Meet Australia's Great Hope To Take The World Modelling Championships In New York This Weekend

Hopefulls get together in a Sydney hotel to discuss tactics. Image: Sarah Bullen

Peter Suen, a 30-year-old Australian who has made it to the finals of Modeloff, the world financial modelling championships, in New York has a simple strategy.

The Sydneysider is due to arrive in the US later today, after 25 hours of travel and will hit the finals of the spreadsheet championship at the weekend.

Suen, who works for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, hopes this will beat jetlag.

He was a finalist last year, and is ranked number 2 in the official form guide this year, but his game was put off by arriving a couple of days too early.

Peter Suen

“I think my body will be confused,” he told Business Insider. “It’s better for me to get it over and done with which is why I am planning to get there on Friday night.

“Last year, I went earlier and it was worse. The first two days I managed to stay awake but the competition came and I couldn’t stay awake. It was terrible.”

Suen is one of five of the 16 finalists, who made it competing against 4,000 other hopefuls, have been in the Modeloff finals previously.

Including Suen, an investment analyst at the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, there are two Australians and three New Zealanders in the finals plus one from Hong Kong who used to study and work in Australia.

That’s six out of the 16 finalists from this part of the world. Some say the high proportion of local finalists is due to the local habit of training get togethers at pubs organised by sponsor Intralinks, a company which creates virtual deal rooms for due diligence, an activity involving detailed financial modelling.

For Suen, the one to beat might be Alvin Woon, the Number 1 ranked, Hong Kong-based Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst.

The first Modeloff was won by New Zealander Alex Gordon, a member of PwC’s Corporate Finance Team, in 2012.

Suen himself doesn’t put in a lot of training.

“But I try to prepare myself … make sure my computer is working, comfortable with all the equipment,” he says.

He’s heard of contestants who remove the F1 key from their computer keyboards because if its accidentally hit the help screen pops up, losing valuable calculation time.

“That sounds a little extreme, don’t you think?” he says.

The pressure of competition is all about how much of it you allow to get through.

“From my perspective, there is a little bit,” Suen says.

“It’s a bit different (the finals) than the earlier rounds when you are doing it from the comfort of your home or office when no-one is looking at you.

“A lot of the questions are time-pressured rather than being extremely difficult. If you are given two hours to do it, it’s pretty hard. You would typically be expected to do those normally over two days.”

A Q &A with Peter Suen, nicknamed Mr Energy:

Learning Excel and learning to model:
First job was at Mercer’s Finance and Risk Consulting and it involves model audits, which exposes me to a variety of modeling styles. Over time you pick up all the good methods in modeling and also learn common mistakes people make. At CEFC (Clean Energy Finance Corporation) I get to put those skills to good use. It helps too that I like to explore different ways of doing the same thing.

What helps me stand out from the other finalists:
Hopefully my custom made shortcuts will give me an edge.

Where my passion for financial modeling comes from:
There’s a geek in all of us. In fact, it was once said that all problems in life can be solved by Excel.

If I win the $30,000 ModelOff 1st prize, I will …
Shop, shop and shop. I will donate some too.

What I hope comes from being a ModelOff Finalist:
A modelling career perhaps?

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