14 March 2024

LiU students are doing well in the Swedish CFA Research Challenge. Year after year, victory goes to Linköping University. Winning the competition is a shortcut to top jobs with major banks and accounting firms. What is the secret to this success?

Magnus Johansson

Fourth year students on the Master of Business and Economics programme who choose to focus on finance have the opportunity to participate in the CFA Research Challenge, or as the competition is usually called in Sweden; the Swedish championships in business valuation for students.
These students are taught and supervised by associate professor Öystein Fredriksen. Since 2004 he has been in charge of the programme’s finance specialisation, which he started together with his colleague Göran Hägg.
“I’ve been training equity analysts for almost 20 years now,” says Öystein Fredriksen. “Many of those now working as equity analysts with banks and the major accounting firms are former students of mine. Three of the major banks currently have analysis managers that I’ve trained.”

Eight wins in 11 years

In the competition, CFA selects the company to be valued, and all teams value the same company. This year it was the gaming company Evolution. To date, LiU students have won the competition eight out of eleven times and have come second several times. In the 2024 competition, teams from LiU came in both first and second place. The winning team included students Victoria Kullgren, Simon Sidmalm and Johan Bjursell.
“We spent a lot of time doing research, interviewing people in Macau in China, doing a little more than you really have to. We have good group dynamics, we complement each other and gave a good presentation where everyone talked equally,” says Simon Sidmalm, as part of the explanation for the win.

Practical work

Five people each holding a medal
But success does not come for free. In parallel with their regular studies, students spend most of their free time on the competition, from early December to the end of February when the competition takes place.
“You have to be interested in the subject and willing to put in the time. But the competition also carries weight with the industry. Everyone knows what CFA is and what the competition entails,” says Johan Bjursell.

The fact that Öystein Fredriksen also played a big part in the success is evident when talking to the students. A seasoned teacher who built up the programme’s finance specialisation, knows what the competition jury will focus on, knows the industry and has the right contacts.
“The way he teaches, that we get to do practical work, gives you an understanding of how things actually work,” says Victoria Kullgren. “One goal is that after our training we’ll be able to make a business valuation. And we know how to do that now.”
The students also testify to a very accessible teacher, who always makes you feel welcome and who devotes a lot of time to his students.
“You can see that he enjoys teaching, he really puts his soul into it,” says Victoria Kullgren. “He’s not just a teacher, he’s in direct contact with the industry.”


Presentation and argumentation

Magnus Johansson
“The presentation accounts for half of the points in the competition, you learn this as a teacher after a few years,” says Öystein Fredriksen. “Business valuation is a mathematical subject, but you also have to be able to argue for your conclusion.”
Behavioural finance is also something that Öystein Fredriksen emphasises in his teaching. We humans are influenced by so many different things, we sometimes think fast and wrong.
“We try to problematise the subject so that the students can understand the underlying factors. If your job is to make recommendations, you must also be able to substantiate them, not just say that ‘my model says this’”.


A shortcut to a job

As early as during the reception period, word is spreading about the competition and that you should choose the finance specialisation if you want to participate in it. This particular year, half of the fourth year students on the economics programmes have chosen the finance specialisation. There are so many teams that want to participate in the competition that the university must first hold its own competition to sift out the two teams that will be sent to the Swedish championships.
“Handelsbanken organises the finals and their head of equities is always present during the presentation,” says Öystein Fredriksen. “Having a financial degree from LiU and participation in the competition on your CV is great, people will notice you. It will be a shortcut to Handelsbanken and other banks. Linköping students hire Linköping students.”


Translated by Anneli Mosell

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