A ModelOff Finalist’s Round 2 Wrap

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Tales of Finalist John Lim

Round 2 is finished and apparently I’m in the Finals again (I’m going to book my flights before the organisers realised I just guessed “c” to everything!).

Seriously though, it was another set of challenging but well-structured questions, and as I’ve been saying to my team, both the questions from last year and this year are great for aspiring modellers who are looking to enter the industry or further hone their skills.

How I approached it?
It was a bit tough in Australia because of it being 11pm when I started.

Doubly so because my wife just gave birth 48 hours before! So it involved leaving the hospital at 10pm to go home, setting up at home on my ultra-wide screen watercooled dual GPU set up (neither of which actually helped – I needed a watercooled dual brain!), and drinking lots of coffee. Actually the most difficult part happened after the round was over – trying to get back into the hospital at 2am which had been locked down for the night … and the midwife asking me about what business I had trying to access the back entrance!

At least I had the place at home to myself – one of the KPMG team who was also participating in Round 2 was disturbed by Halloween trick-or-treaters right in the middle of the round!

The questions?
The MCQ was a bit random but at ten minutes long, didn’t take up much time. Kudos to anyone who can quickly figure out the XXth Saturday in the year 19ZZ.

The second question was around building a refinancing debt facility on top of a small existing model for a business – I lost time because I didn’t check the file properly and I started building the model from scratch, before I realised we just needed to modify the existing one that was sitting in a different tab! (Hint: read all the info provided carefully).

I ran out of time but the key thing for those doing the question was the last parts of the question around “debt sculpting” (as the industry calls the optimisation of debt principal payments in models) – it can be quickly solved algebraically, via reworking the formulas that the question itself provided.

The third question was another “ModelOff” special – a business case model in its essence, around analysing the financial performance of an emergency ambulance response service, given various pieces of information around the performance of the service. The main thing was around setting out the modelling well, so that the key assumptions could be easily tweaked – which it had to be in later parts of the question.

The final question, for those who didn’t recognise it, is a typical P3 / PPP (public private partnership) style of model, where the private sector bids the revenues that the government is required to pay to them over the life of a contract to provide operating and lifecycle (aka capex) services for an infrastructure asset. Being an unusual question, the key was to read it really carefully.

The last part of this question had me stumped (and from what I hear, most of the finalists too) – it required solving for two variables simultaneously so goal seek (which solves for one variable only) doesn’t work. Apparently the solver feature could be used?

Humm I wonder how London is at this time of the year?

Congratulations to John and his wife on the birth of their newborn. The ModelOff Team wishes you all the best at this joyous time. Well done John on making it to a second ModelOff World Finals. To learn more about John, visit his Finalist page.

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