2018 Net impact conference

By Elsa Borrello, BBA 2020

November 9, 2018

I applied to Ross at the end of my freshman year because I recognized the huge impact the business world can have on social and environmental issues around the world. Joining Ross’s undergraduate chapter of Net Impact has kept me motivated in pursuing a career path with a social impact and sustainability mission. However, it’s not always as easy to get exposure to nontraditional social impact careers as it is traditional finance, consulting, and marketing careers. The opportunity to explore the huge breath of social impact-centered careers was one of reasons why I was so excited when I got the chance to attend this year’s national Net Impact conference in Phoenix.

The conference was comprised of keynote speakers, breakout workshops, a career expo, and networking sessions that brought together students, professionals, and field experts. The speakers ranged from public sector experts like Gina McCarthy, former head of the EPA, to social entrepreneurs, to leaders in the corporate world. It was inspiring to hear all the different paths that led these individuals to become such incredible change agents. Social impact leadership can take so many forms; it just takes a whole lot of personal commitment and perseverance.

The breakout sessions were opportunities for us to learn specific skills or perspectives related to different social and environmental issues. In “Designing with Empathy at the Base of the Pyramid”, I learned a framework for how to design a space, process, or product by understanding the needs of consumers who are members of the base of the pyramid and have had completely different life experiences than me. In other breakouts, I learned about different ways nonprofits, governments, and corporations are fighting food insecurity. I got advice from Ben and Jerry’s Jeff Furman about how to decide which issues your organization should support (his take: every issue that matters). I explored what attributes are important for nonprofits that are looking for “big bet” gifts of $10 million or more.

A few weeks ago, I was struggling to think about what business professions I could go into with my “nontraditional” passion for social justice and environmental sustainability. Now, I’m overwhelmed by all the different paths I could take and opportunities that might be ahead of me. I know I can make change in whatever sector I end up in. I’m ready to form unlikely partnerships, uplift the voices of my communities, lead from behind, and, to quote the great speaker and author Jean Case, put urgency before fear. I’m more excited now than ever for the future, and I will carry the energy and lessons I gained from the Net Impact Conference with me throughout the rest of my career.

I am so grateful for the BBA Council for truly making this experience possible for me. I would love to speak to anyone more about my experience, or anything social impact/sustainability related! Feel free to contact me at elbo@umich.edu.

Forté College to Business Leadership Conference

By Lindsey Bertone, BBA 2021

October 30, 2018

The Forté conference was an opportunity to learn how to be great on the job, participate in a marketplace simulation, and network with my peers and business professionals. Throughout this conference I was able to develop a better version of myself through the numerous activities, all thanks to BBA Council.

My favorite part of the conference was the keynote speaker, Marjie Terry, who was able to share her knowledge on how to be the best you can be at work. One of the major takeaways from this presentation was that you must exemplify GIFT, generosity, initiative, forward momentum, and transparency, at your workplace. The idea was that if you work on putting out positive energy in the workplace than good karma will come back around. Additionally, the goal is for everyone in an office to be able to exude executive presence. This means that you are confident in both what you say and do. There are three ways to radiate this confidence: look great, sound great, and have great content. Success is equally linked to competence and confidence, which is why working on confidence at work is crucial!

Another component of the speech focused on leaning in and how to position yourself amongst other coworkers. It is important that even at an entry level job you make sure you have a seat at the table, sit tall with hands ready on the table, and are leaning in. In order to ensure that your verbal contributions are impactful make sure to maintain a good pace, emphasize important parts, and pause when necessary. Overall, in order to be a leader in business you must make people love you and stay true to yourself!

The latter half of the conference was dedicated to working on a simulation in which we were opening a business in a new technological industry. With a team of five attendees we were all assigned positions within the corporations, such as VP of Finance, and were responsible for that division for all four quarters. In the end, my team was able to learn a lot about what decisions were effective and where we could have improved.

