UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


Taking stock


Capital Markets LabStudent teams from 15 top MBA programs battled it out for the championship at the ninth annual Alpha Challenge, the premier MBA stock pitch competition hosted by UNC Kenan-Flagler Nov. 14-15.

The Alpha Challenge pitted MBA teams against each another as they presented one long and one short investment recommendation from a predefined universe of stocks. They defended their investment analysis to a panel of distinguished judges consisting of hedge fund managers, institutional portfolio managers and equity research analysts. The judges were well-recognized portfolio managers, such as Richard Chilton and Steve Yachtman, and investment professionals from a variety of firms, including William Blair & Company, Fidelity Asset Management, American Century and T. Rowe Price.

The preliminary rounds yielded four finalists, and a final-four round produced the champion, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. The Yale School of Management and the University of Virginia Darden School of Business won second and third, respectively.

Bruce Johnstone, managing director and senior marketing investment strategist for Fidelity Investments, gave the keynote address. A 41-year Fidelity veteran, he managed the Fidelity Equity Income Fund for 19 years.

Kyle Akin and the winning Chicago Booth team recommend a short on GenGorp (ticker: GY) and a long on Digital Globe Inc. (ticker: DGI) Akin applied for the competition at Chicago Booth by pitching a stock in his application. About a month ago he learned that he’d been selected, and less than two weeks before the competition, he and other participants received the list of transportation industry stocks from which they could choose. They had one week to prepare their research, analysis and pitches.

Akin was glad he competed, especially since participants could interview with judges — a new feature of this year’s event. Like most participants, he plans on a career in investment management.

“I feel like I’ve been tested,” he said. “They put you in the hot seat.”

Doug Rogers, Eaton Vance Management assistant director of equity research, judged the first round. He participated to get a head start on MBA recruiting at Alpha Challenge since it features high-performing students from top business programs. The competition is a great way to evaluate MBA talent, he said, adding that the pitches so impressed him that he might use a few of their stock ideas.

Alpha Challenge has become one of the most coveted MBA competitions, said Heather McNally (MBA ‘14). “Schools are fighting to get in every year.” She credits the longevity of the event and UNC Kenan-Flagler’s involved alumni.

In addition to the winning schools, teams also were fielded by the business schools at Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, MIT, New York University, Northwestern, Berkeley, Michigan, Pennsylvania and UNC Kenan-Flagler.

Sponsors were Fidelity Investments, Carlson Capital, SAC Capital, T. Rowe Price, CFA Institute, William Blair, American Century Investments, Manning & Napier, Capital Group and FactSet.