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We are Distinguished by our Ability to Think Outside the Box

A team of students on the Financial Economics MA course has won the Russian finals of the CFA Institute Research Challenge. The winners talk about how their studies at the International College of Economics and Finance help them achieve their professional goals.

The HSE news site has already reported that a team of students from the International College of Economics and Finance for the first time won the Russian finals of the CFA Institute Research Challenge. Four teams, from Moscow's leading universities, competed in the finals. Each had just 10 minutes to present their view on the development prospects for a real company – in this case, Tinkoff Credit Systems bank.

In their presentation and answering questions from the jury, ICEF students talked about the bank's business, gave a financial analysis of it, an approach to evaluating the company, and also argued for their key recommendations to potential investors – to buy shares in the bank.

Learning how to work in a team

For three of the team – Anna Tikhonova, Anastasia Tikhonova and Suren Avanyan – this was not their first time working together. 'We have already worked on joint projects and delivered great results together on the case-study championships, so we were really glad that each of us made it through and were selected for the HSE team,' said Anna Tikhonova. 'Working together was excellent: we helped and supported each other, worked together remotely to carry out high-quality research, reports, and compile the video and presentation.'

'Together, we thought through the structure of our approach to difficult questions, we listened to each other and offered each other advice,' Anastasia Tikhonova said. 'I think this was one of the most important factors in ensuring the quality of our final work. With this volume of work, carried out over such a lengthy period of time, the competition lasted almost six months, it is really important that everything is agreed, thought through, and that all team members are confident in the analysis completed.'

Another teammate, Ksenia Kushner, said the experience gained at ICEF also helped boost the student's success. 'MA courses at ICEF involve courses such as corporate finance and direct investment, in which we did Harvard Business School case studies in groups of three to five people,' Ksenia said. 'And in classes on company evaluation in M&A deals most of the examples set were case studies on financial modelling in various different industries, and we also worked in teams on that – holding 'negotiations' with other teams on the potential sale or purchase of a company.'

'The MA course involves projects on which you can and must learn to work as a team, such as the Private Equity case study,' Suren Avanyan said.

Why enrol in an MA course at ICEF?

The opportunity to learn how to work in a team in conditions very close to those found in the real world is not the only reason that students choose to study at ICEF. ‘I enrolled in an MA at ICEF for one reason, I thought it was the strongest MA course offered in Finance, that it gives the most current approach to theory and practice in the financial world,’ said Suren Avanyan. ‘Teaching is in English and professors are invited in from respected educational institutions such as the LSE and Said Business School. Studying at ICEF gives me the opportunity to develop myself in those very areas that I chose back during my third year in undergraduate studies.’

Anastasia Tikhonova and Ksenia Kushner also named the high number of applied courses on finance, and faculties that are designed to be of use in real life. ‘Another ‘plus’ for me is the focused nature of the ICEF MA,’ Anastasia adds. ‘Every student gets individual attention and a significant amount of one-on-one time, and students’ views on improving the course are taken into account.’

‘I chose this MA because it enables me to deepen my knowledge of finance, attend courses by practicing tutors, and also to practice my English language, as it is the main teaching language,’ Anna Tikhonova says. ‘I enjoy studying and I have never been scared of hard work, quite the reverse, it motivates me. The ability to think outside the box is what distinguishes HSE students from those at other universities.’

What's next?

Having triumphed at the Russian stage of the contest, ICEF students are heading to the European finals of the CFA Institute Research Challenge. Succeeding there is a short-term goal. The main question is what to do after graduating from ICEF.

‘All professional paths are open to us, and the choice depends on every student’s personal goals,’ says Ksenia Kushner. ‘Some continue with studies up to PhD level, most start building their career in investment banking or consulting firms, and some join top western companies in the real sector. As for me personally, I plan to build my career in the investment banking sector.’

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