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Finance major third in worldwide business challenge

Luanne Williams

Leif-Henning Klüver receives a certificate from Wingate University professor Harold Harlow after beating out hundreds of students from around the world to place third in an international business competition.

Wingate senior finance major Leif-Henning Klüver may never view a financial statement the same way again. The Germany native and Bulldog freestyle swimmer finished third in an international business-simulation competition that he said broadened his perspective of what it means to operate a company.

“For me, it was really helpful to understand all the different decisions that have to be made in a business,” Klüver said. “As a finance major, I focus mainly on the financial statements. It was helpful to see what influences them.”

Klüver placed in the top three in the Capsim Challenge, an international competition in which business-school students from around the world test their wits against each other. Klüver finished in impressive company: Students from Old Dominion University and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology placed first and second.

Klüver first used Capstone Business Simulation (Capsim) in Dr. Harold Harlow’s strategy class. Harlow, an associate professor in Wingate’s Porter Byrum School of Business, divides the class into about a half dozen teams at the beginning of the semester. After a month of simulation practice, weekly competitive rounds begin and students spend close to half their time on the project.

“What makes it complex is that there are so many parts that have to be considered for everything to work out – from research and development to marketing, production, financing,” Klüver explained. “It’s easy to figure out every part by itself, but to link everything together and make it work so that we are successful takes a lot more time.” He just found out Thursday that his group scored highest in the in-class competition.

That classwork and hearing from Capsim veterans whet his appetite for the international Capsim Challenge, which began with an eight-round qualifying competition held over 12 days in early April, during which students competed against a computerized program.

“In the beginning, it was easy, but then it got more and more complicated as the rounds went on,” Klüver said, describing the procedure, which started with a review of the “Capstone Courier” at the beginning of each round.

“It was a summary of everything that had happened since the last round: stock-price changes, ratios for each company and each product, then a page for each segment of the market, which shows your market share, competitors’ market shares, where your products are positioned, how your margins are,” he said. “You get an overview of what the others did. Then, based on that, you make your decisions.”

Klüver said that he felt confident in those decisions in most of the qualifying rounds but that the finals, during which the top six scorers competed head-to-head, were a totally different experience that called for a much greater degree of business acumen.

“It was way harder than the class and the qualification rounds, because it’s the six best players from the semester in the world,” he said. “I was aware of how hard it was going to be, but it was a lot of sitting in front of the computer, concentrating and trying to make everything work.”

The final push of the competition was an eight-rounds-in-eight-hours sprint ending at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Competitive by nature, Klüver said the discipline he learned in the pool was a benefit. “It helped me stay focused through everything, even though it was way longer than any swim practice,” he said.

The biannual competition attracts thousands of business students around the world who have used a Capsim business simulation in their course over the previous semester.

Harlow says the simulation “deepens students’ learning experience.”

“Capsim creates a semi-real environment for strategy implementation that students are not getting anywhere else in their business education,” he said. “I have had finalists before, and they performed above their peers in our group of colleges and universities.”

Capsim President Reda Chafai said in a press release that professors often find that their best students register for the Challenge, making the competition intense.

“It’s a deep dive into high-pressure international business in two ways,” Chafai said. “First, it’s not just competing with your class. Our finalists might be competing with students from anywhere in the world.

“Second, finalists have to run their simulated companies to a strict timetable over eight simulated years in eight hours. In some countries that means competing overnight. As any global executive knows, there’s no nine-to-five in business today so it’s great preparation for the rigors of a business career.”

Capsim Challenge entrants came from more than 20 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Israel, Lebanon, Mexico, Kuwait, Thailand, Turkey, the West Indies and the United States.

Klüver will receive his bachelor’s degree in finance at Wingate’s May 20 commencement, but he’ll keep hitting the books, as he’s already enrolled in the finance tract of the University’s Master’s of Accounting program. He hopes to pass his CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) exam in the next few years and then see where business takes him.

April 28, 2016

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