SMU Cox Alumnus Earns Prestigious CPA Exam Honor

by Anna Martinez|


Contact: Anna Martinez





Dallas, TX (SMU), May 28, 2020 — SMU Cox School of Business alumnus Michael Bianez (BBA ’17, MSA ’18) has earned the Elijah Watt Sells Award, the highest award on the CPA exam. Of the 75,000 individuals taking the CPA Exam in 2019, Bianez was among only 137 (0.2%) people to earn the esteemed award. Bianez is only the third Cox School alumnus ever to earn the honor. 


Each spring, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) bestows its Elijah Watt Sells Award upon high-performing candidates. To qualify for the award, CPA candidates must obtain a cumulative average score above 95.50 across all four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination, pass all four sections on their first attempt and must have completed testing in 2019.


“While the primary focus of the Cox School’s Master of Science in Accounting program is on preparing students for successful business careers, we teach students to be able to analyze and apply what they learn,” according to Greg Sommers, director of the SMU Cox MS in Accounting program. “Combining rigorous training with a strong student like Michael has led to a wonderful result. I have no doubts that he will continue to shine for many years to come.”


Bianez, currently a hedge fund analyst with Sabrepoint Capital Management, earned a BBA in Finance and a Master of Science in Accounting at the Cox School. He was a member of the Portfolio Practicum class. Upon graduation, he accepted a position with PwC’s assurance practice. In addition to passing the CPA Exam, he also successfully passed the Level III CFA exam.


“My accounting professor, Liliana Hickman-Riggs, was the one to suggest I aim for the Elijah Watt Sells award and encouraged me all throughout,” Bianez says. “It took a decent amount of study time, which Stephanie Zick, my senior manager at PwC and fellow SMU Cox School alum, was supportive of. I could not have won the award without these two.”


The Elijah Watt Sells Award program was established by the AICPA in 1923 to recognize outstanding performance on the CPA Exam. Sells, one of the first CPAs in the U.S., was active in the establishment of the AICPA and played a key role advancing professional education within the profession.


About SMU Cox
In 2020, the Cox School of Business celebrates 100 years of business education at SMU. The Cox School of Business is committed to influencing the way the world conducts business via prolific research that provokes innovation, change and global thought leadership. SMU Cox offers a full-range of business education programs including BBA, Two-Year and One-Year Full-Time MBA, Professional MBA (part-time), Executive MBA, Online MBA, and Master’s degree programs, as well as Executive Education. Consistently ranked among the world’s leading business schools, SMU Cox maintains an active alumni network in more than 80 countries. SMU Cox is accredited by AACSB.