Undergraduate team takes top honours at annual accounting competition

UTM team Contigo Consulting snatch the top prize at this year’s University of Toronto Accounting Competition. From left: Natalie Yu, Ahsun Aziz, Vaibhav Makkar, Vivek Bhatt and Afnan Azam.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 3:19pm
Sarah Jane Silva

It was Afnan Azam’s first time competing at the University of Toronto Accounting Competition (UTAC) in Scarborough, where he and long-time team members Vivek Bhatt, Vaibhav Makkar, Ahsun Aziz and Natalie Yu went up against teams from UTSC, York University, University of Waterloo and UTSG.

Although the fourth-year accounting students had participated in many competitions in the past including DECA, Show Me the Green, SCMP and the Waterloo Accounting Competition, they always came up short.

“Dealing with failure over and over again really brings your morale down, but I enjoyed case competitions so much that I decided to keep trying,” said Azam. “I’ve wanted to win one since second year.”

So when the five members of Contigo Consulting walked into the IC Atrium at UTSC, they had decided that this time was going to be different.

Having spent hours perfecting their collaboration and presentation skills in the last two years, they were ready to get down to work.

“We were welcomed by the buzz of about one hundred or so delegates already formulating plans,” said Makkar.

“A few serious stares came our way as they checked out the new competition.”

The case presentation was structured as a debate: they were given the role of consultants, and the opposing team represented the finance department of a large retail business struggling with its operations, overburdened with debt, and experiencing an uncontrollable increase in costs causing a shortage of cash.

Their opponents, said Makkar, were a competent and talented team who had come up with an exceptional, and ambitious plan of attack for the board of directors (the judges) by proposing an expansion plan.

Alternatively, Contigo Consulting decided that they would focus on the facts.

By carefully analyzing financial statements and key performance metrics, they uncovered a problem with the company’s operations.

“We immediately felt a shift in the room when the opposition realized their expansion plan was indeed plausible, but not profitable,” said Makkar.

They proposed a solution to the business heads: create a value-adding monitoring plan by proposing an internal “check-up”.

They highlighted the benefits of efficient operations and depicted a future where the business could regain its profitable status and continue to survive to further its opportunity in developing markets.

“It was a complete, thorough and foolproof plan to increase value for shareholders and bring the business back on track,” said Makkar.

He believes the group’s strong grasp of quantitative analysis was instrumental in conveying their point.

“It’s hard to argue with numbers and facts.”

In the end, the judges were impressed by the team’s technical knowledge.

Bhatt recalls there being silence in the room when they called out his team’s name.

“We were the underdogs that had gone on to win the case,” he said.

“No one expected us to win, but believing in ourselves was important.”