Nov. 29, 2018

Haskayne team's solution to pension underfunding crisis is a winner

Undergrad finance team goes head-to-head with grad students who specialize in pension investing, at McGill case competition
Team SH Consulting won top prize in the McGill International Portfolio Challenge. McGill International Portfolio Challenge

Ninety teams from around the world submitted papers for the McGill International Portfolio Challenge, which is in its second year. The challenge was to solve a pension underfunding issue for a defined benefit pension plan offered to public servants, covering teachers and local government employees. Teams are given the case to work on in advance, and many of the groups were graduate students who specialize in pension investing, while Haskayne’s team are undergraduate finance students who have not had specialized training in this area of investing and it was their first time out to this competition.

Coach Tom Holloway was impressed when they were selected to be one of the 25 finalist schools. He was elated when they secured first place, beating out teams from Cornell University, New York; ESADE Barcelona; and Yale University, Connecticut.

  • Photo above: Team SH Consulting won top prize in the McGill International Portfolio Challenge. Holding certificates, from left: Alim Suleman, Daria Emami, Wyatt Phillips and Rafael Sliva. The team was coached by Tom Holloway and Rene Wells. Photo courtesy McGill International Portfolio Challenge

“This competition has actually spurred a real interest in the pension fund industry,” says Wyatt Phillips, one of the four members who made up the winning team, SH Consulting. “This pursuit is fuelled by my eagerness to utilize my education in finance to help better the public good.”

Pension investing has a very real impact, ensuring financial support for people as they age. To inspire students to consider the field, Heather Munroe-Blum, chairperson of the board of directors at the CPP Investment Board delivered a keynote speech at the event encouraging collaboration to “develop solutions to the looming pension crisis.”

Multifaceted solution delivers the prize and priceless experience

The Haskayne students proposed a solution that incorporated portfolio recommendations, changing contribution rates, decreasing benefits and transitioning from a defined benefit plan to a stacked hybrid plan.

“The judges seemed to like our solution as we didn't only focus on the quantitative analysis, we tried to consider what impact our recommendations would have on each stakeholder, and tried to minimize the negative impacts on all stakeholders,” says team member Alim Suleman of the final presentation that delivered the $25,000 prize.

“Our group quickly identified that we would be competing against graduate students who were quantitatively strong in fields such as financial engineering. Because of this, we decided to take a qualitative, holistic approach,” says Daria Emami, a team member who is in the final year of her Bachelor of Commerce degree at Haskayne. “We succeeded in this method because the four of us had differing yet complimentary skill sets through different professional and extracurricular experiences in the past.”

Haskayne has a rich history spanning over 40 years of participating in business case competitions. Complementing classroom learning, cases are a way to hone students’ abilities to assess a situation, analyze the factors affecting the issue, collaborate creatively on a solution and present persuasively.

“I chose to take on this competition because I knew that this would be a great way to apply the skills I had been taught in the classroom,” says Rafael Silva, the fourth member of the SH Consulting team. “Not only that, but I deeply enjoyed working with my team. No matter how busy we all were, we still tackled the competition with our 100 per cent.”


Check #Haskaynecompetes on social media and you will see news of students travelling around the world and providing a new perspective to business issues. For some, they are sharing their first time taking on the challenge of working on a team. For others, they are sharing news of other wins.

First prize was recently awarded to the Haskayne team of Rachel Hughes, Tanay Ibey, Alison Ngo and Sydney Eyre at the Ted Rogers Ethical Leadership Competition.

Haskayne always has the Inter-Collegiate Business Competition (ICBC) hosted each year by the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University on the calendar. This year, six out of seven of the Haskayne teams vying for a place in the finals have made it. Keep your eye to #Haskaynecompetes to see how they will perform, with results being announced Jan. 19, 2019.