Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge

Brandon Yeh, HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student currently in DC, competed in the Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge on the Johns Hopkins SAIS team with fellow HNC and SAIS students. The team advanced to the final stage of the competition in Hong Kong. Read on to hear about their proposal and the competition. 

For 6 years running, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and Morgan Stanley have hosted the Sustainable Investing Challenge. The competition seeks to inspire students of business and economics to develop innovative and scalable investment ideas that have positive social and environmental benefits, while also generating real financial returns for investors.

The first stage of the competition required teams to submit an investment prospectus that addresses issues of social and environmental impact, while detailing their impact of their idea, the generated cash flow of their project, and the key risks associated with implementing their idea. This year, more than 100 prospectuses from more than 60 institutions worldwide were submitted, while only 10 finalist teams with the most innovative submissions were chosen to go on to the final round and compete.

Team GAIA with the hosts of the competition. Cynthia Wong, VP of Morgan Stanley Global Sustainable Finance, Dave Chen, CEO of Equilibrium Capital and Audrey Choi, CEO of Morgan Stanley Global Sustainable Finance
 The Johns Hopkins SAIS team is extremely thrilled to have been chosen to compete at the final round. Competing against a range of top-tier MBA schools, we believe that the SAIS team was competitive given our strong economic background and diverse experiences - ranging from multilateral development, government policy and consulting. The team consisted of myself, Matthew Hess (a fellow HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student in DC), Taylor Sloan, and Zach Harris.

Our investment proposal is called GAIA – Global Agricultural Insurance for All, whereby we seek to offer weather index insurance to rice farmers in Thailand that are financially vulnerable to the effects of climate shocks such as drought. At the core of it, weather index insurance (WII) is a new and innovative financial instrument that supports disaster risk management in developing countries. It is a mechanism that has proven successful in several government-sponsored schemes in India and in Africa. To date, WII has limited operations as a stand-alone commercial product, and GAIA’s investment idea seeks to tap into this opportunity by starting with the market of Thailand.

While team GAIA did not win the overall competition, we were extremely grateful for the opportunity to have participated in such an event. We think this is a wonderful opportunity for current and future SAIS/HNC students who are interested in sustainable investing and we encourage all to develop and submit their investment idea for next year’s competition. Feel free to reach out to me or any of the teammates if you have any questions!

Our team could not have succeeded without the guidance and support given to us by SAIS faculty members and practitioners in the DC area. Notably, we wanted to thank Professor Mark White, Professor Irving Mintzer, Professor Stacy Swann of Climate Advisors LLC, Rana Muminoglu of Elevar Equity, and Marc Sadler of the World Bank's Agriculture Global Practice. We also wanted to give a special shout out to Madura Watanagase for helping to put us in touch with the Office of Insurance Commission in Thailand.

Written by Brandon Yeh. Brandon is currently a HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student at SAIS DC, finishing up his studies in Energy, Resources and the Environment concentration. Prior to coming to DC, he completed his first academic year at the Hopkins Nanjing Center in Spring of 2015.