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HKICPA QP Case Analysis Competition 2014 winners present compelling advice

HKUST team takes top honours with in-depth approach to research.

The annual Qualification Programme (QP) Case Analysis Competition,  organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA), once again tested university students’ business sense and presentation skills. 

This year’s case challenge was to make key business decisions for a high-end health and beauty company. Students were required to make a pitch to attract potential investors and to decide whether to launch a profitable service. The case tested students’ ability to analyse the financial condition of the company and to handle ethical issues in business. 

Before the competition started, students attended a seminar on “Becoming a business adviser in the healthcare and medical beauty industry”. 

The nearly 300 teams had to go through two rounds of judging to get to the finals. In the first round, teams were required to prepare an executive summary with financial analysis of the case. Thirty shortlisted teams then submitted a full case analysis, with the top nine teams chosen to give an oral presentation based on their analytical report in the finals on November 29. 

“The competition provides a chance for students to apply their knowledge in a practical business context and to brush up their résumés,” said Susanna Chiu, adjudication panel member, HKICPA immediate past president and director of Li & Fung Development (China). “Outstanding performers will earn internship opportunities with CPA firms.” 
The panel also included Clement Chan, HKICPA president and MD of BDO; Ronald Fung, associate principal at McKinsey & Company; Dennis Ho, HKICPA vice-president and partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers; and Alan Lai, operations manager of inSkin Aesthetic Solutions – Phillip Wain. 
The judges said deciding on a winner has become increasingly difficult as students improve every year. “The participants are great at learning how to eliminate the weaknesses of previous teams,” Chiu said. 

The panel chose Team 17 from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology as champions. Team 130, from the University of Hong Kong (HKU), came second and Team 70 from Lingnan University third. 

Chan said he was impressed with the winning team’s presentation. “They are a well-balanced team. Everyone is a strong presenter and they did an outstanding job in the Q&A section, with swift responses and well-supported answers to our thorny questions. They put in a lot of effort in preparing for the presentation,” he said. 

The judges had words of advice for the teams. Lai said students could have done better in researching the beauty industry by talking to business owners instead of relying on internet research. 

Fung said he found the participants were too conservative in writing business reports. “Having a logical flow is the most important quality of a report. However, some teams follow a template report format which affects the quality of their work.” 

Ho said although he was impressed by the creativity of the students’ ideas, they were not always able to convince judges their ideas were feasible and sustainable. “For students with no business experience, they tend to forget where the money comes from when they propose business ideas. A successful business presentation is not a sales pitch; it should include the potential risk of the solution. Presenters need to make use of figures and numbers to convince audiences that the solution is viable.” 

The winning team received HK$10,000 in cash, a trophy and certificate, QP fees waivers and internship opportunities at a CPA firm. First and second runners-up received cash prizes, trophies, certificates, QP fees waivers and internship opportunities. 

Research pays off for HKUST at HKICPA Qualification Programme Case Analysis Competition

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) students shone in this year’s QP Case Analysis Competition. The team dominated with three top honours, including champion and the award for best-written report, while Wong Chun-kit shared the best-presenter award with Branting Lai Kwong-yue from Lingnan University. 

Other HKUST team members, Lincoln Chan Lai-tim, Nicole Li Cheuk-ting and Tong Ching-yee – all third- year accounting students – said they owed their success to teamwork and being well-prepared. Wong said the team had to find a balance between preparing for exams and the competition, but still managed to work as one team to complete all the challenges. “We had only two weeks to prepare for the presentation and everybody was willing to put in extra time to get together to prepare,” he said. 

The competition was always on their minds, he added. “For example, when we were in class and the teacher talked about an idea that might be related to the competition, we tried to make use if it.” 

 Tong said a clever division of labour allowed the team to thrive. “Although we are all accounting majors, we have different second majors like marketing or finance. This allowed the team to look at the case from different perspectives and come up with the best ideas,” she said. 

 The team said they owed their presentation skills to the training provided at HKUST. “We have a business presentation course that teaches us how to anticipate questions,” Wong said. “We tried to think of all possible questions the judges may ask, so we were able to respond quickly and accurately.” 

While the judges said most teams did not have a good understanding of the beauty and health industry – the case theme – the team was able to gather in-depth knowledge.  “We did a lot of research and asked people in the industry,” Li said. “You cannot be shy to ask questions.”