For School of Business accounting and finance major Inderbir Bal, April 21 was the pinnacle of his academic journey. Not only was he notified that he placed in the top five of 2,200 test takers in the Bloomberg Aptitude Test (BAT) in the Americas region in March, but he also was notified that he won the OSCAR Student Excellence Award from Mason, was contacted by an anonymous employer through BAT requesting information from him, and even beat his personal best on the Burke Lake Golf Course.
"It was an amazing day," says Bal. "After all the work I put in over the past year and half, it was an honor to be recognized."
The BAT is an aptitude test developed by the Bloomberg Institute that measures an individual's ability to think critically on financial topics and is used by employers to evaluate potential employees. Bal's top five score placed him in the 99th percentile in the BAT and earned him recognition in the test's "Hall of Fame."
Bal is also the first School of Business student to win an OSCAR Student Excellence award, which recognizes and rewards outstanding undergraduate students who participate in research and creative activities. He was recognized for his collective work regarding the equity valuation techniques he used during multiple finance competitions.
But for those who know Bal, that day had been in the making for a long time. His mentor, Shelly Canterbury, instructor of finance at the School of Business, has worked with Bal since 2012 when he took her FNAN302 class and afterward as he assisted with research for the development of an advanced valuation class that will be offered next spring. Canterbury says, "Students, like Inderbir, are the most rewarding part of teaching. To witness his growth, both as a student and an adult, has been one of my great privileges of working at Mason."
Bal's commitment is evident in all that he has pursued. His first competition was the Duff & Phelps YOUniversity Deal Challenge, a four-week challenge where he spent more than 200 hours (140 during spring break) developing a mergers and acquisitions deal.
"The competition put me in a simulated environment of a buy-side banker and I learned more in those four weeks than entire semesters in school," he says. "That competition solidified my resolve to pursue a career in valuation."
After that first competition, he participated in the CFA Institute Research Challenge, the Georgetown Stock Pitch Competition, the 2013 Excel ModelOff, and the SOM 498 Case competition. He says there were many students, faculty members, classes and experiences that had a lasting effect on him but passing the CFA level 1 exam was one of his most rewarding experiences.
"While taking a full class load, I spent two and a half months of eighteen-hour days and many all-nighters studying," Bal explains. I had to take the exam the weekend before finals in a convention hall with hundreds of other candidates for about 10 hours. It was a very different experience and tested a vast array of topics."
After graduating this May, Bal will continue to work toward earning his CFA designation and plans to continue his work in valuation and building a career in the fields of investment banking, M&A, and/or transaction advisory services.
"Inderbir has set an example for future students by his self-motivation, curiosity, and commitment to learning everything he can during his undergraduate years," Canterbury says. "I know that he will be successful at whatever path he chooses."