. The most confusing part seeing these people driving though was that they were all going faster than me in cars that I know are not 4 wheel drive like mine and acting as if it was a regular June day. For my part, I am a fairly slow driver but even slower when there is snow, sleet, and ice involved.

bad weather

The Ohio weather though is what makes Ohio the beautiful state that it is. For its part when it is cold and it is miserable people will still smile at you. You will still see the dedicated runners with spikes on their trainers clocking their 10 milers in. And when it cannot get any colder and the clouds part ever so slightly, we are privy to a little sunshine and are reminded that its just an Ohio thing!!!

CFA Research Challenge

This year, I have had the incredible opportunity to participate in the CFA Research Challenge with three of my fellow SMF’s. The CFA is considered to be the must-have designation in the finance world and the CFA Society is represented by thousands of charter holders. Each year, local CFA Societies host and review local level research papers prepared by college students. Each region decides on a few papers they deem competitive enough to make it to the regional and global rounds. Our local level includes the CFA Societies of Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati so we are competing against the likes of University of Dayton, University of Cincinnati, Miami University and another Ohio State team. If we are chosen for the next level, we will have to prepare a presentation to give to regional and global CFA Societies who will decide on a global winner.

OC Front

We are assigned Owens Corning (OC) as our company to be researched. At the beginning of the competition, we were invited to an investor presentation put on by the Vice President of Investor Relations for OC and hosted by Ohio STRS (State Teachers Retirement System). At that point in time, we found out we had a lot of work to do. We started by splitting the paper into different sections (business segments, investment thesis, financial analysis, investment risks and industry profile) and worked individually on each section then came back together to edit for content and grammar.

JohnWill

By the time we reached a week out from the submission deadline, we knew we had to get in gear. Over that last week, my teammates and I spent anywhere from 5 to 10 hours each day working on the paper. Most of the content was done with about a day to go, we just needed to finalize our grammar and make sure it was pristine. Despite our beliefs that we were ahead, we ended up scrambling at literally the last moment to get it turned in. Who knew that trying to combine a 35-page paper would bog down a MacBook and take a few minutes to upload to the internet? In the end, the submission went through at 12:00.15 and we were safe. Check back here in a few weeks to see if we made it to the regional round!

Golfing in Naples, Florida!

After I thought all of the presents were opened this Christmas, my littlest brother (Wyatt) brought out one more envelope for me to open. I was a little nervous but extremely excited for what may be inside. After opening it, I read his 13 year old scribbling and the biggest smile came across my face. He, with the help of my mom, had put together a golf trip to Naples, Florida for me, my dad and my other younger brother (Patrick). That wasn’t the only surprise though. My mom decided to add an extra ticket for Wyatt to go with us too!

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Two days after Christmas, we were packed and ready to make our way down south. We arrived in Naples around 10pm so Patty and I ordered pizza because nothing else was open. I would say it was a great start to the trip. On the first day of the trip, we woke up at 7am to grab some breakfast and head to the golf course. We walked on the first tee box and I was just in awe at how incredible this golf course was. The greenest grass I’ve ever seen paired with some of the bluest water. Now came the hardest part of the entire trip…Trying not to embarrass myself. My first tee shot was miserable. The golf ball popped straight up in the air and fell about 20 yards in front of me; I had tee’d it up too high and walked back to the cart, red in the face.
The rest of that first round was better than the first shot but I still finished above my average score. I also lost more golf balls than ever before (thank god for Santa). After getting cleaned up, we adventured to downtown Naples to try and find a cool place to eat. We settled on an authentic Mexican restaurant that barely had enough room for 20 people. The food was incredible! After that adventure we made our way around to different shops and stores before taking off for the hotel.

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Day two was similar to the first but I shot a little better. After the round of golf, Patty and I relaxed on the beach for a few hours as the sun went down. Sitting on a beach in December is an amazing experience and I highly recommend it! On the last day of our trip, I shot the best nine holes of my life on the back. What a great way to finish the trip! Patty and my dad beat me on every round except those last nine holes and I will be proud of that for months to come!

