New York, USA, November 29, 2013, 9:19 am -- /EPR NETWORK/ -- 16 Finalists have emerged from the intense competition that is the ModelOff Championships. They will fly to New York for the second weekend of December where they will battle it out in a final closed-testing round at Bloomberg's offices. During their weekend in New York, Finalists will have the priviledge of meeting with the Microsoft Excel development team, attending an ‘Innovation in Finance' think tank and rubbing shoulders with some of the greatest financial and excel modeling minds in the world, including Judges Simon Benninga, Kiel LaFrance and “Mr Excel” himself, Bill Jelen. The 2013 ModelOff Financial Modeling Champion will be announced during a Live Finals event held at Microsoft, followed by Champions Drinks sponsored by EY.
Thousands of financial modeling contenders completed the Round 1 two-hour challenge online from countries all over the world including India, Russia, Thailand, Poland, United Kingdom, New Zealand and the US. The top 40% were admitted through to Round 2 which was, by all accounts, a grueling and mentally stretching exercise.
‘After Round 2 I was devastated', said Mack Wilk, one of only four returning Finalists from the inagural 2012 competition, ‘I struggled with some of the questions and feared that it was all over for me.' For hundreds of competitors it was. Those who did make it to the Finals have strong backgrounds in investment banking, actuaries and analysis for some of the top financial companies in the world including PwC, Morgan Stanley and Perella Weinberg Partners. One of those, scoring a previously unheard of 114/120 in Round 1, is EY UK Partner, Gavin Jordan.
‘I've always enjoyed playing with numbers and data in Excel, and regularly take the opportunity to 'help' my colleagues when I overhear them trying to solve a problem,' said Gavin discussing his reason for entering the competition. “I thought this would be a great way to test my knowledge and meet some fellow minded individuals. Despite having had a very enjoyable and high scoring first round, I didn't think that I'd answered enough of the Round 2 questions to make the top 16. I'm delighted to have been proved wrong.'
Along with the other first-time Finalists, Jordan will join returning finalists William Glass, Mack Wilk and Andras Galambos in their attempt to take the title from current holder, New Zealand Analyst Alex Gordon. “Quote from Alex Gordon that I am waiting on.” With $30,000 prize money on the line, thanks to Microsoft, he's up against some hungry competitors.
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Hong Kong's first Finalist, Merril & Lynch's Alvin Woon, admits that the prize money would buy a lot of nappies. His wife won't be coming to New York for the weekend with him because she's due to give birth to their first child any day now. ‘But', he says, ‘I promised to take her there if I win any prize money.' Wives feature prominently in the Finalist's plans for spending any moula they might win; 2 nd Prize is $10,000 courtesy of Ansarada and 3rd place nets a cool $5,000. Peter Kehoe, 41 year old KMPG Financial Modeling Director, cancelled an Anniversary dinner with his wife to compete in Round 2. He sheepishly admits that ‘a trip to Fifth Avenue to get a present for Siobhan is definitely required.'
It's not all about wives though. Hilary Smart, the only female to the make it to the Finals despite an increase in female participation from 2012's percentages, wants to take her husband back to the mountains in Austin they honeymooned in. Hilary credits her astounding ability with an excel spreadsheet to the work she does on a daily basis with renowned investment firm, Operis, ‘I think my team is a bit unusual in terms of the job we do. (Often) we get involved right at the end of the process so we have to be able to work to very tight deadlines to turn things around and speed and accuracy are really important.' So how important is the environment you work in on a daily basis to your success as a financial modeler? Hilary explains, ‘I remember in my first week on the job one of my colleagues sat down to work something through with me and moved the mouse out of my reach. He said that although it would slow me down in the short term to have to use the keyboard, in the medium term I would be a whole lot faster. Of course he was right.'
