Students from Saïd Business School and across the University of Oxford have been taking part in a number of unique challenges offered by three leading firms in investment banking, private equity and asset management, to test the knowledge they acquired during the Oxford Saïd Finance Lab.
Centerview, Bridgepoint and Hermes have been offering exclusive networking and mentoring opportunities through challenges giving students the opportunity to apply their skills to scenarios they would typically see during the first three years working at a bank or a fund.
Bridgepoint Private Equity Challenge
More than 34 graduate and undergraduate teams totalling 100 University of Oxford students participated in the Bridgepoint Private Equity Challenge. Students attended seminars which included a real-life case study and two presentations by Bridgepoint investment directors on how to raise leverage finance and how to prepare investment proposals. Teams worked together to assess the potential for a leveraged buyout of four companies suggested by Bridgepoint, and prepared an investment proposal and financial valuation model.
The winning graduate team was made up of three Oxford Saïd MBAs; Johan Krynauw, Alexander Bertoli and Ruvimbo Nyangoni. They produced a case study on the Nordic manufacturer of wooden windows and doors, Inwido.
‘We were attracted to Inwido not only because it is the number one player in its market but it also has exposure to a range of geographies across Europe,’ said Johan Krynauw. ‘Inwido is predominantly exposed to the residential market so a key part of our thesis was to enter into the commercial market to reduce exposure to residential and a potential downturn in discretionary spend, and further differentiate Inwido from its competition.’
The winning undergraduate team was Rebecca Zhang, St Peter’s College; Gen Hall, St Edmund Hall; and Daniel Berg, St Edmund Hall.
The recommendations of the teams were evaluated by a Bridgepoint investment team (11 members are University of Oxford alumni) and Andreas T. Angelopoulos, Oxford Saïd Finance Lab Programme Director, who awarded the top undergraduate and the top graduate teams a cash prize, dinner at Exeter College and the opportunity to spend a day at the Bridgepoint headquarters in London to attend seminars and workshops.
‘We knew from the outset that the Bridgepoint Challenge was going to be very competitive as we were up against both MFEs and other MBAs,’ said Johan. ‘The cash prize and opportunity to spend a day with the Bridgepoint team in London ensured that everyone was going to take the challenge very seriously.’
‘The Bridgepoint Private Equity Challenge gives students an insight into how we assess potential investments,’ said Emma Watford (Director, Bridgepoint and Oxford alumnus, St Hildas). ‘It was really encouraging to see the high quality of many of the papers which were a testament to the strength and breadth of the private equity teaching at Oxford Saïd and Oxford University,’ continued Hamish Grant (Partner, Bridgepoint and Oxford alumnus, Christ Church).
Hermes GPE Private Markets Challenge
MBAs Sean Walsh, Kaspar Baumann and Kareem Edwards were the winning team in the Hermes Private Markets Challenge in which three teams were selected from twelve to present their work to and network with the Hermes’ committee, led by Peter Gale, Head of Private Equity & Chief Investment Officer at Hermes GPE and an Oxford alumnus. One of the three winning students is set to receive an 8 week internship at a Hermes office in London, New York or Singapore.
Teams were asked to value and prepare a bid for a limited partner’s stake in an existing private equity portfolio of companies. The winning team evaluated risks associated with the transaction, such as exit multiples and exit timings, and developed strategies to account for the risks. As part of their analysis, the team creatively ran a Monte Carlo simulation, which evaluated the impact of the risks, the results of which were accounted for in the bid.
‘Participating in the Hermes Private Markets Challenge allowed me to further develop my understanding of the financial concepts I’ve learnt during my MBA and through the Oxford Finance Lab,’ said Sean Walsh. ‘Moreover, working closely with my team members was the greatest part of the experience, and extremely valuable. I learnt a tremendous amount from my team, drawing on their experience and knowledge through the project. The Hermes Challenge was a fantastic experience and I recommend it to students even mildly interested in finance, and especially in asset management.’
All Finance Lab students taking part in the challenge had the opportunity to attend various workshops and presentations with the senior Hermes team and take part in a live teleconference workshop with Sanjoy Sankaran, Oxford MBA alumnus, who won the Hermes Challenge in 2015. Sanjoy is currently working with the firm on private equity co-investments in New York.
‘The Oxford Hermes GPE challenge offers a great way to engage with some of the most driven students at Oxford Saïd on research projects similar to those they would conduct if they came to work for Hermes GPE,’ said Elias Korosis, Partner - Head of Strategy and Environmental Investing at Hermes GPE. ‘We are delighted to have successfully recruited from the winners of this challenge, and we look forward to collaborating more with Oxford University in bridging the practitioner and academic perspectives on private equity.’
Centerview Mergers & Acquisitions Challenge
The Centerview M & A Challenge saw winning law undergraduate Zera Ong, Wadham College awarded a paid, eight-week internship programme at the Centerview office in London.
Thirty MFE and undergraduate students who participated in the Challenge were asked to develop a strategic advisory case study on a large publicly-listed company of their choosing. The three most accomplished case studies were then selected to present to the senior partners committee led by James Hartop, Partner at Centerview and Oxford alumnus, at their London office. These students also had the opportunity to spend the day with the Centerview team at their offices and attend a networking dinner in London.
Zera chose to study Nestlé, thinking that the confectionery business would be an interesting case, especially with recent changes in the cost of raw materials, such as almonds. However, on examination of Nestlé’s three-year historical financial information, she realised that the growth drivers lay not in its confectionery business but in its skin health and nutritional foods segments. Given Zera’s keen interest in the pharmaceuticals industry, she decided to capitalise on this opportunity to create proposals which would be aligned with Nestlé’s strategy moving forward, and which would also be innovative. Specifically, she made three proposals: an acquisition of a skincare company from L’Oréal, a joint venture with a pharmaceuticals company and partnerships with dairy farms in Myanmar.
‘I was very honoured to have been selected as the winner and thoroughly enjoyed the process of researching my target company, analysing its business and formulating strategies which would be innovative yet pragmatic,’ said Zara. ‘Perhaps, the greatest insight which I have gleaned from participating in the Centerview challenge would be to have an open mind when studying a business, as well as to be flexible in adapting one’s strategy to the best interests of the target company.’
Commenting on the M&A Challenge, Cathal O'Reilly, a Partner at Centerview said, ‘We were greatly impressed by the innovative thought, careful preparation and insightful analysis from all of the participants in this exercise. Each of the finalists presented extremely well to our reviewing committee, but Zera stood out in terms of her energy, clarity and engagement. We congratulate her and all of the students who took part.’
To participate in the Challenges, students must be registered on the Oxford Saïd Finance Lab programme. The Finance Lab is a unique offering from the Private Equity Institute to University of Oxford and Oxford Saïd students. Students have the opportunity to take part in a series of practical workshops on financial and valuation modelling and learn about real-life case studies offered by senior executives in leading banks and funds, providing networking opportunities with company representatives.