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In-depth discussion – students put Sonova under the microscope

Students from seven Swiss universities have been testing their financial mettle in the CFA Institute Research Challenge. During this annual, international competition, undergraduates took Sonova as a test case and examined the company’s merits from an investment perspective. 

Sonova up for analysis in the 2015 CFA Institute Research Challenge

The highly respected CFA Institute’s Research Challenge, in which teams of students step into the shoes of financial analysts and assess a publicly owned company from an investment perspective, has been held annually since 2007. Some 4,000 competitors from 865 universities took part in the 2015 competition.

CFA Institute

The CFA Institute is a global, non-profit trade association for investment managers, financial analysts, and professional investors with more than 122,000 members in 145 countries. Besides its vocational Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) training program, the financial industry’s leading professional qualification, the association has garnered international renown for its work in the fields of capital market ethics, investment standards, and financial education. The association is organized into 144 local branches.

The task set at the Swiss knock-out contest was to analyze Sonova. From data-gathering and “number-crunching” in Excel, to the production of a comprehensive report with buying and selling recommendations, the next generation of investment analysts shadowed professional financial practice every step of the way.

118 students in 25 teams from seven institutions took part in the competition in Switzerland, with the University of Basel making its debut alongside old hands from Zurich, St. Gallen, Lausanne, Neuenburg, Freiburg, and Lugano. Six groups made the first cut and won the right to present their analysis to an expert jury of established finance specialists in the Swiss final of the CFA Institute Research Challenge; the best overall performance came from the Lausanne University team.  

Support from Sonova

“We were delighted that Sonova was selected this year and offered the students the best possible support as they conducted their research,” explains Thomas Bernhardsgrütter, Sonova’s Director of Investor Relations. A presentation given by Lukas Braunschweiler, CEO of the Sonova Group (until March 31, 2018), provided essential background information about the company, and the students were able to discuss the talk with him directly. They also had the opportunity to listen in on a conference call for financial analysts about 2014/15’s half-year results before picking up some invaluable tips from statements by CFO Hartwig Grevener.

“The in-depth discussion with Sonova was extremely useful for our work,” sums up Florian Christoph Domin from the victorious Lausanne University team. “Talking to Mr Braunschweiler and Mr Bernhardsgrütter spurred the team on to devote even more time and energy to our analysis. Initially, we didn't know very much about hearing systems or the business segment more generally, so we had a steep learning curve. The company’s impressive stock valuation meant that our study resulted in a recommendation to sell, but that aside, Sonova brand products would be my first choice if someone in my family were looking to buy a hearing aid.”

“I was very impressed by how practically relevant the reports were and it was exciting to see how much the participants found out in such a relatively short period of time,” explains Thomas Bernhardsgrütter. “Qualifying as a financial analyst at the CFA Institute also opens up all kinds of interesting avenues for students at companies – something I know from personal experience,” he adds knowingly. Before taking over responsibility for Sonova’s Investor Relations department, Bernhardsgrütter had passed the CFA Institute’s vocational “Chartered Financial Analyst” (CFA) program with flying colors and spent more than ten years working as a financial analyst.

Among the Top Five in Amsterdam

The Sonova report secured the Lausanne University team a place at the regional knock-outs in Amsterdam on April 2, 2015, where they performed outstandingly well, coming in the top five out of 29 teams taking part.

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