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Fletcher Students Advance to the Final Round of the Kellogg-Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investment Challenge

The challenge: devise a novel financial instrument to improve the world.

Each year, the Kellogg-Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge invites teams of graduate students from around the world to submit innovative financing and investment ideas to tackle some of our world’s most pressing environmental, social and governance challenges. Of the 109 submissions representing 365 students from 80 graduate schools this year, only 12 finalist teams were selected to advance to the final round and present their ideas at Morgan Stanley’s Hong Kong offices in April 2019.

And you better believe there’s a team of Fletcher students in those finals.  

Second year students JP Craven, Arkady Ho, Rob Fitzgerald, and Shrinal Sheth (all F19 candidates) co-created the Indian Smart Solar Muni+ Fund and are among the finalists preparing for competition in Hong Kong. “We found out about the competition last year,” said Craven. “We all know each other from taking the same finance classes and in January, we submitted the prospectus.”

While innovative investment is the focus of the competition, the pool of applicants has expanded beyond business programs. “It’s actually fewer business schools than usual this year with more policy and environmental studies programs represented,” said Craven. “One of the goals of our team is to position Fletcher beside top-tier business schools and to show that we can compete on the same stage.” 

“We see that as one of Fletcher’s big value propositions from the perspective of potential students,” added Fitzgerald. “A lot of people in our international business cohort are very focused on sustainability and impact so it makes sense to position Fletcher and our proposal among this pool of universities.” 

Teams are tasked with developing creative financial solutions that solve an environmental or social problem, while aiming to provide competitive returns to private-sector investors. The Indian Smart Solar Muni+ Fund prospectus states that India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world with major energy needs and pollution issues. In response, the Indian government implemented the “Smart Cities” initiative with a focus on solar energy production funded by municipal and green bonds. “Our product is attempting to leverage this federal initiative and get states and cities to raise more capital through Smart Cities that will go directly into funding solar infrastructure projects on the industrial and commercial side, and allow investors to earn interest on those investments,” said Craven.

“The contextual environment in India is such that there are a lot of different stakeholders that want to grow in this area,” said Ho. “I think that’s the big part of the innovation.” Fitzgerald added, “the components we’re combining are really innovative. Individually, they’ve been used before but we’re stacking them in a way that hasn’t been done to open up the market and attract more international investors.” 

“We are using the institutions that are already in place and need to be improved to our advantage,” said Sheth. “We believe using our product to make those improvements will benefit investors and the country itself.”

Teams are given access to mentors as they prepare to present their ideas in Hong Kong. Judges score each team in the following categories: creativity and financial innovation, impact and scale, feasibility, quality of due diligence and financials, and presentation. “We won’t know who the judges are or where the questions will come from so we’ll be prepared for everything,” said Craven. The winning team will be awarded $10,000 and invited to attend and present on a panel at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference 2019, to be held in Los Angeles at the end of the month. 

The final competition round will take place on April 12, 2019 at the Morgan Stanley office in Hong Kong. Stay tuned for an update from the Fletcher team!