March 21, 2014

Kansas City students heading to Singapore as investment research champions

The three University of Missouri-Kansas City students won the Americas regional competition in Denver this week to earn a seat at the finals in Singapore next month.

Three Kansas City college students will travel to Singapore next month after winning an investment research competition that spanned the Western Hemisphere.

The trio — students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City — beat teams from 350 business schools and universities to become the Americas regional champions in the eighth CFA Institute Research Challenge.

In Singapore, they’ll face two rival teams that represent the Asia-Pacific region and the Europe-Middle East-Africa region.

It will be the fifth time these three UMKC students will present their research findings and investment conclusions about Kansas City Southern, the publicly traded railway company. And once again they’ll face a barrage of questions from judges.

“I think we’re all pretty shocked we ended up winning this thing,” said Jared Stricklin, 25, a Grain Valley native who is working on a master’s degree in finance.

Their surprise reflects the level of competition at the Americas regional event in Denver on Wednesday. Stricklin, Derek Bembry and Jacob Boan won a Kansas City area competition to get there and put plenty of effort into their case.

“We all work full time and we’re full-time students,” said Bembry, working on a master’s in business administration. “We don’t have lives. This competition takes up so much time.”

And how does it fit into their schedules?

“It’s probably better you’re asking me and not my wife. It was challenging,” Stricklin said.

Bembry, 27, of Overland Park, is married as well. He and his wife have a son turning 2 next month and another child on the way. Boan was unavailable for this story.

Work on the competition often came after 10 p.m. during Skype sessions.

The mission was to analyze Kansas City Southern and to make an investment recommendation on its stock the way a professional investment analyst would. The CFA Institute issues chartered financial analyst designations for those who pass its rigorous tests.

As part of the local competition, teams from universities in Kansas City and western Missouri had a collective session with officials of Kansas City Southern. Each team also had its own private time on the phone, which is where Bembry said they popped their best questions.

A sudden change in Kansas City Southern’s outlook forced the amateur stock sleuths to rewrite their report for the competition, for which they were given some extra time. The company’s year-end financial report was disappointing, and its shares fell 15 percent in one day.

It also exonerated the team’s first report, which Bembry said had been a recommendation to sell Kansas City Southern’s shares before the bad news came out.

But with shares a lot cheaper, team UMKC upgraded the company’s stock to “hold,” which means hang on to what you own.

Kansas City Southern isn’t expected to update its financial condition until after the April 25 research challenge finals.

Nor do Bembry, Boan and Stricklin know whom they’ll face in Singapore. The two other regional winners haven’t been chosen yet.

When the three teams meet, they’ll represent the best from among more than 3,700 students at roughly 825 universities that competed across the globe.

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