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For the second time in three years, an Executive MBA team from the VCU School of Business beat out competitors from some of Virginia’s leading MBA programs to win a prestigious regional finance competition. The ACG Cup, hosted by the Richmond chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth, is a case study competition designed to give students from top MBA programs across the country real-world experience and insights into mergers and acquisitions, investment banking, financial advisory and private equity. Teams present to a panel of seasoned M&A professionals from within the ACG community. VCU’s winning team consisted of: Kyle Cosby, Rob Estabrook, Patrick Flaherty and Tim Stuller.

“Every year, we go up against students from the best MBA programs in the region,” said Greg Waller, ACG Cup team advisor and associate professor of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate at the VCU School of Business. “This year, we beat William & Mary and the University of Richmond. In previous years, we won against MBA students at [University of Virginia’s] Darden [School of Business] and Virginia Tech. It shows the advances VCU has made. People in the finance industry are definitely taking notice. They’ve told me that we are putting out great students. Our graduates can compete anywhere.”

“This win shows the strength of our faculty,” added Butch Sarma, VCU director of Executive MBA. “When they teach strategy, finance and valuations, they dedicate a lot of class time and teach at a high level. Student projects are rigorous and classes include guest speakers from major corporations. I think it shows.”

We asked members of the winning team to discuss how VCU gave them an edge:

Why did you decide to enter the competition?

Rob Estabrook: “Dr. Waller’s financial valuation class gave us the real-world skills to do this. We wanted to see how far we could take that knowledge.”

What does your win say about VCU’s MBA program?

Tim Stuller: “It helps validate the Executive MBA program. Some might think that we glazed over financial concepts. But we went head-to-head with people in full-time programs all over the region and our analysis was good enough to win.”

In addition to the $3,500 prize, are there other benefits to winning?

Patrick Flaherty: “I’m thinking about changing industries. This win shows that, while I haven’t worked in Finance, I have financial experience. Winning the ACG Cup has already been a great talking point in interviews.”

Kyle Cosby: “Three of us work at Dominion, so I broadcast our win to management. One of our senior vice presidents saw the LinkedIn article I posted and came by to talk to me about it. I think management sees more potential in us because of this.”

How did VCU help prepare you to win this competition?

Patrick Flaherty: “The semester before, we did in-depth financial evaluations with Greg Waller. It was a lot like this competition. The entire EMBA program takes a team approach to learning and that definitely gave us an advantage over more traditional MBA programs that are more individual and less collaborative.”

What other advantages did the EMBA program give you?

Kyle Cosby: “In addition to Greg Waller, we also reached out to Bob Kelly [VCU assistant professor of Management] to review our strategy. The case study we were given was a family-owned company with other investors. In our presentation, we were able to demonstrate that we had taken the family aspect into consideration.”

Tim Stuller: “The first year of the EMBA program gave us lots of experience in giving professional presentations. Also, when you are part of VCU’s EMBA program, you build strong bonds with your cohort. Each of us had to put 50 to 60 hours of preparation into both rounds of this competition and the only way we could do that was with the support of team members who were not competing. They made sure we weren’t being left behind. The facilities at VCU were terrific as well. Snead Hall is well appointed for spending long hours on site. We had a conference room to ourselves and Bleecker Street [café in Snead Hall] for meals and snacks.”  

About the ACG Cup

2019 marked the 8th Annual ACG Cup competition hosted by ACG Richmond. Colleges and universities invited to participate in this year’s competition included:

  • American University
  • Georgetown University
  • James Madison University
  • The College of William & Mary
  • University of Richmond
  • University of Virginia
  • Virginia Commonwealth University

The Cup began with a Round One competition held on-campus at each school. The winning team from each participating school advanced to the Final Round of competition, held on February 20, 2019, at the offices of Williams Mullen. 


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