Not only was I able to take away many lessons from this conference, but I also had a chance to interact with several other Michigan students (go blue!), students from other universities, and corporate sponsors of the conference. I would highly recommend this conference for anyone with the opportunity to attend!

VERGE 18 Sustainability and Technology Conference

By Katie Summers, BBA 2020

October 29, 2018

A report issued earlier this month by the UN depicts our current situation worse than we have anticipated - a world of food shortages, wildfires, and complete death of coral reefs is threatening to become our reality as soon as 2040. This report anticipates a 1.5 degree Celsius increase in the atmosphere in 22 years; this potential damage to the world economy (of an estimated $54 trillion) is of speed and scale that has never before been seen in history. We live in a fundamentally changed word, and it’s time for us to change our approach to business, too.

However, if we wanted to create the single worst problem to test all of our psychological weaknesses, we’d find climate change the perfect issue. Climate change is slow-moving, complex, and intangible. Furthermore, it requires us to take proactive measures, instead of reactive, which humans innately prefer. Additionally, the responsibility for causing climate change is dispersed across all 7 billion of us, and taking action against it is positioned as a sacrifice of our current lifestyle.

But still, this issue is happening now. We see consequences not happening in the next generation, but in this one. Not when we are looking back on our lives, but still living it. If we do nothing, our children will not know our coastal cities, our coral reefs, and many of the species we have today. This is real, but millions of people, and admittedly myself, struggle to let this change how they live. We know this as fact, and yet this reality seems more a far off-fiction.

Volunteering for the VERGE 18 Conference for Sustainability and Technology, I have never experienced so many people together so passionate about reversing this reality. A three day event, VERGE drew sustainability pioneers from every industry to discuss topics ranging from plastic waste to autonomous vehicle and regenerative agriculture. I had the opportunity to sit in on conversations between leading experts on current environmental risks and hear from entrepreneurs who were leveraging the newest technology to reduce our impact.

I could fill pages on everything I was exposed to over the course of those three days, but what I am most thankful for is leaving VERGE with hope. Yes, we need to change our culture of use. Yes, we need to rethink our methods of transportation. But most importantly, there are dedicated people working in every industry, from small startups to major corporations, to make their own difference, and there are incredible applications of emerging technology that will help us succeed. From blockchain, to microgrids, to carbon sequestration, there is opportunity in every industry to reduce our impact, and it’ll be choices that won’t come as a sacrifice.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you’re interested in discussing particular topics, or learning more about how you can get involved in reducing your own environmental impact! You can visit the conference website at https://www.greenbiz.com/events/verge-conference/oakland/2018 and reach out to me at kamasu@umich.edu.

The Grace Hopper Conference

By Jane Wu, BBA 2020

October 23, 2018

The Grace Hopper Conference was hands down one of the most memorable experiences in my undergraduate career so far, many thanks to the BBA council and PwC. It is the world’s largest conference for women in technology, hosted by the Anita Borg Institute, who aims to combat the stigma of women in computer science and empower them to be the best they can be.

Despite not being a coder, I still found the conference to be inspirational with its workshops and interesting perspectives to technology that I’ve never thought of before. Going into the conference, my personal goal was to learn more about how technology can be combined with business to be used as catalysts for social impact. My favorite workshops discussed how technologies can be used for underserved communities. It focused its research on two main areas in India, using interactive technologies to: increase financial literacy within the women to increase access of healthcare and to combat the social barriers from children with autism. However, one of the most rewarding parts would definitely be meeting Priscilla Chan, from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. I enjoyed hearing her story about her parents escaping as refugees from Vietnam and also sharing my experiences in Vietnam two summers ago. Furthermore, it was inspirational to see her make huge strides and give back to community.

Lastly, another impactful experience was hearing from Anita Hill. She shared her story as a women in the workplace and her allegations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas. This was extremely touching, because of the Kavanaugh events going on at the same time. I was happy to see the conference end as a full circle and I look forward to seeing all of the powerful women I met at Grace Hopper, take over the world, in computing and everywhere else.

