UP reclaims top spot in finance bout

JUDITH BALEA, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Oct 14 2008 08:29 PM | Updated as of Oct 16 2008 07:35 PM

Winning for the first time is supposed to be a feeling one never forgets. But winning again and perhaps, another time, can be more memorable.

This was true at the 10th Inter-Collegiate Finance Competition (ICFC) on Monday, as the University of the Philippines returned to top spot by beating arch rival Ateneo de Manila University.

It was a close, not to mention, breath-taking fight as the latter ended just a few points shy of victory. Nonetheless, it was an ultimate redemption for UP, which lost to Ateneo in 2007 after five straight years of wins.

The UP team was composed of five senior students, all running for magna or summa cum laude, namely, Joan Carol Isip, 21; Bryan Chrisnel Baes, 21; Ma. Theresa Pamintuan, 21; Genesis Santiago, 21; and, Rustan Paulo Baltazar, 20.

They bested students from 84 colleges and universities, including those belonging to foreign ones such as the National University of Singapore, Singapore Management University, Assumption University of Thailand and Chulalongkorn University of Thailand.

Held at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the final leg of the ICFC competition, which is the country's most prestigious on finance, had four rounds totaling 50 questions.

The ICFC always features questions that are based on the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Level 1 body of knowledge, with topics ranging from corporate finance to economics.

But this year's event had a little twist. According to BSP deputy governor Nestor Espenilla Jr., who delivered the keynote speech, it included a lot of items on ethics, a pressing issue in the ongoing financial chaos that has turned into a classic textbook case for students today.

"The inclusion of the ethics questions in the final round is a milestone. This competition really aims to educate finance students to help promote growth and transparency in our capital markets," he said.

Important Lessons

Up to now, students and the general public still have a vague concept of the financial crisis stemming from the US-- why it happened and how it affects the rest of the world.

Isip, one of the UP team members, said the ICFC competition helped her better understand the situation.

"Finally, you appreciate what's happening because you are studying it and you can relate to it. Before, we still don't know the relevance to us," she told abs-cbnNEWS.com

Pamintuan, for her part, said the effect was vice versa. "Now that I can relate to it, I appreciate more the importance of the course I'm taking up."

Asked what they think is the most urgent ethical issue that financial leaders need to address at present times, all five of the UP students answered "the lack of disclosure in the markets and misrepresentation of financial instruments."

The financial mess that spilled over from the US to Europe and Asia has been blamed on the greedy selling of complex investment products that were based on mortgages, whose values were beyond the asset behind them. Add to that the existence of "shadow" financial markets where it was unclear who was really holding what.

"That's why more investors are skeptical now. Markets are becoming bearish," said Pamintuan.

Bright Students

Even if questions were too hard, the students showed prowess in analyzing and solving them as fast as they could, within a two and one-half minute limit. ICFC chair Mark Yu couldn't be more impressed.

"They are very bright students, just what the finance industry needs," he said.

Yu said ICFC shares the "vision of the BSP for financial literacy, and the competition contributes a lot to that."

Problems besetting the financial arena, he explained, all the more raises the need for investment professionals who are equipped not only with the technical know-hows, but also the moral capacity.

"You're not a complete practitioner with just the investment tools, ethics completes the picture," he said.

"In the industry today, there is the apparent need for good analysts, who can help put into an investor's equation the true opportunities and risks in his business decisions."

Future Career

While some of their counterparts are now rethinking their career in finance, given the recent shake-up, the UP students said they are still excited to brave the icy waters.

Some of them want to pursue a career in investment banking while others said they can go into anything related to finance or accounting.

All of them are currently taking up courses in business administration and accountancy.

For now, they said they want to focus on their studies as they hope to bag more awards on graduation day.

Aside from medals and a trophy, the ICFC winning team received P100,000 in cash and over P2 million worth of scholarship grants.

The first runner-up, Ateneo de Manila University, received P60,000, while De La Salle University, the second runner-up, took home P40,000.