From Day One, Lessons Reveal the Bigger Picture of Finance

On the first day of the first finance course she took at Illinois Tech, Aiman Moizuddin learned a lesson that has stuck with her ever since. Stuart School of Business Clinical Professor John Twombly opened the class by asking a question about money. Do four fives always make a 20?

“We all said yes, of course. That’s the way math works,” Moizuddin recalls. To the students’ surprise, Twombly then took out a five dollar bill, a five yen bill, and fives in two other currencies. He posed the question again. Do four fives make a 20?

“It showed me that things are not always what they seem,” says Moizuddin. “You’ve got to really know what you’re talking about before you say it—and you’ve got to know what you’re doing. If you’re a trader or a broker and you say something wrong or calculate something wrong, people could be losing their life savings.”

More lessons followed on her path toward co-terminal degrees—a bachelor’s in business administration and a master’s in finance—about the need in finance for speed as well as accuracy, because a fraction of a second on the trading floor can make the difference between profit and loss. “There’s a lot of information thrown at you, very quickly,” she says, “and you’ve got to take it in.”

Fast forward to this academic year. With her final semester and spring 2019 graduation approaching, Moizuddin landed a spot on Stuart’s team in the annual CFA Institute Research Challenge. One of the most prestigious competitions of its kind, the CFA challenge draws teams of finance students from more than 1,150 colleges and universities around the world. Teams prepare in-depth equity analysis reports on companies and present their recommendations to panels of experts through rounds of rigorous judging.

Stuart teams, with Senior Lecturer of Finance Michael Rybak as their advisor, have won the Chicago local level competition in seven of the last eight years, including in 2019, which earned each team a place in the Americas regional competition and a chance to reach the global finals.

For Moizuddin and her four teammates, the preparation and competition spooled out over several months, beginning with intensive research on the assigned company, covering everything from its earnings to customer satisfaction ratings, followed by creating a comprehensive report and seemingly endless hours of practice for their presentation.

“We had done equity research and case studies like this on a smaller scale in our classes,” she notes, “but the detail in which we did this analysis was much more overarching. It really showed that everything we had learned—whether it was quantitative or qualitative, fundamental, or on the programming side—is linked and gave me a better understanding of the field as a whole.”

“Everyone has something different to offer, and that’s what I really love about the amount of collaboration that occurs here,” she says. “I think the main takeaway was how to work as a team, and I feel very lucky that I got the chance to do that.”

That’s another lesson for Moizuddin to take with her as she pursues opportunities in equity and investment analysis and begins her career in finance.