Out Women in business conference

By Chandra Sahu, BBA 2019

May 12, 2018

Since my freshman year, I have had the opportunity of attending a variety of fully expense-paid undergraduate business conferences focused on diverse candidates, including the JumpStart UGrad Forum and the Out For Undergraduate (O4U) Business and Marketing conferences. These conferences have undoubtedly furthered my professional journey by providing networking opportunities and information we don’t learn in school, but perhaps more importantly, they have brought me community. In a career track that lacks in diversity, such as Investment Banking, having a network of black and LGBTQ+ peers across the country to lean on in hard times and laugh with in good times provides a value beyond measure. This year, I attended the Out Women In Business conference in NYC for the first time. Unlike the other conferences I have attended, this one was not focused on the student-recruiter relationship. The conference brings LBT women from all across the career spectrum, limited to 300 attendees in order to foster high-quality networking and hands on learning. Alongside LBT women of various ages, races, and backgrounds, I participated in sessions including: Building Your Personal Brand While Building Your Network, OWIB Perspective: Negotiating For Success, and Suit Up! Queer Presentation in the Workplace. The sessions are extremely relevant to me as a young queer professional, but I was shocked at how relevant they continue to be for women even as they ascend the corporate ladder. It was at the same time both comforting and concerning to find a community of women who had faced struggles similar to me but also realize these struggles would continue far into my adult professional life. One of the eye-opening moments I had regarding this realization occurred during the “OWIB Perspective: Negotiating For Success” session. The speaker asked the crowd to raise their hand if they know that right now, or previously in their careers, they have been paid less than their worth. To my surprise, nearly every hand in the room went up. We’re talking about partners of firms and high-powered women here! I was shocked to see this. The speaker shared that one professional woman loses hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of their career simply because they do not negotiate for their worth, and more importantly, are not prepared to. As a population of LBT women, this weakens us as a community and can even lead us to less able to provide fruitful opportunities for our children. Next, the crowd was lead through an activity (which I hope you’ll take part in now!):

  1. Pull out your phone.
  2. Take a selfie. Smile big!
  3. Look at the person in the picture. Understand what that person is worth. Never let anyone tell you any differently.

Though it was a short, light-hearted exercise, it was powerful for me as a young, diverse professional entering the Finance industry. Positive affirmation is important. We often hold ourselves back, and that’s the easiest trap to fall into. Sharing this conference with so many diverse LBT women was a gratifying, community-building experience, and I am so thankful to be a Ross student and one of the few undergraduate voices who had a seat at the table. I look forward to returning as I move forward in my career and cannot wait to continue to build bridges with LBT professional women across the country in order to raise us up as a community, advocate for our needs, and celebrate our victories.

Top 5 Insights from 2018 Wharton People Analytics Conference

By Jonathan Hochberg, BBA 2020

April 10, 2018

From March 22nd to 23rd, I had the pleasure of attending Wharton’s 5th People Analytics Conference. The event was a whirlwind of presentations and networking, where I had the opportunity to learn about recent research from notable academics, enjoyed presentations from business professionals, and networked with current practitioners. It was truly exciting to see how quickly the field of people analytics is growing!

People analytics is a burgeoning field where data insights are leveraged to make employee decisions. The work in this space is typically done by interdisciplinary teams within Human Resources that gather and analyze data to generate insights and use them to make people decisions. People analytics projects span the employee lifecycle, all the way from improving candidate selection to predicting attrition. Currently, the largest people analytics practices reside within tech and finance at companies like Google, Facebook, and Capital One, but the space is rapidly expanding to the government, the nonprofit sector, and even to other industries. This growth is evident in the following chart, demonstrating the Google Search trends for “people analytics” from 2008 to 2018:

