Stock pitch competition pays dividends for students, Cleveland Research Company

Competition has grown from club event to school-wide competition

Cleveland Research Company was founded in 2006
Cleveland Research Company was founded in 2006

Competition has grown from club event to school-wide competition

Manav Sarkaria took part in the Cleveland Research Stock Pitch Competition last month, helping to lead his team past other Farmer School groups to win the competition and a spot at the national competition in Michigan next fall.

But when Kenny Kruse, Lexi Morris, and Ki Sakuma make the drive north in October, Sarkaria won’t be with them. He graduates this month and will be working for Morgan Stanley in New York City by then. “It would have been a really cool experience to go. My freshman year when we did it, we went to the Farmer School finals, but we didn't win, so we never got to pitch at Michigan,” Sarkaria recalled.

Getting to the ENGAGE Undergraduate Investment Conference competition takes some work. First, teams must submit their stock pitch idea to Farmer School faculty who judge the first stage of the competition. A group of three to five teams are selected as finalists and make their pitch to a group of Cleveland Research Company employees, who select the winning team. That team travels to the University of Michigan in October, where they compete against other schools. On three occasions, Farmer School teams have made it to the ENGAGE finals, and all three times, they’ve finished second.

Knowing that he wouldn’t be traveling with them even if they won, Sarkaria took on something of a mentoring role for the rest of the team, who are all sophomores. “I've been mentoring people ever since I was a sophomore, so it was really nice to be able to take this team and work with them,” he said. “It was fun watching them learn and correcting some of the mistakes that they made that were like ones that I made when I was younger. So it was definitely a good experience.”

Kruse said the rest of the team appreciates what Sarkaria’s mentoring did to help them advance. “One thing that Manav was able to teach us was how to actually create the story and refine what each point was going to be so we could run through the presentation in an effective and efficient way,” Kruse recalled. “He showed us the importance of creating a story and refining that story so everybody can understand it and follow along with it, which is really important in the case competition.”

This was the ninth year for the Cleveland Research Company Stock Competition, but if not for Vince Ciepiel, a luxury and travel analyst at CRC, it would probably be a different experience. As a senior, Ciepiel worked to broaden the then-Investment Club competition, both internally and externally. “I thought, ‘Let's make this an official competition, open it up to everybody in the whole school and have a panel of actual industry professionals judge the competition versus just students judging the competition of other students,’” he recalled. Ciepiel was already slated to go work at CRC after graduation, so convincing the company to send representatives to Oxford for the competition was a natural next step.

“I think it's actually more challenging than most competitions for students,” Ciepiel explained. “This competition really is an exercise in being creative, being a self-starter, starting essentially with a blank piece of paper and thinking to yourself, ‘Okay, how do I go find a company that is undervalued or overvalued?’ And that is something that a lot of smart people and a lot of smart capital is chasing around, so it’s certainly a difficult job. It’s always exciting to see how students approach that problem.”

Each year, the Farmer School finalist team makes a detour to Cleveland on the way to Ann Arbor, stopping at CRC for a dress rehearsal of their presentation for executives to get feedback and help refining their pitch. “We created an independent study/preparation course for the winning team,” Ciepiel said. “And in that preparation course, we help put together some curriculum and help students think about potential stock ideas. We've also brought in a number of other Farmer School alumni who work in equity research or a work for hedge funds or other investment firms to help students think about what might be a good pitch and then refine their idea to a final presentation.”

“They're very smart. Their questions are very difficult, but they know a lot,” Morris said. They're very passionate about the things that they do and the work that they're involved in.”

Waiting from April until October for the next round of the competition might seem daunting to some, but it doesn’t bother Sakuma. “I'm looking forward to it. I was on the research team for the Michigan case last year, so it'll be neat to be on the other side of things and actually present at Michigan. I think it gives us a lot of time, especially through our summer internships to actually prepare for choosing a stock. So I think it will be a great opportunity for everyone.”

"Since I came to CRC, I think on average we've hired two full time employees and three to four interns from Miami each year," Ciepiel said. “It’s been a great, great partnership we've had with the school. I'm still close with a lot of the finance professors there and I’m continually impressed with the caliber of students at Miami University.”