Three FIU Business undergraduate finance majors squared up to enter the SouthState Bank case competition, a regional event where teams apply their financial and business expertise to solve real-world small business challenges. Thanks to their strong bond and strategic approach, they won second place.
Students on 16 teams from 12 southeastern universities had to manage cash flow, protect assets and provide financial strategy for Pinnacle Technologies, an existing Lakeland, Florida-based tech company.
While they had the know-how, the first-time competitors learned to build trust in themselves and in their teammates.
“We're all leaders, so it was about deciding who is going to lead in this moment, and who’s going to be listening in this moment,” said team member Andrea Visso. “We focused on building the friendship first, and once we already had the friendship, we could focus on being serious.”
The FIU Business students’ efforts paid off. The second-place win among all schools earned the team a $1,000 prize.
“Andrea presented five Cs of credit which was important to the bankers on the judge’s team,” said team member Alexis Peck. “We also presented a whole website, that was another thing that we created that the other teams hadn’t done.”
Their website, created as part of their competition pitch, was fully realized, with customer relation management tools, chat bots and search engine optimization all integrated in their plan.
The students were able to develop a high-quality presentation in record time, but it wasn’t easy. They had midterms to complete and a long drive to Tallahassee, where the competition took place, ahead of them. They used their drive time to brainstorm and pulled an all-nighter once they arrived. A secret weapon to get them through the night was their rotating 5-minute nap schedule.
“It was a huge weight lifted off our shoulders,” said team member Aymane Bahaj. “We couldn’t wait to get to the hotel to sleep, then to celebrate in Tallahassee together. We were happy to deliver.”
The students said the support from their finance professors, Marcos Kerbel, adjunct lecturer in finance, and Mark Del Pezzo, associate teaching professor, was instrumental and they already have their sights set on finding more competitions to enter.
“I think it’s the best way to really see how well they can do,” said Kerbel. “And they get the opportunity to meet other students from other universities, because this is also about building relationships.”
The competition was held at Florida State University College of Business and included participants from University of Florida, Florida A&M University, University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, North Carolina State University and University of North Georgia, among others.