A classic example of a people analytics project is one that yielded the “Rule of Four,” where Google endeavored to find the optimal number of interviews to hire candidates. In the beginning, their hiring process was notorious for including an excessive number of interviews over several months. Google looked at how accurate their predictions would be based on after every interview and found that after four interviews, their predictions became only incrementally more accurate (<1% better). Afterwards, they tested the performance of having many interviewers — compared to that of just four — and found their prediction accuracies were nearly identical. Thus the “Rule of Four” was born: 4 interviewers, 4 interviews. This project provides a great example, as it was born out of a business need to increase the speed of the hiring process and it resulted in de-stressing the candidate experience and saving Google employees thousands of hours.

Here are the five most impactful insights (of many) I gained from the conference:

#1: People analytics must serve the business need — not vice-versa.

This sentiment was echoed repeatedly by numerous different speakers throughout the weekend. At a conference of self-proclaimed “people geeks,” there was a considerable desire to explore new or exciting methods. However, one must not lose sight of the overall business strategy that the people analytics department serves: to ensure their work will yield actionable results. In practice, this means that practitioners must start by considering how to address a business need, rather than attempting to derive a business need from conducting a people analytics project.

#2: “People analytics is an ecosystem.”

Brian Welle, Director of People Analytics at Google

The most effective people analytics teams have people of several different backgrounds and proficiencies to maximize the effect of these projects. The general process for a people analytics project requires gathering, analyzing, and deriving insights from data, and subsequently communicating these insights to the rest of the company. Because these tasks are so disparate, it is important to have dedicated specialists for each of these roles. The best teams are comprised of data engineers, data scientists, HR business partners, content experts (typically I/O Psych or OB PhDs), and communication managers, all working in tandem to develop effective solutions and disseminate them throughout the company and industry. As people analytics expands from large corporations to startups and the nonprofit sector, this phrase still applies as it is important to share the learnings and use cases of people analytics.

#3: “Use data to make simple decisions. But use it only as support for complex decisions.”

Stewart Butterfield, Slack CEO

As a data-driven approach becomes more of a required mentality in the business world, it will be used for a wider subset of strategic decisions. However, there are large variations in terms of the depth and complexity of analyses that can be performed. Importantly, data is sufficient proof to execute on smaller choices, but should only be used as a piece of evidence for business-critical ones. A good example of this is the Google software engineer promotion process, a famous project undertaken by its people analytics team. They created a predictive promotion model to determine which software engineers to promote based on weighting the employee’s performance, self recommendation, and manager recommendation. The model was “reliable,” “back-tested well,” “stable across cycles,” and 90% accurate for a third of promotion decisions — yet was never used. The software engineering team rejected this model entirely, because they wanted ownership and control over the promotion process. Deciding who to promote is complex and subjective; thus, analytics should be a component of it, but not wholly deterministic.

#4: Departments must prioritize transparency, data security, and ethicality from Day 1

As many established companies start up their own internal people analytics divisions, emulating the best practices for ensuring successful people analytics is crucial. Critical to people analytics is employee buy-in, as the recommendations it generates are useless unless they are implemented by the company’s employees. This buy-in is earned, but must be maintained through appropriate data security and transparency about the department’s projects. Data security is very easily overlooked, yet is one of the most critical, as the people data that analysts access are the most sensitive and confidential. Companies should provide access to selective parts of their employee data on a case-by-case basis and have a robust security network, but should also endeavor to communicate their methods and goals. Employees can then consent to participating, which will help them feel empowered by the findings, which encourages them to follow the recommendations that are made.

#5: People analytics is coming. And you should be ready.

With the several hundred person audience and the significant buy-in from academia and industry, it is clear that people analytics will be coming to your company soon. Whether this means your company will be adopting a data-driven mentality or expanding its analytical capabilities to include projects concerning employees, you should prepare. Regardless of your technical skills or role within your company, consider how you can educate yourself about this space and spread its values throughout your company. Position yourself to lead the people data revolution in your company and improve the entire employee lifecycle!

