Alex Gordon, the 25-year-old Manager at PwC New Zealand and 2012 Financial Modeling World Champion, has opted to take up a behind-the-scenes position in the ModelOff Question Design Team (QDT) from 2014 onwards. Gordon, who was also Runner-up in ModelOff 2013, is excited about the move to the QDT and says, “I’m looking forward to coming up with some challenging problems for the competitors, and seeing all the different ways the competitors try to tackle them.”
The Wellington “Wunderkind” burst on to the scene in 2012, emerging victorious in the inaugural ModelOff competition. In 2013 he fell just short of going back-to-back as Britain’s Hilary Smart triumphed. Gordon retires with prize-money totalling over USD40000 and, crucially, the experiences and global opportunities afforded to his career since achieving ModelOff success. Gordon believes recognition of his technical ability has been invaluable internally within PwC worldwide as well as with his clients. His success has led to a leading role in PwC New Zealand’s new Business Modeling team, specializing in providing high-quality financial modeling and analytical services.
Financial Modeling 101
It’s no secret that real-world business “Analysis” – everything from Financial Analysis, Advanced Excel and VBA, Cash-Flow Analysis, Quantitative Analysis, Transactions Analytics and Financial Modeling – has not been taught well historically at Universities and Colleges around the world. Gordon acknowledges that having an analytical mind and intellectual curiosity were advantages to mastering best practice financial modelling in the early stages of his career despite these disadvantages. “ModelOff was ultimately a fun extension of my modeling at work – a different kind of pressure than what I encounter at the office.”
“ModelOff has done wonders for raising the profile of financial modeling and business analytical skills. Like excellence in any field – whether athletes, engineers or artists – I’ve noticed a real commitment to hard work and technical discipline that becomes second nature among the world’s best modelers. They have a real passion to perform and they love what they do”.
ModelOff World Finals Experience
Traveling to New York City for the ModelOff Live Finals in December 2012 was something altogether unexpected and surreal for Gordon. It was Gordon’s first time in the City That Never Sleeps. He says that being in the spiritual home of financial modeling ‘added to the sense of occasion’. Gordon was also one of four returning finalists in 2013, and had some idea of what to expect the second time around. He loved the ‘great feeling of camaraderie’ among all World Top 16 Finalists, and appreciated meeting, mentoring and learning tricks. Given financial modelling can be a lonely exercise, Gordon nominates modeling in front of a live audience in the Team Challenge as his favourite ModelOff memory. Gordon was relieved to discover he wasn’t the only one to have removed his F1 key from his keyboard – the subject of previous playful gibes back at PwC.
Educational Tips and Tricks from former World #1
The man nicknamed ‘Flash’ – owing to his breakneck speed on the keyboard – Alex Gordon has some important educational advice for what makes a good financial modeler at ModelOff 2014:
1. Time is very precious: Leave the mouse alone and learn as many keyboard shortcuts as possible.
2. Simplicity: Keep the modeling as simple and stepped-out as you can. There’s no time to debug a complex formula that isn’t working! Just because the problem is tricky, doesn’t mean the model should be.
3. Sense check as you go: Know what to roughly expect in an answer before you write the formula. Great financial modelers can understand a problem and break it down into simple, logical and easy to follow calculations.
ModelOff 2014 and beyond
Gordon’s success at ModelOff 2012 and 2013 has led to global speaking engagements and contribution to future thought-leadership around financial modeling best practice and insights. Away from work, Gordon is married and has two young children. He says his friends and family were ‘impressed that I won a World Championship’, but immediately qualifies that, saying, ‘I think most of them still don’t know what [financial modeling] really involves!’ As Alex Gordon hangs up his golden keyboard and joins the ModelOff 2014 Question Design team – we congratulate a world professional services superstar. ModelOff looks forward to supporting Alex in his exciting leadership adventures in the years ahead and Team ModelOff commends all the family, friends and professional colleagues who support Alex every day to follow his dreams.