Finals, Baseball and Sushi!

What a whirlwind it has been the past two weeks. It’s mostly my fault for procrastinating quite a bit but I can honestly say I spent more time in our computer lab over the past two weeks then I did in my apartment. As we approached finals week, I knew that I had a lot of work to do but wasn’t entirely sure how much. Finally, I sat down to get organized and realized I had two Corporate Finance case briefs due, a paper and presentation on the Norwegian economy, a HUGE Financial Modeling project due and a test in Derivatives worth 75% of our grade. It was time to get it in gear! With the help of my team, we crushed our Corporate Finance case briefs and presented our project on Norway like we were natives! Financial Modeling on the other hand was a bit more time consuming. We were responsible for creating a model in Excel that would provide flexibility and user-friendliness for anyone who was trying to price out a business trip to Honk Kong. After a combined 100 hours between four people, we had created a model that we were incredibly proud of. I needed a little break before starting to study for Derivatives so I took the night off and watched the original three Star Wars movies to get me pumped for the newest episode! Then it was back to the grind. I believe I could have prepared a little better for what I consider the busiest two weeks of my life, but everything worked out ok!

baseball

It was time for a little fun. The other day I was asked by one of my international classmates to play some baseball. Naturally I was very interested having played ball for a majority of my life. We met at Anheuser Busch Sports Park and split into two teams consisting of two domestic and three international students each. I wont lie, I was a little over confident and was brought down a few pegs when I hit an easy pop up on my first pitch. The rest of the game was much more competitive than I thought it would be and my team ended up losing by only a few runs. Needless to say, I had an absolute blast and am excited for the next time we get out there. With this weather though…who knows when that will be.

party-tray

After our game of baseball, we took an adventure to Tensuke Market! I was told this was the absolute best and most authentic place to get sushi and traditional Japanese dishes in Columbus. We walked in to the market and I was instantly overwhelmed with foreign sights, sounds and smells…I was excited. I ordered a crunchy salmon roll, a jumbo spicy tuna roll and raw conch prepared sashimi style. The conch was the most exotic thing I have tried in quite some time and I loved it. If you are ever up on Henderson Road just off 315, I highly recommend you go check out Tensuke Market, you will not be disappointed!

Finals are Over….Finally!

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I am going to be honest, I did not think that I would make it this far. Project after project, test after test…..add that a finals week and you have a recipe of no sleep, caffeine, subway (I have a subway card now!!! and I love their double chocolate chip cookies), and lots of back and forth bicycle rides from my apartment to Gerlach Hall. Riding the bicycle in the fresh cold air to clear my mind was probably the most value adding activity. It helped me strategize and put together my plan of action.

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First on the list was finalizing the last project for Financial Modeling. It was challenging because my group members have different schedules, and because the project itself was open ended. We had our variables and our goal was to present both a dynamic and user friendly model for a firm to send employees overseas on business trips. Though challenging in itself with the added constraints of our schedules we accepted the task at hand and sat down, strapped in, and got to work. The feelings of relief and excitement we had after we finished and ran our model were unparalleled as we all thought “This might be the best model hands down.” We put the finishing touches on it, presented it, and walked away with our heads held high because we had done a good job.

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Second and last order of the week were the Finals in Econ and Derivatives. I happen to love both those classes so the studying process was not as challenging as I thought it would be. There were times though that I thought to myself while studying especially for derivatives: “This is a lot of material to cover and my brain might not make it to see the light of day to post about this great experience on my blog.” All in all Finals were challenging. Some of the questions on both Finals were hard and a small percentage of the questions caused my mind to go blank. I thought hard and marked them and moved on to the next questions in the hopes that I would remember to come back and see if I could solve the questions. When the professor said time’s up, I was actually relieved and glad that it was all over…..for now at least. I was able to get through this which should make the next time easier as I shall be more prepared.

By
Didier H.