I would like to say a massive thank you to one of my personal heroes, Adam Grant, for hosting this event and taking the time to speak to me during the conference. Additionally, I am appreciative to The Ross School of Business for funding my experience. I am also deeply grateful to all of the kind and knowledgeable people who took the time to connect with me during the conference: Jeremy Shapiro, Ben Waber, Carrie Ott-Holland, Angie Peng, Jennifer Lin, Josh Wondra, Andrew Doyle, Kun Gu, Karyn Marciniak, Peter Yu and others.

See you at WPAC 6!

MIT Sustainability Conference: Good Jobs for a Thriving Economy

By Sophia McPherson, BBA 2020

March 28, 2018

My first glimpse into the realm of both social and environmental sustainability came about in my first semester of the BBA program in the BA 200 course. My insights from this course ultimately led me to enrolling in Organizational Studies/Environment 208 -- Business and the Environment. From my exposure of thinking critically about all decisions that a business must make and how that impacts the environment and social standing, I stumbled upon MIT’s 10th annual Sustainability Summit. I decided to attend this conference because although I learned some fundamentals surrounding sustainable issues that businesses face, I had not yet been able to fully immerse myself in discussions with industry leaders, experts, and students from other academic fields outside of business. There were multiple panels offered throughout the day but here are a few of my major takeaways from the panels that I was able to sit in on:

  • “...all of this stemmed from a culture of seeing people as a cost.” -Zeynep Ton, Adjunct Associate Professor of Operations Management, Co-Founder and President of Good Jobs Institute at MIT Sloan School of Management

In this opening keynote, the problem of seeing labor workers simply as a cost were explained when researching supply chain management and more specifically phantom stock-outs -- a retail stockout phenomenon that is supposedly caused by inventory shrinkage or by shelf execution failure. However, as argued by Professor Ton from her research, in highly competitive industries (especially those with smaller profit margins) where their primary focus is on minimizing costs, labor wages are bound to be reduced. “Since labor is such a big part of expenses, the goal is to minimize expenses. And when you see labor as a cost, you design an entire system including a performance-management system that is focused on minimizing that cost. That focus leads to the under-investment of people, which leads to operational problems, which reduce sales and profits. When sales are lower...labor budgets shrink as well.” -Zeynep Ton

  • “Operational excellence is money, and to think otherwise is naive.” -Clara Brenner, Managing Partner at Urban Innovation Fund

Operational excellence is the intersectionality of problem-solving, teamwork, and leadership results in the ongoing improvement in an organization’s workplace. This process entails focusing on consumer needs, ensuring that employees are satisfied and empowered, and continually improving the current activities in the workplace. As mentioned in the Data and Measurement: Data As a Tool For Becoming a High-Road Employer panel, the key to sustaining operational excellence is empowering the people with the most money, which subsequently is why businesses play a major role in societies greatest discrepancies. Additionally, it was mentioned that investors need to be much more involved with demanding specific check-in metrics.

  • “Workforce is the next frontier for sustainability...the change for business and society.” -Mark Estrada, Assistant Vice President in Global Human Resources & Talent Acquisition at State Street

In this discussion of The Business Case for Inclusive Hiring: Connecting People with Barriers to Employment to Quality Jobs, panelists tabled their topic around what the workforce will look like in the future. With an earlier mention of Master’s of Business Administration programs not emphasizing enough on HR and human management, it was later mentioned in this panel that we are bound to see a huge disrupt in HR in the coming years. With that being said, we then led into inclusive hiring. An honorable mention here was Gap Inc. for their strong focus on hiring young teenagers after conducting research that found hiring teens at the age of 16 made it less likely for early age pregnancy and illegal activity. Gail Gershon, Executive Director of Community Leadership from Gap Inc. also shared a very personal story of a young woman who was hired as a retail worker many years ago and how her aspirations have become more attainable given the educational and financial opportunities offered by Gap.

