Student Spotlight

Crummer Students Participate in First-Ever CFA Ethics Challenge in the U.S.

A team of three Crummer students led by Dr. Koray Simsek traveled to Tallahassee to compete against teams from 10 different universities and colleges.

Crummer students finished as semifinalists at the first-ever statewide CFA® Societies of Florida Ethics Challenge held at FAMU in Tallahassee.

CFA, or Chartered Financial Analyst, is an internationally recognized designation for financial and investment professionals. Across the world, local CFA Societies host networking events and workshops, and look to bridge the gap between the professional world and academia.

“That’s often done through people like me, who are both CFA charterholders and academics,” explained Dr. Koray Simsek, Associate Professor of Finance at the Crummer Graduate School of Business.

The CFA has always had one flagship student competition event – the CFA Institute Research Challenge, where student teams work on an equity evaluation of a publicly traded stock.

However, despite ethics being a core part of all three levels of the Chartered Financial Analyst exam, there weren’t any student-based competitions on ethics.

In 2014, a CFA Society in Toronto decided to change that and come up with an ethics challenge for university students. The competition took off, and since then, they elevated the competition to a national level with a final encompassing all of Canada.


One of the board members in the CFA Society Orlando caught wind of how successful the ethics challenge was doing in Canada and decided to spearhead bringing the inaugural U.S. CFA Ethics Challenge to Florida.

With Crummer’s mission of creating global, responsible and innovative business leaders, participating in the first ethics challenge was a natural fit.


The Crummer student team consisting of Early Advantage MBA students Eddie Cutillas, Palak Gajjar, and Geoffery Smith made the trip to Tallahassee with Dr. Simsek in mid-February to compete.

A prerequisite to the challenge was an online webinar on ethics. The students studied the CFA Institute Future of Finance’s six areas of focus, including transparency and fairness, regulation and enforcement, and safeguarding the system.


Shortly after the webinar, the students were given a case to analyze with “grey areas” where right or wrong may not be apparent. The team had to analyze the various ethical dilemmas and present their recommendations to a panel of industry professionals. They could use Dr. Simsek for guidance for 10 total hours in the weeks leading up to the competition, but no more, as that would be an ethics violation.

It was entirely up to them to decide what the recommendations should be.

“This was a very unique experience for me,” said Palak Gajjar, who is focusing on finance and international business in her MBA studies. “Besides learning the ways ethics plays a role in the corporate industry, I learned more about CFA and the opportunities a CFA charter holder receives. I also had the opportunity to connect with many highly influential leaders along with connecting with other students from Florida schools.”

Eddie Cutillas, who is planning to sit for the CFA exam and work as a financial analyst, used this as an opportunity to better expose himself to a key area of becoming a CFA Charterholder.

“I learned that there are many different ways to look at situations. When looking at the case and talking about it as a group, you see how there are many different angles that can be taken and how hard it can be to decipher the difference between right/wrong in terms of the rules and the ethics,” he said.

For both of them, analyzing an ethics dilemma on a deep level was critical, regardless of industry.

“Every person should be ethically responsible in their life regardless of the consequences,” said Gajjar. “Having the opportunity to hear directly from the respected leaders from the CFA industry on ethics was a very valuable experience to me personally.”

Dr. Simsek plans to continue to have student teams participate in the ethics challenge, and hopefully will see it grow like it did in Canada.

“Despite our team’s robust academic workload with their classes, they showed a great effort,” said Dr. Simsek. “Hopefully other states will join and eventually start a U.S.-based national competition.”