By Shola Akinmeji
I remember my excitement after I discovered a class titled “Sustainability & Investing” was offered this fall. It was the first finance course that allowed me to apply my Sustainable Energy Engineering background. The class did not disappoint as it was taught from a finance and natural resources perspective. Despite the atypical subject, the consensus among fellow students was very positive. We learned a lot and left the class yearning to test our newfound knowledge in the freshly pioneered space that exists between making money and social justice. We got the opportunity when when one of our classmates, Jun, suggested we enter a Low-Carbon Portfolio Case Competition hosted by Yale University on behalf of Commonfund. The case competition tasked contestants with building a socially responsible portfolio that provided investment opportunities to utility endowments.
At first, I was reluctant to join the team because it only prolonged my long awaited celebratory relief for completing my MBA. However, once Jun secured an angel investor who offered to cover all of our application fees, I signed up with the knowledge that this would be my final act as a PTMBA student. Jun assembled a strong, but balanced team of full-time and part-time students. Our group was rounded out by my fellow PTMBA buddies, Jeff Schwartz and Saad Irfan, and Eric Chen, a full-time MBA student. We entered the contest with our eye on the $10,000 prize money.
We only had 15 days to work on the case. Working around our schedules proved to be very challenging due to our competing professional and school schedules. Jeff and I had both finished the program but we travelled a lot for work, Eric and Jun were in the full-time program with a heavy course load, and Saad was still in the part time program and working full-time. We worked around our schedules by using Google Hangout to host meetings during odd hours.
Our group had a unique advantage over other groups as it was comprised of experts in sustainability, corporate finance, private equity, and policy. Thanks to the diversity of skill-sets in our group, we developed a strong response to the case and a solid portfolio. We tested our portfolio against multiple outcomes through scenario analysis and developed strong metrics for measuring our impact.
Sadly, our presentation and well thought of responses to questions weren’t good enough to satisfy the two judges. I wonder if the fact that we went up against a Yale team in the first round had something to do with it. Perhaps I should also mention that both judges were Yale alumni and Yale adjunct professors…
Controversy aside, we had a great time working on this case. It brought our group together and created the perfect opportunity to apply what we learned in class to provide a solution to a major problem of our time.
Shola Akinmeji is a Part-time MBA student with a Corporate Finance concentration graduating in December 2015. He holds a Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering degree from Morgan State University and a Masters of Engineering in Sustainable Energy Engineering from the University of Maryland. He leads a team of engineers and energy consultants in Booz Allen Hamilton’s Energy Consulting Business. He aspires to develop energy projects in developing countries, with particular interest in his home country of Nigeria. In his free time, he is an adrenaline junkie and Netflix binger.