  • “Love, power, and data.” -Jason Jay, Senior Lecturer and Director of the Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan School of Management

In the closing remarks, the summit was recapped in just three words: love, power, and data. From all of the panels held that day, all of the empowering discussions exemplified the necessity for expressing real concern and care, utilizing our authority and leverage, and implementing groundbreaking data to combat some of our greatest challenges. In doing so, we must incorporate all three components simultaneously where each attribute thrives off another. “We use power to express our love and data to know where to direct our power. Power without love is reckless and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Without data, power and love are blind.” -Jason Jay

Korean American Students Conference

By Ellie Kim, BBA 2019

March 24, 2018

On March 16th, Korean American college students from all over the United States gathered at Northwestern University for the 29th annual Korean American Students Conference. Throughout the weekend, we attended panels touching on various topics ranging from entrepreneurship to journalism. After each panel, students were given the opportunity to ask questions and network with each of the speakers.

Unique from other career panels I’ve attended, each of these workshops addressed how the Korean American identity has shaped the individuals’ experiences in the industry. However, I was intrigued by how despite having the same ethnic social identity, each of the panelists had very different stories and experiences to share with the students.

To my surprise, my favorite of the panels was the fashion panel which consisted of Dae Lim (the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Sundae School), Lydia Forstmann (the former CCO of Rag & Bone), and Peter Kim (the founder and CEO of Hudson Jeans). Lydia, who followed a corporate path and faced discrimination in the white dominated industry, had a very different experience in fighting against the inequity, than Dae and Peter who both followed an entrepreneurial path. Additionally, as a woman, Lydia had even more obstacles to overcome to reach the C-Suite. However, all three spoke of how time and time again, they had to ignore the discouragement of others, focus on their own work, and work harder and longer than their peers to prove their potential. Once they proved their ability, people were able to see past their skin color.

Over the weekend, I was not only encouraged to see that Korean Americans were in a position of leadership in so many different industries, but I was also inspired by their stories of overcoming discrimination to reach a position where no one could look down on them because of their skin color.

[Some Hook/ Bait/ Hot Take] + Other Takeaways from Blockchain Connect 2018

By Naman Gupta and Danny Sheridan, BBAs 2018 (Representatives of Wolverine Crypto Trading)

February 6, 2018

To my surprise, my favorite of the panels was the fashion panel which consisted of Dae Lim (the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Sundae School), Lydia Forstmann (the former CCO of Rag & Bone), and Peter Kim (the founder and CEO of Hudson Jeans). Lydia, who followed a corporate path and faced discrimination in the white dominated industry, had a very different experience in fighting against the inequity, than Dae and Peter who both followed an entrepreneurial path. Additionally, as a woman, Lydia had even more obstacles to overcome to reach the C-Suite. However, all three spoke of how time and time again, they had to ignore the discouragement of others, focus on their own work, and work harder and longer than their peers to prove their potential. Once they proved their ability, people were able to see past their skin color.

With 1,000+ attendees from around the world, Blockchain Connect 2018 gathered cryptocurrency thought leaders and founders to discuss the scalability and diverse applications of blockchain technology.

Danny Sheridan & I, on behalf of Wolverine Crypto Trading, had the pleasure of attending - our main takeaways below.

