Making it Rain in London: MBA Team’s Drought Mitigation Innovation Wins 1st in Morgan Stanley Challenge

By Nick Wobbrock, Chad Reed, Leigh Madeira, and Zach Knight, all Full-time MBA 15

2015_Competition_Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing

The Win: First place in the Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge, at Morgan Stanley’s London Headquarters on April 17.

The Team: (left to right) Nick Wobbrock, Chad Reed, Leigh Madeira, and Zach Knight, all full-time MBA 15

The Field: The challenge began with 380 students, on 127 teams, from 78 graduate schools, based in 20 countries. The final round included 10 teams from 10 top graduate business schools.

The Pitch: Our team, Blue Forest Conservation Notes, pitched a financial structure that would allow investors to help California and the Western U.S. alleviate historic droughts and catastrophic forest fires, all while earning competitive returns. Blue Forest Conservation Notes utilizes pay-for-success contracts to monetize the shared benefits of proactive forest management among water and electric utilities, as well as the US Forest Service. We defended our investment thesis in front of a panel of industry leaders, including both impact-focused investors and more traditional institutional asset managers.

The Clincher: The judges cited the timeliness of the problem, and our team’s convincingly innovative financial structure, which they believed would bring investors and stakeholders together to take a step forward in solving California’s two most pressing environmental issues.

Read more about the win on ClickGreen.

Winners: Students Reel in Second Place in Impact Investing Competition

Zach Knight and Chad Reed tapped their storytelling skills to connect to their audience in their presentation on  myCatch.

Zach Knight and Chad Reed, both MBA 15, tapped their storytelling skills to connect to their audience in their presentation on myCatch.

The Competition: Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge

The Outcome: $5,000 and access to an impressive network of potential investors

Chad Reed and Zach Knight, both MBA 15

Chad Reed and Zach Knight, both MBA 15

The Team: Zach Knight and Chad Reed, both MBA 15

The Field: More than 220 MBA students from 39 institutions across the globe submitted applications. Ten teams were selected and presented at Morgan Stanley headquarters in NYC.

The Challenge: The challenge seeks outstanding proposals for novel investment strategies to meet some of the most pressing global challenges. As the world’s population approaches 9 billion people by the year 2050, the challenge of meeting human demand for scarce global resources will intensify. Finance has a key role to play in meeting this challenge. Moreover, an increasing number of institutional investors are seeking sustainable investment opportunities for their portfolios. Teams are encouraged to think beyond venture capital fund vehicles and strategies.

What made them winners (in the team’s own words): We tackled a challenge no other team addressed — lending to small-scale, sustainable U.S. fisheries — in an innovative and creative manner. Our financial instrument acumen was second to none, and our entertaining presentation told a compelling personal narrative.

The Haas Factor: Pitching a new and creative financial instrument, as exciting as that can be for us finance nerds, really needs a humanizing story to connect with a larger audience. By focusing on an individual who will both benefit from our work as well as provide returns to our investors, storytelling became an crucial element of our success as we were the only team to employee this strategy. Our story focused on Larry Collins, a small Bay Area crab and sole fisherman, who has been left behind by rights-based solutions to fishing.

Another key Haas value that was stressed throughout our core classes was that feedback is a gift.  We pushed all our classmates, professional contacts, and even first-round judges for feedback.  This was certainly helpful as we entered the final round of Q&A.

The Haas Impact Investing Network: While Chad and I are not members of the network, our classmates who are involved in the Haas Impact Investing Network were able to provide meaningful feedback throughout the process, including help with our final pitch. Their feedback was essential to our last-minute final touches, pushing us with some tough questions (as the Q&A part is usually the make or break with these competitions) and providing general feedback on our idea.

Most memorable experience from the competition: We saw great speakers, met interesting contestants, and got excellent presentation experience, but the most memorable part of the competition was seeing a room full of more than 200 people at a major Wall Street bank brought together by an interest in impact investing. We both very excited to see that our passion for the impact investing space, which is a key reason we both choose to come to Haas, was shared by so many.