This past Wednesday, the championship round of the West Michigan ACG Cup was held at the Loosemore Auditorium at Grand Valley State University.
The Association for Corporate Growth Western Michigan Chapter is part of an international organization with nearly 12,000 members and 53 chapters. Members are typically CEOs, CFOs and the like. The group meets monthly to network and share best practices.
This is the Western Michigan Chapter’s first year to hold an ACG Cup contest, a deal analysis competition that provides MBA and M.S. finance students an opportunity for real-world experience with merger and acquisition professionals.
“The whole initiative came out of Los Angeles when they were looking at retaining talent and giving the next generation the opportunity to meet the individuals in the industry,” said Christine Moag, president of ACGWM.
“That kind of exposure really hasn’t been given when it comes to the mergers and acquisitions profession.”
The competition is split into two rounds and includes multiple teams of four from Davenport University, GVSU, Michigan State University and Western Michigan University. In the first round, each team receives a case company and is given a week and a half to examine it and come up with a solution for that company, whether it be to consolidate, sell, purchase or whatever best fits the particular case. The group then gives a 30-minute presentation before four judges, as if they were the board of directors. The judges are allowed to interject and ask questions.
“We’re trying to give that real world experience,” said Moag. “This is not the classroom where you get 30 minutes, and then it’s my turn. We’re trying to provide that real experience.”
The students are then judged on their presentation. If there is more than one team per college, only one team from that school moves on to round two, which is a continuation of the original case. The teams are again given a week and a half to prepare before presenting in front of the judges. The judges then confer and pick a winner. This year’s winner will be named March 18 at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids during the Sixth Annual Outstanding Growth Award reception, which will honor Butterball Farms. The winning team will be presented with a $5,000 scholarship and the opportunity to compete on the national ACG Cup level.
“It was the first year to get (the cup) introduced to Western Michigan and get them to understand why we’re doing this. We’re not just doing it to do it for an association. We were really truly doing it because of Michigan and the economy, and Michigan retaining the talent that’s exiting at lightning speed right now,” said Moag.
“One way to do that is to show them why you should stay in the state of Michigan. When ACG came up with this cup competition, it allowed us to say, ‘Yes, this is it.’”
She said the program was a way for students to test the waters of the industry and region by meeting business people who work in that particular industry and, hopefully, get their foot in the door.
“From the college standpoint, the deans have been very helpful in giving (the teams) additional instruction, because this is not always the information that’s provided in their courses,” said Moag. “When the competition is done, we’ve pulled the students in and had open discussion. They learned so much, because the judges and myself have opened up and said, ‘Well, this is how it really works and this is what we suggest on your next presentation.’ They’re getting a chance to get to know these judges that come from different industries.”
Moag also said that ACG encourages the judges to take on somewhat of a mentor role and the notion has been well received.
“We’ve been encouraging the judges, and they’ve been so excited to do this, to be almost mentors,” she said. “You’ve sat across from (the judges), and they’ve seen that you’re genuinely trying to present and you genuinely want to learn, and that’s very enticing to an employer. So you’ve just had a quick interview without knowing it.”