Quick Highlights

  • Neither crypto, banks, nor government can afford to work without the others
  • Big tech > big banks
  • Incentive structures
  • Customers care about surplus; not blockchainDeep Dive

Deep Dive

  • Neither crypto, banks, nor government can afford to work without the others.
  1. Historically, cryptocurrency evangelists have endorsed anti-bank and anti-government sentiment given the centralized nature of our current financial and legal systems.
  2. As the mainstream popularity of digital assets increases, however, it’s evident that the crypto community, government, and big banks cannot continue to exist in isolation.
  3. Cryptocurrency markets must service a wider range of participants, including individual and institutional investors that have traditionally relied on banking infrastructure to conduct business at scale. Integrating banks' robust custodial, clearing, settlement, and brokerage services could promote market liquidity and transparency: making digital assets more accessible and secure for everyone.
  4. Contrary to popular perception (given recent global crackdowns and negative price effects), both governments and investors could actually stand to benefit from cryptocurrency regulation. If markets were paired with banks’ infrastructure, it would be easier for the government to set rules and standards for digital assets. Basic oversight can reduce wild speculation, eliminate bad actors that lead people to lose a lot of money, and allow for continued investment in society by fairly taxing capital gains (just like any other investment).
  5. If banks, governments, and the crypto community don’t cooperate on tackling the problems of oversight and scalability, they set themselves up for a future of continuous friction. All three parties are naturally averse to what they don’t understand, and the burden to properly educate the others on how they can prosperously co-exist must be shared.
  • Big tech > big banks
  1. Apple pay + crypto integration
  2. Continuation of earlier theme of working with, not against, big players
  3. There’s mutual interest
  • Incentive structures
  1. Incentive structures are hard; how do you make a more sustainable blockchain while maintaining an aligned incentive structure (need to define more) (danny)
  2. Movement away from proof of work (into something), energy concerns + cost of mining (systematically unequal)
  • Customers care about surplus; not blockchain

“I think the mistake people can make in the broad blockchain space is not being focused enough… you [a blockchain company] have to solve a problem for a real customer. If you solve that problem, and you solve it well, you won’t have to worry about it. -Brad Garlinghouse, CEO @ Ripple

While blockchain technologies and applications are fascinating, sometimes, the business case for decentralization doesn’t add up. What happens when the cost of building and maintaining a decentralized system exceeds its marginal benefit? Additional data integrity and distributed consensus is only worth as much as the additional surplus for the company.

To that extent, the most impressive businesses enabled by blockchain seem to be the ones that have focused on delivering extra surplus to a very specific customer; in Ripple’s case, cost savings for banks executing cross-border payments.

A natural follow-up, and more food for thought: how many of today’s blockchain applications and ICO’s are solutions looking for problems, instead of the inverse?

Alternative Investments Conference

By Temisan Hambraeus, BBA 2020

March 19, 2018

With the help of the BBA Council, I was able to attend the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity’s Ninth Annual Alternative Investments Conference (AIC). Sponsors for Educational Opportunity a non-profit professional development program providing Black, Hispanic, and Native American undergrads with pre-internship development, training, and internship support across multiple lines of business. Their annual AIC is aimed at giving students exposure to the Alternative Investments industry and have a chance to hear from industry leaders.

This year’s event hosted speakers from across the largest Private Equity, Venture Capital and Real Estate firms on the street including The Carlyle Group, Blackstone, KKR, Insight Venture Partners and more. During the event, I had a chance to hear from three of the Private Equity industry’s most influential leaders: Joseph Bae, Co-President & Co-Chief Operating Officer of KKR, Jim Coulter, Co-CEO and founding partner of TPG and David Rubenstein Co-Founder and Co-CEO of the Carlyle Group.

The speakers shared their views on the private equity industry highlighting the current expensive equity market which has made firms less willing to deploy their capital, rising wage costs due to wage inflation and less liquidity in investments making exits hard at times. Furthermore, a large part of future capital in the industry will be provided by sovereign wealth funds instead of public pension funds which have historically been the largest investors in Private Equity funds. All speakers emphasized the importance of a diverse workplace. As the industry progresses, it is necessary to have diverse teams with diverse skill sets in order to get a full spectrum of perspectives on potential deals. Finally, both Coulter and Rubenstein spoke to the founding of the industry where firms sought to create value by generating efficiency within portfolio companies. They emphasized that firms should put more time into creating value for society by spending more on philanthropy and creating a culture of giving back within the next generation of future leaders at their respective firms and on Wall St.