Many of the Finalists credit their ability with Financial spreadsheets to a combination of mentors and a passion for just ‘playing around with Excel'. Yuri Gulla, a 26 year old Russian currently living in London and working for Investec Bank says, ‘In particular, Bernard Fromson taught me how to use Excel intelligently and gave me an opportunity to work on complex and demanding models despite my lack of experience at the time. He also arranged for me to take a great Excel course run by Jo Evershed from IndexMatch that, among other things, showed me best practice for structuring financial models.'
When asked why they're so good with excel, the typical Finalist answer goes something along the lines of Vladislav Smirnov's, another Russian and Analyst with TCS Bank, ‘It's all about practice.' Which is probably why most of them admit that friends and family's first response on hearing about their involvement in the competition is that they're a geek. This doesn't seem to phase them much. They hear it often by all account. It's good news for ModelOff organizers, Johann Odou and John Persico, because that was one reason why started the competition in the first place; to raise awareness that geeks are Champions too.
ModelOff Live Finals, Sunday 8 th December, 3pm
Microsoft, 1290 Ave of the Americas
Tickets $20, now available here: http://www.modeloff.com/finals/
For more details, see the full form guide and individual profiles.
Returning 2012 Finalists
Alex Gordon (Auckland, New Zealand
PwC Corporate Finance (www.pwc.co.nz)
“The Young Phenomenon”, 25
Current Financial Modeling World Champion, it's hard to believe Gordon is only 25-years-old and rated among the most naturally talented and clear thinking practitioners in the world. The humble Gordon has a prodigious background – Maths, Finance and Accounting – placing him in good stead for a back-to-back victory after his incredibly close duel with Dan Mayoh last year.
William Glass (New York, USA)
Perella Weinberg Partners (www.pwpartners.com)
“The Gladiator”, 28
Arguably the most consistent and robust Financial Modeler in the world, Glass finished #2 after Round 1 of Modeloff 2013. Which isn't surprising; he consistently finished in the Top 4 for both Modeloff 2012 and Modeloff 2013. Best known for his absolute focus and immense technical precision, he famously finished the “Poker Question” in 35 minutes at the 2012 World Finals.
Andras Galambos (London, United States)
Morgan Stanley (www.morganstanley.com)
“Quiet Assassin”, 23
The 22-year-old quiet Hungarian finished 3 rd at Modeloff 2012 and now returns for another crack in 2013. Pound-for-pound, the Morgan Stanley powerhouse is undoubtedly one of the best financial analytical talents in the world. His credit modelling background gives him a competitive advantage on many of the others.
Maciej Wilk (Warsaw, Poland)
“Big Mack”, 29
Remembered for his incredible last minute performance in the Group Challenge, ‘Big Mack' literally took the keyboard from one of the other Finalist with 3 minutes to go, inserted some incredible Excel switches and Advanced Excel macros, danced across the keyboard and, for the effort, spearheaded the team to earning the $5,000 Spot Prize. As head of the PwC Financial Modeling team in Poland he is clearly one of the best well-rounded chances at the Title.
Gavin Jordan (London, United Kingdom)
Ernst & Young Corporate Finance, Partner (www.ey.com/UK)
“The British Banker”, 41
One of the surprise packages of Modeloff 2013. The veteran Corporate Finance professional placed #1 after Round 1 from over 3,000 registered participants with a previously unheard of score of 114/120!! Gavin a Partner at the leading Professional Services giant, Ernst & Young.
Peter Suen (Sydney, Australia)
Clean Energy Finance Corporation (www.cleanenergyfinancecorp.com.au)
“Super Suen”, 29
Little-known Suen finished 2 nd overall coming into the Modeloff Finals 2013. His dazzling performance is no surprise when you look at his Australian-educated background – Commerce, Science, Actuarial Science and Mathematics. Having formerly worked at global powerhouse advisory firm Mercer, he has solid VBA skills too.
Diarmuid Early (New York, United States)
Deutche Bank (www.db.com)
“Mr Early”, 28
The talented Early has worked at prestigious management consultant firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and is currently at Bulge Bracket Investment Banking Firm, Deutche Bank. His rare mix of left-brain v right brain work experience gives him a real chance to outperform Finalists on the out-of-the box questions.
