A Day in the Life of a ModelOff Contestant: Getting Stronger

ModelOff is the world’s largest professional competition for Microsoft Excel, financial analysis, investment analysis, and financial modeling.


8 October 2015

A Day in the Life of a ModelOff Contestant: Getting Stronger

Every fall, sports fans near and far greet the arrival of our nation’s favorite game, a sensational spectacle of epic, gladiatorial proportions that blends strategy, speed, stamina, dexterity, emotion, and heart-pumping adrenaline. With eager anticipation, fans study up on the game’s latest developments, players, and rule changes. At the office, it dominates water cooler scuttlebutt and, when no one is looking, fans even practice their moves, dreaming of the day that they too might strut their stuff on the championship stage. The spectacle I’m referencing, of course, is ModelOff. For me, this is no daydream — for I am an official, registered contestant (gulp!).

For the uninitiated, ModelOff is the world’s largest professional competition for Microsoft® Excel, financial analysis, investment analysis, and financial modeling. The global online competition attracts 4,000+ leading professionals and university students from more than 110 countries working across finance, banking, accounting, insurance, actuarial, engineering, consulting, and other quantitative disciplines.

This year, Round 1 of the 4th Annual Financial Modeling World Championships — which happens to coincide with the 30-year anniversary of Excel — kicks off on Saturday, October 17. This gives me just under two weeks to chisel my mind and body into a paragon of Excel mastery. There’s just one problem: With more tools than ever actually replacing the need for Excel — like Intralinks Dealnexus®,  Intralinks Dealmanager®, and Intralinks VIA®, to name a few of our own offerings (full disclosure: yes, I work for Intralinks, Inc.) — my Excel muscles have atrophied quite a bit since my investment banking days. But, come on, how hard could this really be, right? I give myself a puncher’s chance.

With that famous chorus “Getting Stronger!” from the theme song to Rocky’s “Gonna Fly Now” blasting in my mind’s stereo, I open up a fresh Excel workbook, and begin my training. I start by going to ModelOff’s “Past Questions” page to tackle challenges from previous competitions. Immediately, a lump forms in my throat and my jaw begins a gradual descent. Monte Carlo simulations, DuPont analyses, data tables … What kind of twisted parallel universe is this?! Who knows this stuff? Suddenly, the theme song to “Rocky & Bullwinkle” seems a more apt analog to my odds.

I frenziedly swipe from test challenge to test challenge, looking for one I can do. Pass, pass, pass … All-out panic begins setting in. Finally, I stumble across one titled “Stepping Up,” which resembles the kind of financial models I used to build. I wipe my brow and get to work. Relief washes over me in an awesome wave when I get the answer to the first question right. Then, the second, and the third. A meeting is about to start, so I save the rest for later.

As I shut down for the day, I thank the Excel spirits for not forsaking me entirely and, in equal measure, thank companies like Intralinks, Kira, and iCapital Network for reducing my reliance on Excel to get my job done (based on my performance today, the alternative would not seem to paint a rosy career path!). A lot more work is ahead but, already, ModelOff training has taught me two things: First, the breadth and depth of Excel’s capabilities and applications are truly awesome. Excel could –— and perhaps should — be a field of study entirely unto itself. The mere existence of ModelOff — and its secret society of Excel scholars — is a grand testament to that fact. All that said, sometimes, the one thing better than using Excel may be not having to use it at all. Think about that …

Stay tuned for the next installment of this blog series, when I’ll provide an update on how my preparations are coming along. For now, gotta keep “Getting Stronger …”



Tony Hill

Tony Hill

Tony Hill is the Director of Intralinks Dealnexus. Prior to its acquisition by Intralinks in early 2013 along with MergerID, Tony was the CEO and co-founder of PE-Nexus, the leading private market network for mergers & acquisitions professionals. The two platforms have been combined to form the largest global deal marketplace and professional network for qualified M&A professionals.