Wake Forest students win KPMG’s international competition

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Competing against teams from around the world, a group of Wake Forest University students representing the United States won the KPMG Global Case Competition in Athens, Greece, last week.

“We basically had to pull together everything that we learned…in all of our classes,” Andrea Kensy, a senior accounting major from Upper Holland, Pennsylvania, told AccountingWEB. “It was like a final exam my final year, and to succeed is fantastic and kind of unbelievable, really.”

Joining Kensy were junior finance major Swayze Smartt of Dallas, junior finance major Zachary Zimbile of Allenwood, New Jersey, and sophomore accounting major Louis Brotherton of Seattle. As part of the competition, students were presented with case studies of a business situation and charged with identifying the problem and making recommendations.

The Wake Forest students’ accolade speaks to the quality of education at the university in Winston-Salem, N.C., according to Yvonne Hinson, Wake Forest associate professor of accountancy and director of the undergraduate and graduate accountancy programs.

“It doesn’t just start with accounting. It starts with the Liberal Arts undergraduate foundation we have, the strong business curriculum we have, and then you layer of top of that the technical accounting classes,” Hinson said. “I think all of those combine to show the true strength of the overall Wake Forest experience. Also, it shows to the rest of the U.S. and now even the world that we really do have a top-ranked accounting program.”

KPMG’s annual competition begins on the national level where each country has its own competition to determine which team will represent the country in the global competition. The first phase of the global competition consisted of each team presenting on two cases in one day. For each case, the students were given three hours with a laptop, and no access to their cell phones or the Internet. The teams then gave a 20 minute presentation on their cases followed by a 10 minute question-and-answer period before a panel of judges.

Other countries represented in the global competition were: the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Luxemburg, Russia, Norway, Spain, Czech Republic, and Sweden. Representing the UK team were Durham University students Michael Shaw, Catherine Xi Xu, Vivien Tse, and Nouran Ezzat.

Following the first phase, judges narrowed down the teams to four finalists: U.S., Germany, France, and Sweden. The four finalist teams received another case and were given three hours to work on it, and then deliver a 30-minute presentation followed by 15 minutes of questions from the panel of judges.

“At KPMG we believe early exposure to global business is necessary for students to have in this rapidly globalizing business environment,” said Stacy Sturgeon, national managing partner of University Relations and Recruiting at KPMG. “The Global Case Competition is a unique way for us to help students develop a global mindset by putting them in the shoes of business leaders to address real life issues faced by international companies. In addressing these issues, students are challenged to think outside of their country boarders and take on an international perspective.”

Hinson said the experience of the competition will “absolutely” benefit students following graduation – beyond just looking good on a résumé.

“Many times when you are working on an audit or you’re working on a tax consulting project, you are on a tight timeline and you are required to analyze a situation and make some pretty good judgments,” Hinson told AccountingWEB.

“If you don’t have the technical foundation as well as the teamwork skills that are required to make good decisions, that can be hurtful in a career situation,” she said. “The way they came together, sat down to analyze the case, and were able to pull it apart and then put everything back together into the presentation, those skills will serve them so well as they go out into their accounting career.”

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