Classes had just ended. Adis and I knew we had to make a dash if we were to reach Konstanz by nightfall. Our friends from the Master in Management program Tobi and Jannik were kind enough to offer us a ride to St. Gallen. From where, little did we know, we’d return having made life-long friendships, unforgettable memories and our home, Frankfurt School, proud.
Sufficed to say, we had a fun time setting new personal speed records on the famed German Autobahn. Soon, we arrived at a castle… err… I mean youth hostel. At that point we couldn’t tell the difference. Adis had his deadline for a major assignment that night in the subject of ‘Responsible Management in Finance’ – topic dealing with Google and Gender Discrimination. Why tell you that? You’ll see.
We couldn’t sleep from all the excitement, but this was no reason for our German friends to be late. They were in our room by 12:33 (We were supposed to leave at 12:30) Adis and I, still in our undies asked them for 5 minutes so we could suit up. I mean come on, do you really expect an Italian and an Indian to be on time.
We arrived there absolutely stunned by the city and University of St. Gallen. Instantly, we spoke to a few of the one hundred student participants from universities all over the world. And it was time for the Leonteq challenge, one of five challenges in the Business Game St. Gallen, which was to create a Structured Financial Product.
We were paired up with two lovely students from St. Gallen, we couldn’t have hoped for a better team. T – 3 Hours till we submit our presentation and we didn’t waste a second. Our team had an idea to create a product that exploits the stock price change when an activist investor targets a company – and to reinvest our earnings into the targeted company. We found research that supported our hypothesis. Adis and I, the Master of Finance students backed by our recent modules ‘Financial Products and Modelling’ and ‘Responsible Management in Finance’ stepped to the balcony to hammer out the technical details. Our discussion got so heated up, we started screaming at each other – i.e. until we realized were talking about the EXACT SAME THING. Apparently, while this heated exchange was taking place one of the partners from Leonteq was in that very same balcony silently observing us. He soon left and in come our teammates for the challenge. We put our progress together and uploaded the presentation.
Off to lunch we went! Walking alongside the beautiful inclines and declines of St. Gallen we reached the restaurant where we were greeted with white wine and smiles. A hundred plus people in a room offered quite some mix-mash opportunities to socialize. They had us paired up with random people for dinner. This was done to ensure we actually network and socialize instead of sticking within our own social bubbles. Okay – sounds good so far right?
Wrong! I’m shy and can’t interact face to face in a proper conversation without mentally preparing for it beforehand. And then I realised I am seated next to someone very senior. Great, not only do I have to interact with strangers but now it has to be with someone I can’t screw up an interaction with.
However it wasn’t all bad. We were soon talking and laughing whilst we made fun of each other’s cultures drawing in a comedic satirical discussion on various cultural differences. Just the usual, Italians loving pasta (and NOTHING ELSE), Tandoori Indians (nothing wrong with good food, am I right? ?) and of course debating whether Germans can be romantic – clearly, I do not have a German girlfriend, or just a girlfriend, but that’s a topic for later!
Judgement day had arrived. The day where we would pitch our cases to the juries from five different companies.
Just a few minutes before the presentation, we ran into the partner who asked “So you guys are going to win right?”. Adis and I exchanged confused glances. Little did I know that an interview they’d shot during the challenge where Adis “jokingly” boasts “We’re going to win this challenge – Mark my words”, had already been uploaded to YouTube!
While the presentation itself went quite smoothly the tension skyrocketed during the Q&A when the judges asked us to substantiate our claims and theories. And now this is one of the many places our studies played an immense role. While we knew in theory our predictions would hold, we had to find data and peer-reviewed studies which pointed in the same direction. Little did we know, the studies we found would cement our pitch and be the final step in what would be the turning point for our results in the games.
We had our fingers crossed the entire time. As the results for the Leonteq challenge were revealed in descending order, we hoped that our team wouldn’t be announced too soon. The prize for the 2nd place was skiing with the national ski team of Switzerland. I jokingly (cough) tell Adis, “Oh god please don’t let us win that, I’m too unfit to ski. Let alone ski with the national team”. We then anxiously waited to hear which team placed first. Excited I take a picture of Adis and I beforehand, hoping it’d be us… and BOOM! As first place is announced and music plays our team go up on stage to receive our reward. It was a good day. We’d made our school and our well-wishers proud. Not to mention that Adis proved he was indeed a man of his word. As you can imagine, he texted his girlfriend and I texted my mom 🙂
We had an amazing dinner and left for the official after-party, sealing an amazing 3 days with a blast. Oh I almost forgot, for winning the challenge we were invited to Leonteq’s global conference next year in January at Zurich. The adventure continues ? well, at least it did right after we recovered from our hangovers and slept for 15 hours straight. With this considered, the German autobahn wasn’t as thrilling the second time round!