Every year, hundreds of students from around the globe participate in the McGill International Portfolio Challenge, hoping to impress the judges with innovative portfolio strategies and gain access to unique mentorship opportunities. “MIPC Perspectives” is a new project designed to recognize the hard work of uniquely skilled individuals who have previously participated in the challenge. In the MIPC’s 5th edition, EAFIT University students Simón Zuluaga and Santiago Castellanos Rios reached the semi-finals of the challenge with the support of Dr. Agudelo Rueda, and both went on to work in asset management upon graduation.
For Context: The MIPC’s Fifth Edition – Ultra-Low Yields
The fifth edition of the MIPC revolved around the ultra-low yield and high equity valuation environment that the world economy found itself in amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants were tasked with designing sustainable investment strategies that delivered adequate returns without taking on excessive risk.
Simón and Santiago – Background
Santiago completed both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Finance at EAFIT University in Colombia. He currently works at a family office specializing in wealth and portfolio management. Simón, just like many of the MIPC’s successful participants, did not study Finance for several years before enrolling in the challenge. He studied petroleum engineering at Universidad Nacional de Colombia and eventually completed a master’s in Finance at EAFIT.
Their MIPC Journey
During his master’s degree, Santiago heard about the MIPC and immediately saw it as an opportunity to apply technical knowledge to a real-life problem and to get international exposure. The challenge gave him and his peers the opportunity to tackle a global societal problem in a creative way. Santiago praised the mentorship program where semi-finalists are paired with industry experts and receive tailored feedback, an opportunity that he deemed to be unique for students living in developing countries.
Simón described his journey at the MIPC as “amazing”, and a “perfect transition from academics to industry and business”. According to him, the challenge was indeed a challenge, due to the complexity of the business situation toppled with the need to be creative and exhaustive. His favorite aspect of the competition was the actual presentation, as it gave him a chance to enhance his presentation skills in front of a jury of experts.
Advice to future participants
Santiago and Simón stressed the importance of having a strong quantitative analysis to add credibility to your findings, without overlooking the need to tell a story – for example, by including visuals to illustrate your calculations. They also advised participants to keep their answers consistent, by splitting the problem into several questions, addressing each separately, and then combining all findings to deliver a single exhaustive recommendation. Brainstorming potential questions that the jury may ask is also a great way to come prepared for your presentation.
Lessons gained through the challenge
“My daily work is basically the challenge”. As a portfolio management analyst, Santiago is often looking for the best ways to achieve his client’s objectives, and his experience at the MIPC gave him a clear example of how to do this. He often looks back at the challenge when he encounters new situations at work. Simón admitted that the challenge prepared him for his current role at the Bancolombia, the country’s largest bank: “what I do today is essentially what I did in the challenge with my team”. Simón even leveraged his successful run at the MIPC to obtain his current job, by demonstrating his learnings to recruiters.