John Lim (Melbourne, Australia)
Grant Thornton (www.grantthornton.com.au)
“The Technician”, 31
Widely regarded as an extreme talent throughout the Asia-Pacific, no one really knew how good Lim was as a world-class Financial Modeler until he stepped onto the stage at Modeloff 2013. An astonishing 3 rd place in Round 2 showed that he's the real deal. Lim works for leading global professional services firm, Grant Thornton and has a unique background in IT/software, corporate finance and taxation that will assuredly set him apart technically in New York.
Leontios Toumpouris (Harvard Business School, Boston)
Harvard Business School (www.hbs.edu)
“Harvard Kid”, 28
So you've seen that TV series ‘House of Lies' about management consultants? Doug Gougenheim plays the Harvard Excel Whiz'. Although we've never met Leontios he might be Gougenhem's real-life equivalent. Toumpouris is ranked the world's #1 student at Modeloff 2013.
Vladislav Smirnov (Russian Federation)
TCS Bank (https://www.tcsbank.ru/eng)
“Smirnov – The man. The brand”, 26
Smirnov had top placing among the many powerful Russian financial modeling performers this year and was a very consistent performer across both Rounds 1 and 2. . His three Linkedin Profile interests suggest he was born to be a Finalist at Modeloff 2013; Financial Analysis and Valuation, Corporate Finance and Quantitative Research. He's also another of the Finalists who has completed the prestigious CFA Charterholder qualification.
Hilary Smart (London, United Kingdom)
“London Smart”, 26
Hilary is the only female in the Finals of the 2013 Financial Modeling World Championships. She boasts a very consistent performance across both Rounds 1 and 2 and appears to be very technically strong. An alumni of Cambridge University (Mathematics), she currently works for highly regarded international Project Finance firm, Operis.
Nishan Prabhakaran (New York, United States)
Ernst & Young (www.ey.com)
“The Protegee”, 31
Prabhakaran finished in the Top 10 overall after Rounds 1 and 2 and is another of the CFA charterholders among the Finalists. No doubt he benefits day-to-day from the wisdom and guidance of financial modeling author, John Tija (Ernst & Young Partner, New York) and last year's world finalist, Devon Rochford.
Michael Clarke (Wellington, New Zealand)
“The Cricketer”, 25
With an Actuarial and Commerce background, both from Victoria University of Wellington, he's almost an academic clone of Alex Gordon! He's nicknamed ‘The Cricketer' because he has the same name as Australian cricket captain, Michael Clarke What are the chance of the two New Zealanders coming in the world's Top 3? I'm sure there's a spreadsheet somewhere that could work that out…
Alvin Woon (Hong Kong)
Bank of America Merrill Lynch (corp. bankofamerica .com/business/bi/asiapac)
“Winning Woon”, 34
Hong Kong's very first finalist! Woon works for top investment bank, BOMA in Portfolio and Pricing Analysis, Asset Finance. We understand his wife is expecting their first child very soon – so his trip to New York from Hong Kong will be brief. The $30,000 First Prize would certainly help!
Yuri Gulla (London, United Kingdom)
Investec ( http://www.investec.co.uk )
“The Mailman”, 26
Gulla, across Round 1, Round 2 and all his uploaded models – showed the kind of consistent performance we like among our Finalists. He's nicknamed ‘The Mailman' because he always delivers. Major international bank Investec is known for hiring professionals who ‘think innovatively' suggesting that Gulla, along with Diarmuid Early, will shine with complex, out-of-the-box questions.
Paul Kehoe (Dublin, Ireland)
KPMG Ireland (www.kpmg.com/ie/)
“The Irishman”, 42
The veteran KPMG Director of Risk and Financial Modeling is one of the most experienced contenders in the field, along with UK-based EY Partner, Gavin Jordan. He's very likely to dominate any challenges around Accounting and Compliance because experience is always an advantage.