UW students to represent USA in Hong Kong accounting competition

April 12, 2012

A group of University of Wisconsin-Madison students has been awarded the national title for the KPMG International Case Competition, and will be representing the U.S. this April when they take on teams from more than two dozen nations in Hong Kong.

The undergraduate team, including Jordan Heginbottom, Hannah Sugars, Matthew Zimdars and Andrea Nichols, was not expecting to make it this far when it participated in the first round of the competition last November.

"Initially, we set our sights on advancing through San Francisco," says Sugars, a senior majoring in accounting.

After coming in first at the university competition in November, the winners advanced to the western regional finals in San Francisco in January and secured a spot in the finals in New York City. The UW team competed there against Penn State, Wake Forest, and Miami University-Ohio.

Wake Forest's team captured the title at the global finals for the past two years.

"In New York, our goal was to beat Wake Forest," said Heginbottom, a junior majoring in accounting. The team did that and also earned first place at the competition.

As a reward, the trips to San Francisco and New York were covered by KPMG, and on Wednesday, April 18 they will be taking an all-expenses-paid trip to Hong Kong to compete in the international finals.

There, the teams will be presented with cases that mirror business challenges and given three hours to analyze the issues. Then, the team will have 20 minutes to present its findings and recommendations to a panel of international KPMG judges.

The cases may vary from highly technical finance and accounting issues to a very broad and consultative marketing project.

"It's tough because there are no questions in the case... you just have to figure out what's wrong," says Zimdars, a senior majoring in finance, accounting, and risk management and insurance.

The cases in Hong Kong will be difficult, but Nichols stressed that her team did so well on all the past cases because of the way the team worked together. For the UW team, it was not so much about being knowledgeable about individual cases, but presenting solutions creatively and intuitively.

"I think one of our advantages is that we came together and have this great chemistry, as opposed to some schools, which hand-picked their teams," says Zimdars.

– By Brittany Johnson