How did you hear about the ModelOff competition? What made you want to get involved?
Originally heard about it from Alex Gordon when he was encouraging people to enter to 2012. With him winning that year I thought I’d give it a go in 2013 and made it to the final. Since then I’ve kept trying and qualifying. I’ve had a great time at the finals I’ve been to, meeting some great people, so I thought I might as well give it another go this year.
Was also a bit disappointed after the finals last year where I don’t think I performed as well as I could after a 27 hour trip two days before. So wanted to give it a shot again this year with a bit more time before.
How did you get so good at Excel? Tell us a bit about your modeling training.
I had played around a little bit with Excel at school and university but it was when I started at PwC that I learnt so much. At work, most projects we work on use Excel often in quite a wide variety of ways. I’ve also worked on a few models and reviews for other parts of PwC which has allowed me to learn more other aspects. I think knowledge and ability in Excel all comes from practice. Using different functions/aspects of Excel often really cements the knowledge and makes it more second nature.
When I started out at PwC, the people in the team were all very good with Excel and they have taught me heaps. Always great to have people to bounce ideas off and discuss best ways to do things. Now most of the people who taught me about Excel have left PwC, so hopefully I’m passing on similar knowledge onto our newer starters.
What makes you different from the other competitors? What are your strengths?
Rather than working in corporate finance or a specific modelling team I work in an actuarial team. While this uses Excel to a similar degree I use Excel quite differently. This makes it a bit harder with any technical finance questions, but also means that I am much more suited to more creative problems that aren’t traditional financial modelling questions. I have picked up some of the financial modelling by being in the competition for a few years, but I still have lots to learn.
I also think my experience of being in the finals twice before is an advantage (although I believe I certainly won’t be the only one back for a third time). This is especially with the live finals. Modelling with an audience is a very different experience and it takes some time to get used to it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received at work?
If you want to open a beer without a bottle opener (such as using a hole punch or a stapler), it’s all about leverage. Believe it or not, that piece of advice was from the boss.
Tell us a bit about your life away from work.
I’m a big sports fan, especially of the All Blacks (the New Zealand national rugby side), and I manage to their games when they play in Wellington as well as the local Hurricanes super rugby side. In summer I play a bit of cricket, which takes up most of the day on Saturdays. Also follow the New Zealand cricket team quite closely and get along to their games when they play in Wellington.
What do your friends/family think about you being involved in the ModelOff competition?
The first year I sat it I managed to keep it very quiet, which I haven’t been able to do in the last three years with many people asking if I was going to compete and when it was, and asking me how it went straight afterwards, which made it feel like there was a lot more pressure! It seems like a few other people had much more confidence in me making the final than I did.