FMWC 2020 – Stage 4 Review

By Andrew Grigolyunovich, CFA, CFM, FMVA
Chairman of the Financial Modeling World Cup

The Cases

This was the deciding stage of Season 2020, so we tried to give our best to it. No experiments with the format, just the traditional FMWC-type case to solve. It is worth mentioning that the cases were giving 2000 points in total – double the usual amount. The early finish time bonus was doubled as well – 20 points per minute.

The warm-up case was called “Speed It Up (Finance)”. It contained a series of 7 small questions solvable within a couple of minutes each. The questions covered topics like loan modeling, DCF, date and time modeling, probability modeling and depreciation. The only trap here was in the question that concerned Gordon Growth Model – many participants disregarded the fact that the first dividend should have been increased by the amount of annual inflation. Anyway, most participants scored high and the question was not as much about the points but rather about the time remaining for the other cases.

“The Weakest Link” was a typical monthly P&L analysis. The participants had to calculate the profitability of individual stores based on raw accounting data. Most of the participants had no trouble with this case and the main question was about the time spent.

Let me give out a little secret here. While preparing the cases for Stage 4, the last one (named “Keep Snoozing!”) was created before “The Weakest Link”. We saw that “Keep Snoozing!” will be quite time-consuming. We also wanted the top participants to have time to tackle the last 2 bonus questions that gave the extra points. Therefore the Weakest Link was designed to be easier and less time-consuming than a typical FMWC case.

Finally, the “Keep Snoozing!” case was the real decider of the season. We were trying to create a pure modeling case that gave no advantage to those participants who do similar modeling on daily basis. The case was concerned with forecasting cashflows from a series of 25 hotels, starting their operations on flexible dates. The case was elaborate enough, so the architecture of the model was crucial not only to get the right answers but also to spend as little time on them.

As this case was deciding everything this season, you just can’t imagine how many times have we tested it internally to make it perfect in terms of wording and avoiding any possible bugs.

So Here Come the Results

There was little intrigue on the regional level, as Africa was comfortably lead by Jason Webber (South Africa) while South/Latin America was lead even more comfortably by Tiago Carvalho da Silva (Brazil). Both guys will receive the $500 prize each.

Diarmuid Early (USA) and Joseph Lau (Australia) were dominating the overall rankings, so, there is little surprise that the regional rankings for North America and Asia/Pacific were lead by them as well. Both guys will receive the $500 prize each.

Diarmuid and Joseph have also comfortably won the competition in the Open and the Masters age groups, so Joseph will also pocket the $750 prize as the best financial modeler in the Masters age group.

So, it was only Europe that had the most competitive standings before Stage 4. A very interesting battle took place between Christian Hueber (Austria, 2380 points after 3 stages), William Gerritsen (the Netherlands, 2325 points), Janis Reinis Beikmanis (Latvia, 2175 points) and Samir Asadov (Ireland, 2100 points). All these guys were within the Top 10 and all within 280 points.

But here comes a surprise – the winner of the European Financial Modeling Championships was Andrew Ngai from the UK! Amazingly, he managed to make it as the best European contender after missing the first stage! Andrew scored more points than any other European participant and finished 3rd in the overall rankings! So Andrew will receive $500 as the best European modeler and $1,000 for the 3rd place overall.

Another close battle took place in the U-25 category between Janis Reinis Beikmanis (Latvia, 2175 points before the stage), Smith Jain (India, 1960 points) and Artsiom Petrykeyeu (Belarus, 1795 points). Despite trailing 215 points before the stage, Smith Jain showed an amazing performance during stage 4 and was able to take over Janis Reinis Beikmanis. Smith wins the $750 prize as the top U-25 financial modeler in the world.

The main thriller, the battle between Diarmuid Early and Joseph Lau was coming to its culmination. Coming into the stage, the point gap between the guys was 255 points – a comfortable lead for Diarmuid Early. We were even guessing that bookmaker odds before the stage could have been like 1.5 on Diarmuid Early and 3.3 on Joseph Lau.

Joseph was the first to take the stage. He decided to do it on Friday and he was able to get a perfect result of 2250 points. In addition to that, Joseph also managed to save 21:55 minutes, getting 420 time bonus points. Joseph could have received another 20 points if he hadn’t hesitated to press the “Finish” button for some extra 5 seconds. That was an astonishing result and the whole FMWC team held their breaths waiting for Diarmuid’s reply.

We have calculated that, in order to win the season, Diarmuid needed to score the perfect 2250 points within 1 hour and 51 minutes. Dim started strong, getting the maximum possible points on the first 2 cases and even managed to do it 1 minute and 39 seconds faster than Joseph. However, he got stuck in the middle of case 3 and was able to score only 650 points for the case.

So, amazingly, Joseph Lau proved he is the best in the world. Joseph now has become a 3-times world champion, bringing home a check for $3,000 (and also another $1,250 for winning Asia/Pacific and Masters age group). Diarmuid Early is a runner-up of the season, winning $2,000 (plus another $500 for North America). Congratulations, guys!

Some Thank You Words

I’d like to thank a lot to our partners who popularized the competition:

The prize fund for the season was financed by our group companies AG Capital and We have purposefully split responsibilities to keep the focus on our core business – outsourced financial modeling and CFO services. As a result, you haven’t met those guys in the contest of FMWC, but I’d like to specially thank our financial modelers – Arnis, Jevgenijs, Krists, Jekabs and others for the great work they do for our clients. This, in turn, allows us to run and grow FMWC.

What’s Next?

Next year we will increase the prize fund to $20,000. We will also introduce a rule that if a person wins several prizes (just like Joseph Lau did this year), then the smallest prizes are transferred to the next modelers in the corresponding category. This will distribute prize money among more people, that way incentivizing more people to compete for leading positions. 

We will also expand our team of experts to deliver even better cases. Next year, more strong modelers will create cases for FMWC, which will allow us to cover even more interesting financial modeling topics. We will be also experimenting with the competition format, trying to make it more spectator-friendly. Maybe even additional tournaments could be organized.

Anyway, the first stage of the Season 2021 will be held on January 22-25, so it’s only a month away!

A seasonal pass for the 12 stages next year is now available for $125 ($85 for U-25). The discount price will be held until December 31, 2020. It will then be increased starting from January 2021, so now it’s a great time to register for FMWC season 2021!

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