A team of students brought home a silver medal in the Van Berkom JMSB small-cap case competition over the weekend of March 24-25. With the guidance of their coach Erin Oldford, fourth year Bachelor of Commerce students Isabela Murillo, Max Yam, Adam Lopez and Brent Barnes came in second place among an impressive list of competitors. They finished between Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley.


From left to right: Erin Oldford, Brent Barnes, Max Yam, Adam Lopez and Isabela Murillo

From left to right: Erin Oldford, Brent Barnes, Max Yam, Adam Lopez and Isabela Murillo

The Van Berkom competition provides students with the opportunity to showcase finance-specific skills. Students analyze business cases focused on small cap investment, make specific strategic recommendations, and apply the skills they learned in the classroom to the real world. They present their recommendations before a panel of investment firm executives and senior analysts, and then must respond to their questions and defend their solutions.

Following the qualifying round in January, the top nine teams were invited to the finals in Montreal. The competition includes live cases, simulated analyst calls, presentations and question period. At the end of the weekend, the top three team with the most points overall are awarded prize money.

Sprott’s team brought varying degrees of experience and expertise. All four students are members of Sprott’s student-managed investment fund (SSIF).

For Brent Barnes, Bachelor of Commerce student concentrating in finance and accounting and Portfolio Manager for SSIF, this was his first time participating in a case competition. He says he knew the competition would be tough, but felt confident going in.

“This year, they had more people and more American schools apply to participate, so we knew it was going to be more competitive,” he says.

Brent said that his team put a lot of effort into preparing for the competition; training through Sprott Competes, practicing every weekend and holding mock-cases to get ready for Van Berkom.

“We knew we were probably one of the most prepared teams, and it showed,” he says.

His team drew on the experience of their Sprott peers who won the competition last year.

“It wasn’t new to us, we knew exactly what we were going to get,” he shares.

After the results were announced at the end of the first day, Sprott was tied for first place with USC Marshall School of Business, awarded 78 out of 90 possible points.

Sprott fell behind during the second round of presentations, however Brent says he learned valuable lessons for what to could be done differently moving forward.

“After the second presentation, we knew right away that it didn’t go as well as the first one,” he explains. “But the most rewarding part was being able to reflect on that throughout the day and see where we could have improved.”

The weekend concluded with Sprott coming in second place with 150 points, putting them eight points behind Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

The results of the 2017 Van Berkom competition

The results of the 2017 Van Berkom competition

Along with the silver medal, the team also brought home $2,000 in winnings. Brent says that they ultimately walked away with a better understanding of how to identify and focus on key areas when time is limited.

“Throughout the weekend, I learned how subjective answers can be. Certain answers matter at certain times and there’s no one set framework or response that will always work,” says Brent.

“Overall, it was definitely a team effort. We all had our specific portions and responsibilities, but our success was our ability to work together,” he adds.

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