Behrend team ready for CFA research challenge

ERIE, Pa. — After 120 hours of study, Nick Findley is an expert on the finances of WESCO, a supply chain solutions company with $7.3 billion in annual revenue. The company, which spun off from Westinghouse, provides industrial networking, cloud computing, broadband communications and LED lighting retrofits to 75,000 customers in 17 countries.

“I know it almost as well as I know my best friend,” said Findley, a senior from Meadville.

He needs to. This week, he and three other students — Ashley Pettit, a senior from Titusville, and Vilyamir Kolesnichenko and Matthew Colpoys, both juniors from Erie — will represent Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, at the CFA Institute Research Challenge, a global student investment competition. They will argue that WESCO is undervalued at $68.75 per share.

The team will have just 10 minutes to convince a panel of financial analysts that the company is worth more, even as the stock market see-saws.

“To be a good investor, you need a plan for how you’ll react when the market shifts,” Kolesnichenko said. “You can’t panic and follow the crowd. WESCO has shown a lot of growth. They have a strong pattern of successful acquisitions. There is still a lot of potential there.”

The team began its research in September. The students met with Mary Ann Bell, vice president of investor relations at WESCO, and with Cale Grove, vice president of Incline Equity Partners in Pittsburgh.

Greg Filbeck, director of the Black School of Business and professor of finance at Penn State Behrend, served as the team’s adviser. “The members of this team have fully invested themselves in the preparation of these materials,” he said. “Their valuation of WESCO is polished and ready to present to the financial analyst experts.”

This week’s presentations cap the regional round of the CFA Institute Research Challenge, which last year included more than 5,200 students. The winners advance to the Americas Regional final in Boston in March.

Penn State Behrend teams won the regional event in 2016 and again in 2017. The 2016 team advanced to the CFA finals, outperforming teams from nearly 1,000 other schools.

That raises the stakes for this year’s team.

“There is definitely a lot of pressure on us,” Findley said, “but we’ve done the work. We know this company. We’ve looked at it from every possible angle. So we’re confident in our analysis.”