IE University students have done it again! The team, made up of three fourth-year students from the Dual Degree in Business Administration and International Relations, have won the YOUniversity Deal Challenge organized by Duff & Phelps (now part of the Kroll brand) for students of European universities. Alongside winning a €15,000 scholarship, they’ll be invited to the global final this summer!
Duff & Phelps is an independent advisory firm with nearly 5,000 professionals in 30 countries and territories around the world. They help clients to make confident decisions in the areas of valuation, real estate, taxation and transfer pricing, disputes, M&A advisory, and other corporate transactions.
Congratulations to our Dual Degree in Business Administration + International Relations students: Jose Luis Martín, Laura Pastinante, and Paula Uncio, and of course their coach, Professor Laura Núñez Letamendia. We have spoken to two of the winners and their coach about their experience, and about how studying at IE University has helped them succeed in this challenge.
How would you describe this challenge to someone who’s never heard of it before?
PROF LAURA NUÑEZ: The Kroll “YOUniversity deal challenge” involves valuing a company in a specific context, such as facing a distressed financial situation, a growing competitive environment, a potential acquisition by another company, the exit of some company shareholders, or an upcoming merger, etc. In the 2021 edition, the company under valuation operates in the restaurant sector through several chains of casual dining restaurants located in the UK, EU, and US. Despite having experienced strong growth in recent years through acquisitions, it has experienced a reduction in margins. The case required a two-scenario valuation: (i) pre-COVID (i.e. based on forecasts that did not take into account the effects of the pandemic on the sector); and post-COVID (taking into account the negative impact of the restrictions imposed on the sector and the potential changes in demand resulting from this new reality).
JOSE LUIS: In this competition, we took on the role of a consultancy company tasked with preparing a valuation pitch for a company that’s looking to be acquired. This challenge was as much a strategic analysis as it was a financial valuation, but most importantly it involved a lot of critical thinking—the answers weren’t simple to work out.
LAURA PASTINANTE: Each registered team had a month to prepare the Excel file and the presentation that was sent to Duff & Phelps as a response to this case study. This meant that we had to put in a lot of hard work over the Christmas holidays. Then, a month later, we were one of the three selected teams for the finals, which took place on March 23.
How did you hear about this opportunity and why were you interested in participating?
LAURA PASTINANTE: We were lucky enough to be enrolled in Finance I with our outstanding mentor and committed teacher, Laura Nuñez Letamendia. She mentioned the opportunity in class, since she had first-hand experience as a judge in this competition a few years back. She encouraged her students to take part in the competition. Paula Uncio and I took her up on the offer immediately, but she recommended a third contributor since it is hard work, and boy was she right! So, we asked Jose Luis Martin, one of the smartest and hardest-working people at IE University to join us on this journey, and luckily he agreed.
JOSE LUIS: The proposal seemed incredibly attractive and challenging, and as soon as I heard about it I knew I had to give it a shot! I was immediately drawn in by the financial challenge. At this point, I had barely started Finance I and knew I was facing an incredible challenge, but this lack of knowledge only inspired me to work harder in order to reach the same level as our competitors, or even surpass them!
What would you highlight about this experience?
JOSE LUIS: It was a lot of fun taking all the concepts we have learned in class and applying them to a real-life case study. We had to do things right, we couldn’t make any mistakes. We really had to go above and beyond, really pushing the limits of what we knew and what we had learned in the classroom. But it’s in these difficult situations that you learn a lot, and I feel like what I’ve learned from this competition has been invaluable for my career.
LAURA PASTINANTE: I would say that it was extremely challenging, given that our team had only taken a single finance course, which did not include valuation methods. Laura then began to send us resources such as the finance textbook, so we could read through the valuation chapter and could begin to come up with some idea of how to approach the case study. We honestly could not have asked for a better mentor. She guided us and was even available for calls about the case and the calculations on December 24! Also, I would like to highlight the commitment needed in order to hand in the case study on time, which is what disqualifies a number of teams that register. In fact, less than half actually send in the case study on time.
PROF. LAURA NUÑEZ: Through this experience, students were able to understand much better the concepts and frameworks of analysis seen in class and the difficulties that exist when it comes to applying them in the real world. They also learned how common sense must always prevail because models in economics, finance, strategy, etc. are not infallible, they are only a tool that helps us to understand reality in a simplified way and project it into the future. It also forces them to adopt a multidisciplinary approach, integrating all the subjects covered in the courses, which is ultimately how the real world works. Another benefit students take away from this experience is the doors that are opened for their professional careers through the networking with Kroll’s managers!
How do you feel your IE experience has helped you prepare and succeed in this challenge?
JOSE LUIS: I strongly believe one of the reasons we won was not because we had the right calculations. In fact, this is only a small part of the challenge. There is so much more to it than that. IE University has done a fantastic job in preparing us in terms of critical thinking. I often found myself referring back to the material we studied previously in class, or looking at books assigned to us, or emailing professors for their perspectives on our analysis. Additionally, IE University’s emphasis on public speaking (such as delivering presentations) gave us an advantage. Over the past four years, we have been delivering presentations for all our classes, which eventually paid off. IE University has given us the resources to truly strive for perfection.
LAURA PASTINANTE: I believe that presentation skills are reinforced in IE University courses, as well as the need to come up with answers for possible questions to those presentations, which was essential to our success in this challenge. Furthermore, we would like to thank Javier Tordable, Head of Finance at IE University’s Talent & Careers, and Laura Rojo, Executive Director of the Bachelor in Business Administration, who acted as practice judges in a simulation of the final presentation. This was organized by Susana Conde Ruiz and Carla Gomez Perez, also from the Bachelor in Business Administration, to help our team prepare for the possible questions we would be asked by the final judges. It was all really helpful, and I’m sure it is what enabled our team to be so confident on the actual day.
PROF. LAURA NUÑEZ: Learning at IE University is based on the principles that we believe should form the foundation of education. This enables future leaders to meet the continuing challenges of today’s society and world. These principles are knowledge, skills, and values, and the combination of these has been at the core of the students’ success in this contest, where they had to work as professionals do. Following these principles, they put into practice: knowledge from different subjects (finance, strategy, macroeconomics, micro-economics, international trade, entrepreneurship, technology, and innovation, etc.); skills (critical and analytical reasoning, creativity, entrepreneurial mindset, communication and discussion abilities, team-work, etc.); and values (respect for diversity in opinions and approaches, search of social and economic sustainability, cooperation, fellowship, commitment, ethics, etc.).
Anything else you’d like to add?
JOSE LUIS: I cannot thank the people that made this possible enough, especially our mentor, Laura Nuñez Letamendia. She worked as hard as us and was always there when we needed her! We worked round the clock on this competition, and so did she. She truly went out of her way to teach us whatever we were lacking in finance, connect us with experts in the industry, and provided invaluable feedback that I believe led us to victory.
LAURA PASTINANTE: I recommend that more students sign up to this competition, not only for the €15,000 prize but for the internship and employment opportunities it brings with Duff & Phelps. Furthermore, the team is wonderful to work with, as the Talent Acquisition department in the firm is committed to helping the finalists and it opens many doors for the future of the contestants. Thank you for reading about our experience, and I hope IE University continues to take part in this contest in the future.