Recipe for success: F&B-themed HKICPA QP Case Analysis Competition 2015 brings out the best in teams
Eight finalist teams battled it out in the HKICPA Qualification Programme (QP) Case Analysis Competition 2015 last Saturday, but ultimately there could be only one champion.
Team 72, consisting of four year-one students studying a BBA in global business at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), won top honours in the competition organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants. They triumphed over almost 350 teams that entered the case analysis competition this year.
Through the competition and its simulated business setting, HKICPA aims to provide local university students with early exposure to the business environment. Contestants also get to experience some of the real-life problems faced by organisations through tackling a specific QP case question, with this year’s question focusing on the F&B industry.
In earlier rounds, each team was required to conduct thorough market research and analysis to develop corporate strategies for business expansion. They each submitted an executive summary with a detailed financial analysis of the case question. Finalist teams also had to give oral presentations based on their analyses.
The top three teams took home trophies, attractive cash prizes and QP fee waivers. They were also given internship opportunities at several leading corporations.
The four-member judging panel consisted of Dennis Ho, president of HKICPA; Ivy Cheung, vice-president of HKICPA; Patrick Kwok, head of operations at Starbucks Hong Kong and Macau; and Arthur Shek, engagement manager at McKinsey & Co.
Ho said the champion team stood out because all members performed equally well. “As judges, we looked at how teams collaborated and how well they conveyed their main messages. The core objective of QP is that students are able to effectively apply their knowledge of the latest market conditions to a specific business case and then develop strategies and solutions to enhance the operation. The champion team did well in all these aspects.”
Cheung was impressed by the accomplishments of all eight finalist teams, though she did highlight some areas for improvement. “Based on their output, including the executive summaries and oral presentations, all the teams demonstrated tremendous business and analytical skills. There were many creative ideas. That said, I think they should pay more attention to the feasibility of their proposals,” she said.
“They also need to put more emphasis on business ethics. Integrity is a core value of our profession, and business growth cannot be achieved at the expense of integrity.”
Kwok lauded the way several teams came up with IT solutions that aligned with customers’ needs. “For instance, one team proposed developing a mobile app that helped promote healthy diets for customers and passed customised orders to the kitchen directly.”
However, he added that because the case question related to the F&B industry, teams’ proposals should have placed greater emphasis on the people element. “The people connection is vital in this sector. Teams should look in greater detail at staff engagement and what customers think about the products.”
Shek was impressed with the efforts teams put into collecting extensive financial data and analytics. “They have great potential in terms of accounting, consulting and general business.”
The Best Presenter award went to Leung Ka-wei of the champion team. Judge Ho said she did well in managing the pace of her parts of the presentation. “She delivered her message with high clarity. With her proper use of tone and voice, she engaged us effectively and we felt very comfortable listening to her.” Judge Shek added said that Leung succeeded in engaging the audience because she did not over-rely on her slides. “Although she has been named Best Presenter, it does not mean her part took up a lot of time. She just perfectly conveyed her core ideas.”
FIRST-YEARS FLYING HIGH
The four-member champion team from HKUST clinched victory through extensive research and persistent refinements to their business proposal.
Leung Ka-wei, Lam Ho-nam, Chevan Tin Tsz-wang and Hui Hang-yung are all first-year students studying a BBA in global business. They could hardly contain their excitement and surprise after fending off strong competition from more senior accounting students from other universities.
“We did not expect to win. We just joined the competition to gain some experience,” said Leung, who was also named Best Presenter.
Lam noted that the team initially lacked any strong ideas about the case. “We received a lot of reference materials about past winning teams from HKICPA, which we studied carefully. We then revised our proposal repeatedly over the first two rounds of screening – an eight-page executive summary for the first round and a 20-page business report for the second.
“We supplemented the information with extensive online research and eventually identified a clear overall direction for our proposal. We have learned a lot through this process.”
Tin agreed that they had all learned a lot through the competition, particularly when it came to planning and scheduling. “Participation in this contest enabled us to hone our time-management skills. Our university always encourages its students to take part in many competitions and we have learned to balance this additional work with our studies.”
On the Best Presenter honour, Leung said she had practised her parts repeatedly on the day. “I did it throughout the day – as soon as I woke up and when I was in the shower. Although I had a script, I wanted to give the impression of spontaneity. I also rehearsed my part in front of friends and teachers to get their suggestions for improvement.”
Hui’s advice for future contestants is to focus on leveraging the competitive edge of the company in the case question. “Supported with extensive research, teams should explore the additional elements that would complement and enhance the operation and then propose targeted and feasible strategies and solutions based on the resources available,” he said.
“They can also consider other achievements rather than just profits. For the restaurant business we worked on, we included repeat patronage by customers.”
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Recipe for success.