Biz Sch News 24 November 2017

Many ‘firsts’ for Queen’s University at the NUS-SP Group Case Competition

The inaugural NUS-SP Group Case Competition concluded 8 September, with Queen’s University coming in first for the International segment and NUS Business School undergraduates clinching the champion trophy for the National segment.

Charmaine Arellano-Chua, team leader of the Queen’s University team speaks to us about their journey to Singapore and being part of this case competition.

Queen’s University structures our case competition program through a formal team, called the Queen’s Case Competition Union (QCCU). Every year, QCCU runs auditions to select team members from the Smith School of Business, with a selection rate of ~4% in our most recent application cycle. The team we brought to Singapore comprised of myself, Eileen Smith, Dustin Zhang, and Jordan McTaggart. We have all been part of QCCU since March 2015, and have worked together in the past.

We were thrilled to attend the NUS-SP Group Case Competition 2017 as we had heard great things and this was going to be Queen’s University’s first time competing in it, coming all the way from Canada to compete at NUS.

Since this was the first time Queen’s was competing at the NUS-SP Group Case Competition, we were not exactly sure what to expect. The NUS case competitions are known to be unique because it has a “surprise” format every year. This year’s edition included: a new, exciting title sponsor – Singapore Power Group; the opportunity for advisors to ask questions during the preliminary round; and more time for Q&A than the main presentation. With that in mind, we made sure to thoroughly understand the implications of our ideas, since we knew that the judges would ask us thought-provoking questions.

One of the biggest challenges we faced was handling the 20-minute Q&A period without the appendix section of our slide deck. We faced technical difficulties that resulted from a Mac vs. PC incompatibility. Since we could not do anything to modify the slide deck once we discovered the problem, we had to memorise key facts and figures from our appendix and associate them with content from our main deck.

Luckily, our most important content were in the main deck, so not many noticed the technical issue during our final presentation! Although I wished the judges had a chance to see the hard work we put into our backup slides. But I believe the situation worked in our favour as it meant that we had to focus on answering the judges’ questions as accurately as possible, rather than flipping through our appendix to find a slide that dubiously related to the question asked. In fact, I would say that these two aspects — our well-researched, detailed main deck and strong, relevant responses during Q&A — ultimately won the judges over and resulted in our win!

Winning the NUS-SP Group Case Competition was such an exciting moment for us, especially because this international competition is one of the 12 highly selective qualifiers for the “Champions Trophy” competition in New Zealand. The Queen’s Case Competition Union is a relatively new team at 5 years old, so we are very excited to succeed at such a prestigious competition.

The NUS-SP Group Case Competition was truly a highlight for all of us. Between the four members of our team, we had competed at four other international competitions prior. We all agree and want to commend how well-organised this competition was run. The NUS Case Competition organising committee did an excellent job helping us get to know the other teams, while also introducing us to local Singapore culture and cuisine during a full-day event styled after “The Amazing Race.”

It was fun to spend time with other competitors from around the world – some familiar and many new. Furthermore, the SP Group executives impressed us with their thoughtful consideration of each of our ideas. We could tell that SP Group sent highly intelligent representatives to judge the competition, all of whom were at the forefront of thought-leadership in the company and industry at large.

Since the school year at Queen’s University did not start until the week after the competition, we managed to spend a few days exploring Singapore. We were awestruck by the magnificent natural beauty found at the Botanic Gardens and Gardens by the Bay, as well as the powerful man-made feats found at the Art Science Museum and Marina Bay Sands. We also became giant fans of Singaporean cuisine: eating Hainanese chicken at hawker centres, trying the famed chili and pepper crabs, enjoying a culinary experience at the Michelin-starred “Labyrinth,” and finding unexpected delight from butter pork ribs at “Two Chefs” (courtesy of our amazing team ambassador, Natalie!). We all definitely fell in love with Singapore, and hope to return someday soon.

For more information on case competitions, please visit