For USC Marshall School of Business undergraduates Vineet Jain, Sian Ye, Vivian Huang and Murali Joshi, Brazil is more than just picture-perfect postcards and Bossa nova beats. As teammates who will be traveling to São Paulo for the KPMG International Case Competition, their focus will be representing their university — and their country — as they seek to best a crowded field of competitors from across the globe.
The school’s KPMG case team has momentum in its favor: It has taken top honors in both the Western regional finals in Dallas and the national finals in New York. The wins, Jain noted, represent countless hours of preparation, and they highlight the relevance of a USC Marshall education.
“What we learn in the classroom helps us directly in these competitions,” he said. “It’s one of the best things about Marshall: The curriculum has practical applications that translate to real-world achievements.”
For Jain and his colleagues, the road to São Paulo has been paved with success. Their journey began at USC, where they competed against 35 teams during a grueling day that went multiple rounds. The field of competitors shrunk to eight for the Western regional finals and then again to five for nationals: the University of Washington, Wake Forest University, the University of Virginia, Bentley University and USC.
The competitions have a standard structure — participants receive a case that mirrors the business challenges faced by members of KPMG’s audit, tax and advisory teams and then have three hours to formulate recommendations and prepare PowerPoint and oral presentations. After pitching their ideas to a panel of judges and answering follow-up questions, students must wait through their adversaries’ presentations before a verdict is rendered.
Jain attributed the team’s dominance to a close bond formed over weeks of intensive training and to a strategy that capitalizes on each team member’s individual strengths.
“We split each presentation into four equal parts,” he said. “Murali is good at assessing risk and feasibility; Sian is a great speaker, and gives the opening; Vivian is expert at fleshing out recommendations, and I do the financial projections. Because we’re covering our own areas of specialty, we’re able to give a presentation that really flows.”
For USC Marshall, first place in the KPMG competition is a familiar position. Last year’s team also triumphed at nationals. The winner of the national finals takes custody of a trophy inscribed with the victorious school’s name and holds it for the following year; this will be the second year in a row the trophy is on display in the USC Leventhal School of Accounting.
Positioned at a global crossroads of commerce and culture, USC Marshall has long been a trailblazer in connecting students to opportunity abroad. These experiences can be formative, Jain noted.
“This case competition has helped broaden my horizons. When I came to USC, I knew I liked finance, but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it. Working on these cases has opened me up to things like financial advisory and financial consulting, which has been great for my career development.
Further development is forthcoming: Jain and his team members report to the international finals in São Paulo on April 1.