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UofGH's team advances to the Top 15 of the CFO Case Study Competition

Text that reads: "I am very proud of the hundreds of hours each team member has invested into the CFO Case Study Competition while working from home.”

A team of four University of Guelph-Humber students has advanced to the Top 15 of the prestigious global CFO Case Study Competition.

To make it this far, UofGH’s team – composed of Business students Alexis Del Papa, Jessica Gomes and Daniel Bielak and Justice Studies student Maheen Nazim – had to overcome a deeply competitive field of universities from all around the world. In fact, 580 teams – 2,300 students total – from 86 universities in 48 countries and six continents entered the CFO Case Study Competition.

Joining UofGH in the Top 15 are universities from the United States, Thailand, Germany, China, India, Nigeria and South Africa. The field will be narrowed to six teams in July before a winner is crowned in October.

The University of Guelph-Humber is looking to repeat as champions, after a team of four students and alumni travelled to Johannesburg, South Africa last year to win the 2019 CFO Case Study Competition. UofGH was the first North American university to do so. 

Preparing for this year’s competition, of course, has been a drastically different experience.

“The competition began on March 1. A few weeks into the competition, all of Canada went into quarantine, which significantly impacted the team’s ability to compete,” said Acting Business Program Head Justin Medak, who trains UofGH students for case competitions at all levels. 

“However, their resilience and determination were unwavering as they adapted to the new social distancing rules while proceeding forward in the competition. I am very proud of the hundreds of hours each team member has invested into the CFO Case Study Competition while working from home.”

A case competition unlike the others

To make it to the Top 15, UofGH’s team had to submit four deliverables through numerous elimination rounds, including a creative team presentation performed while social distancing, as well as a board report recommending solutions to strategic issues faced by the British Petroleum (BP) Company.

The team has already devoted hundreds of hours of work into the competition and the end isn’t in sight.

“I feel the biggest challenge of doing this virtually is the new greater importance of communication and the ability to complete tasks with all our team members working in different locations,” Del Papa said. “This competition required us to work collaboratively on a variety of projects where each team member’s work needed to be cohesive.

“This really forced us to make sure we talked about every little detail and the entire team was on the same page.” 

In fact, while case competitions are always a valuable learning experience for students who want to boost their financial acumen, critical thinking skills and public speaking ability, this year’s unique format has provided new lessons.

“I think I've learned a lot about not only the academic portion of participating in a financial competition but also about the importance of communication and teamwork,” Gomes said.

Ultimately, preparing in a virtual setting hasn’t seemed to slow the team much at all.

“Even a pandemic,” said Nazim, “is no match for a team who values communication, hard work and perseverance. UofGH taught us well!”

Defending champions

Bielak is the only team member who was also part of last year’s championship-winning team. Though they won, Bielak thought the team still had room for improvement, so he said this year’s competitors have focused on those weaknesses while maintaining their strengths.

As the only team member who knows from experience what it takes to win the CFO Case Study Competition, he says he feels “humbly confident” about UofGH’s chances.

“We don’t underestimate the competition but we are a team willing to put in everything it takes to make it,” he said. “I’m lucky enough to be going through this process with a team that I admire, that has a great work ethic, and that has a mindset that allows us to have fun through it all.

“What I’m taking away is the memories: the late nights chatting about solutions, the cats and dogs crashing the video calls, the filming video shots between geese being noisy, and, hopefully, many more memories to come. I’m grateful for this opportunity, I'm grateful to work with Maheen, Alexis and Jess and, I'm grateful to represent the University again on an international stage.”