NEWS & EVENTS

Southeastern finance team named winner in national Community Bank Case Study competition

Finance Team

Thursday, May 26, 2016 
by: Rene Abadie

SOUTHEASTERN FINANCE STUDENTS WIN NATIONAL COMPETITION - Southeastern Louisiana University finance students teamed up with First Guaranty Bank and won the national Community Banking Case Study competition, which pitted them against 23 other universities in the nation. Pictured are, front row, from left, student Joseph Edwards, FGB Chief Credit Officer Randy Vicknair, and Chief Financial Officer Eric Dosch; second row, from left, FGB Chief Executive Officer Alton Lewis, students Andrea Villarreal, Nick Byrd, Tarez Cowsar, and Southeastern Faculty Adviser Danielle Lewis.

     HAMMOND – A team of finance students at Southeastern Louisiana University has won the national Community Bank Case Study competition conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based Conference of State Bank Supervisors, a nationwide organization of banking regulators from all states and U.S. territories. 
    The team of four Southeastern undergraduate students worked cooperatively with Hammond-based First Guaranty Bank in one of Southeastern’s newest Real-World Ready courses, a campus-wide initiative to incorporate more hands-on, experiential learning into students’ curriculum.
    “Congratulations to the Southeastern students for their competition win,” said Michael L. Stevens, CSBS senior executive vice president. “Each of the case studies tells us a valuable story about a real community bank and its impact on small businesses and their local community.”
    The competition encouraged students to explore community banking by partnering student teams with local banks to conduct original case studies, explained Danielle Lewis, associate professor of finance who served as faculty adviser for the team. The goal of the competition, she said, was to build a fundamental understanding of the community banking business, something few undergraduate students would gain through their regular course work.
    “We are extremely pleased that our team won this national honor,” said Antoinette Phillips, interim dean of the College of Business. “It is recognition of the dedication and high quality of our students, as well as the mentoring expertise of our faculty.”
    Lewis said she selected an “all-star” team of finance students who have distinguished themselves as outstanding students and leaders.
    The team included seniors Nicholas Byrd of Denham Springs, Tarez Arceneaux Cowsar of Springfield, Joseph Edwards of Monroe, and Andrea Villarreal of Mexico. Edwards and Villarreal both graduated from Southeastern in May and were each awarded the President’s Medal for Academic Excellence for maintaining perfect 4.0 grade point averages in their studies. Each of the students will receive a $1,000 scholarship and the opportunity to present their case study at the annual CSBS-Federal Reserve Community Bank Research and Policy Conference in the fall. Their paper will also be published in a special journal featuring the case studies.
    “This was a great opportunity for undergraduates to gain first-hand knowledge of the banking industry,” Lewis said. “The students learned to sharpen their research, analytical skills, problem solving and to enhance their communication skills.”
    First Guaranty Bank was pleased to partner with Southeastern on the project, said Vice President and Chief Credit Officer Randy S. Vicknair. Two of the students – one an employee at the bank and the other an intern – approached Vicknair along with Lewis to discuss the bank’s participation. Lewis said the bank was receptive to the idea.
    “We’re a community bank, and we pride ourselves in being a good community partner. After running the idea past the bank’s leadership, we had no reluctance in working with the group,” Vicknair said. “Our primary concern was maintaining confidentiality, which did not turn into a problem since we were providing very general banking data and industry-specific information.”
    “If it were not for FGB’s willingness to be transparent with data, we could not have worked on so many quantitative models,” Lewis added.  “The loan level data made all the difference in our report.”
Twenty-three  teams from across the country participated, and the Southeastern team was the only one from Louisiana. 
    Lewis explained that the students divided the work among themselves, each carrying the responsibility of certain tasks. Often they worked in pairs in order to utilize checks and balances.
    “They took their roles very seriously,” she explained “They met frequently, in person and via email, to ensure all were on the same page and progressing toward the deadline they faced.”
    The competition required the students to address three areas: an assessment of the impact of the institution’s small business lending efforts on the community, an analysis of how the bank’s small business lending affects financial performance, and an evaluation of the institution’s management of small business lending. They were required to prepare a 25-page report and to submit a 10-minute video highlighting the team’s case study findings.
    The students look back on their experience and see the valuable opportunity they had to advance their knowledge of finance and how a community bank works.
    “I gained valuable banking analytical skills that I otherwise would not have received in my finance curriculum,” said Cowsar. “We weren’t running a simulated business or working to pass a test. To us, FGB was our client, and we needed to provide them with a solid project. We put our hearts into the work.”
    Villarreal’s job focused on helping to develop the economic impact study, working on the statistical part of the project, reviewing and editing the final paper and developing the graphs and footnotes that were an integral part of the product. 
    Edwards served as one of the main writers of the paper and conducted some of the interviews with bank professionals included in the study. “These men were so knowledgeable, and we all learned so much just from being around them,” he said. “I learned new research methods that will make me a better student and job candidate moving forward.”
    Developing the video that complemented the paper was the primary job of Byrd, who filmed the interviews and found video clips from other sources.
    “I learned how working with a team on such a project requires efficiency and communication,” said Byrd. “We would present our findings to each other and challenge each other’s work to make sure we got it right. I probably learned the most from the time spent working with my teammates.”
    “The students were impressive; they did an excellent analysis with targeted questions that demonstrated a good understanding of banking,” Vicknair said. “The final document was absolutely helpful to the bank, showing that First Guaranty had an approximate $1 billion dollar economic impact from our 21 branches located in multiple areas throughout Louisiana.”    
    All of the students expressed appreciation to their instructor Lewis: “She spent many hours and late nights giving us guidance and teaching us,” Byrd said. “Dr. Lewis was amazing,” added Cowsar. “She communicated with us frequently to make sure we were moving in the right direction. We are so thankful for her support.”