Wharton Restructuring & Distressed Investing Conference

By Robert Janeway, BBA 2018

March 12, 2018

Throughout my time here at the Ross School of Business and as a member of student run investment clubs, I have been able to build a foundation in valuation, accounting, and investing theory. As my interest in value investing grew through various pitches I led in the Maize and Blue Endowment Fund, I started to explore the distressed investing space, which ultimately resulted in attending the 14TH Annual Wharton Restructuring & Distressed Investing Conference. Distressed investing requires a strong grasp of how a business operates and the relationship between price and value. However, the area also requires practioners to know the bankruptcy code well as some situations can end up being quite litigious. This was illustrated throughout the Conference but certainly discussed in more detail during the panel on Chapter 11 cases that span several jurisdictions. Knowing the incentives of the parties in a large scale restructuring is necessary for expressing an investment idea as the management team, secured creditors, vendors, unsecured bondholders, and pension plan sponsors often having competing interests.

The Conference was also insightful from the valuation side as I was fortunate enough to sit in on the distressed hedge fund panel. Professionals from some of the leading asset managers gave their perspectives on various industries and situations they were involved in during the past year. The M&A process was discussed as the potential bid an acquirer may submit can have a large impact on the ultimate recovery a creditor faces. This panel in particular allowed me to apply my knowledge from previous internships and the Ross School of Business as I listened to how a private equity firm approaches an acquisition following a contentious battle over certain assets. Concluding, the 14th Annual Wharton Restructuring & Distressed Investing Conference strengthened my understanding of the space and how dynamic this form of investing is.

The North America Bitcoin Conference Trip Recap

By Abhimanyu Muchhal, BBA 2018

February 2, 2018

12 members from Wolverine Crypto Trading had the chance to attend the largest event in crypto history: The North America Bitcoin Conference (TNABC) gathered over 4000 people from across the world in Miami last weekend! I had the chance to be a part of that group thanks to support from the BBA Council.

This was my first time attending a major crypto event, and it was definitely an eye-opening experience. Here are my insights and takeaways from the trip:

  1. As someone who just got into this space in November, my motivation to attend this conference was to learn more about the technology and resulting applications. Instead, the conference’s primary purpose seemed to be connecting investors with ICO (initial coin offering) companies. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this…my expectations were just off. Most people I met at the conference were not developers, rather investors and salespeople. For them it was the perfect venue. Given that over 4000 people paid to attend, clearly the organizers had tapped into something big.
  2. A majority of the tech power in the world is concentrated in 5 geographic areas. Finance is even more exclusive — with New York and London hosting the majority of wealth. If the attendance at this conference is any sign, crypto has transcended these geographic boundaries. The potential for large-scale disruptive impact offered by blockchain tech, combined with the recent speculative hype, has attracted investors and entrepreneurs from every corner of the globe. In fact, I met a couple of attendees who were moving their entire families from their native countries to live in Zurich, Singapore and Dubai for work. Why? The aforementioned countries have friendly crypto tax policies. Incredible!
  3. There was a blockchain application for everything at this conference. The usual contenders finance, supply chain, healthcare, were all well represented. In addition there were companies that integrated blockchain with art, digital advertising, telecom…and even beauty salons. You name the industry and there was an company ready to provide a “disruptive and innovative blockchain solution” (and also ask for your money).
  4. For ICO prospects TNABC is the biggest stage. The viability of their businesses came down to whether they could generate enough interest and investment in Miami. Each company gets 12–15 mins to stand up in front of 3500 people (and countless more watching online) to pitch. The reality of such a time-constrained setting is that it isn’t the best idea, the best technical implementation, or the best white paper that wins the day. The most compelling pitches were the ones that told a story, had articulate presenters, and visually appealing slides. The rest was often an afterthought.