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Citi gets students on the case

Published on Friday, 19 Oct 2012
HKUST team members (from left) Anson Wong, Lilian He, team adviser Professor Emily Nason, Angele Law and Sherwin Wong.
Photo: HKUST
Kathy Cheung
Photo: Citibank

The Citi International Case Competition (CICC) celebrates its 10th staging this year, but this is not the only landmark its sponsors are currently enjoying.

Citi Hong Kong, which has sponsored the competition since launching it in 2003, just chalked up its 110th year in business, while globally, Citi is celebrating its 200th anniversary.

On October 30, 18 teams, each made up of four undergraduate students from top universities across the globe, will gather at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) for the landmark staging of the CICC.

Kathy Cheung, country corporate affairs director for Citi Hong Kong, is proud of her company’s continued involvement in the competition. “I believe this is the first and longest-running contest of its kind in Asia,” she says. “It is still a unique competition, based on real cases with teams given access to case companies.”

The event’s reach continues to grow. “This year, we have a university from the Middle East – the American University from Cairo – joining us for the first time,” Cheung says.

Teams will be presented with a business case and given approximately 26 hours for research, analysis and the preparation of recommendations. These will then be presented to a panel of judges, including senior management from the case company, with the final round of presentations taking place on November 1.

The team from HKUST consists of four students enrolled on its BBA in global business and economics programme. Sherwin Wong, Anson Wong and Lilian He are all in their third year of studies, while Angele Law is in her second. The team’s faculty adviser is Professor Emily Nason.

The HKUST team believes they were selected not only for their individual abilities, but also because their skills complement each other.

On her selection, He says: “Not only have I demonstrated my critical thinking and presentation skills in previous case competitions, I have also been able to demonstrate my leadership skills in group projects.”

Sherwin Wong says her background as a finance major and experience as a banking intern enables her “to tackle the quantitative aspects of various cases, such as forecasting the bottom-line impact of recommendations”.

Law cites her presentation skills, honed as chair of the debating society at school, while Anson Wong says his specialist knowledge of marketing, and the experience he gained during the course of two internships, allow him to contribute to both the presentation and the financial analysis.

The quartet has prepared for the contest by practising together and getting to know each other’s individual strengths. They all agree on the biggest test that participants face: the ticking clock.

“To come up with a comprehensive recommendation within the time limit will be very challenging,” Law says. “We have already set up a tentative schedule setting out what we need to accomplish in every 30-minute period.”

They are prepared for any difficulties they may face. “I am sure that anxiety, frustration and fatigue will come into play at some point for everyone,” says Anson Wong, “but I am certain our teamwork and elevated adrenaline levels will get us through.”

To be in with a shot at winning, He thinks that teams will have to dig out extra information from case companies that is not found in the written cases. “The CICC differentiates itself from other case competitions in that we will be able to visit the very company we are analysing and get first-hand information about our client,” she says.

Finding suitable businesses to provide case studies is never easy, says Cheung. “It is always a challenge to find a company that is interesting enough and doesn’t have geographic limitations. The industries they come from have to exist in whatever country participants are from so they understand how it works,” she says.

“The cases we have had in the past have come from a wide range of industries and have included utilities, transportation, retail and technology companies. Unfortunately I can’t tell you the case we’ve chosen this year – but it is so interesting. We are very excited about it,” she adds.

The nature of the case isn’t the only thing that has the HKUST team bubbling with anticipation.

“Meeting new friends from around the world is always the highlight,” He says in agreement with her teammates.

“It’ll also be great to be a host this time and be able to introduce people to Hong Kong and HKUST,” Law says.

Cheung says nurturing future leaders is one of Citi’s priorities. “We put a lot of effort into financial education and things like young leadership training in our CSR programmes,” she says.

“With the CICC, we want to broaden students’ vision of the business world and also their understanding of what it is like to work with people from different cultures. We also want them to gain a better understanding of what Citi offers as a company and what its focus is. We hope that the competition allows them to make new friends and build an international network. We know from previous years that even after returning home, students keep in touch by talking with each other via platforms such as Facebook.”


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