Another year, another victory for the Titan Capital Management Program.
For the third year in a row, a team of top students from Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Capital Management program won first place in the first round of the Charter Financial Analyst Investment Research Competition, an annual competition in which students play the role of financial analysts, determining whether to buy, sell or hold the shares of a particular company.
Given the hours of research, the multiple skills needed, and the great team chemistry, it’s hard to win this competition even once.
Winning twice is an incredible feat.
But three times?
In the history of the competition, there has been only one other school to win three straight times, namely Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2014-2016, said the team’s educational advisor, Kelly Ko, director of CFA equities for Titan Capital Management.
TCM students gain first-hand experience preparing for careers in finance by managing real-world investment portfolios in consultation with the Chartered Financial Analyst Society of Orange County.
“We’ve been really lucky because the Fullerton kids have been great kids,” Ko said. “They’re teachable. They are humble. They are passionate about hard work and get to work. There is not an ounce 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, as well as Loyola, Pepperdine, Cal State Northridge and Cal State Dominguez.
Poplar Forest Capital partner Derek Derman was the team’s professional mentor.
Mendoza, the team captain, said every member of the team has been 100% committed since being selected for the competition at the start of the fall semester.
“Everyone made sacrifices,” said Mendoza, who is interning at a financial planning firm, in preparation for 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 kept going.
Simply put, the competition asks teams of students to conduct an in-depth assessment of a company and then produce a buy, sell or hold rating, depending on where the research takes them.
Teams submit a research report on the company, then make a presentation to a panel of judges, who score the teams on a variety of criteria.
Each team evaluates the same company.
“It mimics exactly how you would think about it if this was a company you would recommend investing in or would you recommend going short in it, or would you recommend holding it,” said Ko. “All the things you would actually do in practice as a profession you do here.”
Effective writing, research and presentation skills are essential for a team to earn high marks from the judges,” he said.
“Each of these guys has one or more of these characteristics,” Ko said.
While the TCM team has decided on a “sell” recommendation for the company, teams do not win based on their recommendation, but on the strength of the argument they present to the judges.
“Obviously it was great to win,” said Joe, who is on his way to becoming a financial planner and is currently interning at Morgan Stanley. “We were going against top schools, and it was impressive how we were able to overcome so many challenges in the future. It’s really great to see how our work has paid off.
Prospective TCM students participate in summer boot camps before the fall semester, learning about presentations, modeling, and portfolio management.
The students were then evaluated and the strongest students were offered the opportunity to represent the MTC program and the university in the competition.
“It was really exciting,” Gomez said. “We put in so much work over many months researching the business and seeing it all pay off… it was a rewarding process. We learned a lot. We learned to analyze companies, to work on our presentation skills and our writing skills.
All team members were challenged to manage their responsibilities for the team with the workload of their regular classes.
Tobrand, however, had a third engagement.
She is also a member of the Titans tennis team.
But Tobrand wasn’t going to pass up what she saw as a great 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… to be able to develop your skills in preparation for your career,” Tobrand said.
After winning the Los Angeles competition, Team TCM was one of 55 US teams to qualify for the US sub-regional round.
Of the 11 teams from the sub-region, TCM was not one of the three to qualify for the US semi-final.
But while TCM failed to progress, Ko assured the team that qualifying for the sub-region in three consecutive years is an epic achievement.
The Global Finals takes place every year and starts with more than 1,000 universities from around the world, Ko said, so qualifying for the second round is a credit to students’ commitment to learning and improving at course of the process.
Winning or losing is not what matters, he said.
“The more you win something, the more pressure there is, and those guys definitely felt some of that pressure,” Ko said. experience you gain in competition, whether you win or not. That’s the growth you get from doing that and learning about equity research and learning how to work as a team and put all the pieces together.