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The 2018-2019 Program of Total Impact Portfolio Challenge Draws to an Exciting End

The winning team from the University of Vermont with the program judges, Jackie VanderBrug, Glen MacDonald, and Michael Lear.

The winning team from the University of Vermont with the program judges, Jackie VanderBrug, Glen MacDonald, and Michael Lear.

In 2018, Good Capital Project (GCP) partnered with Wharton Social Impact Initiative (WSII) to develop the Total Impact Portfolio Challenge, an annual “100% ESG and impact” portfolio construction competition for graduate students.

It was motivated by Good Capital Project and Wharton Social Impact’s shared philosophy that there is a spectrum of impact that can be achieved through capital allocations across asset classes. We wanted to inculcate portfolio-level ESG and impact integration approaches amongst aspiring investment managers, financial advisors, and institutional consultants.

With that goal in mind, we officially launched the Total Impact Portfolio Challenge (TIPC) in August 2018. In the very first year, 26 teams from 19 graduate schools across the United States participated. It was a resounding affirmation of the growing interest in sustainable investing in colleges around the country.

Bank of America, sponsored the inaugural program. Summing up why Bank of America supported TIPC, Jackie VanderBrug, head of sustainable and impact investment strategy in the Chief Investment Office for Merrill and Bank of America Private Bank said, “Demand continues to grow for investments that achieve both financial and social returns. We are delighted to offer our support to students interested in learning how to meet investors’ evolving needs.”

Inaugural Finals

The 5 finalist teams of Total Impact Portfolio Challenge at Total Impact Philadelphia before the finals.

The 5 finalist teams of Total Impact Portfolio Challenge at Total Impact Philadelphia before the finals.

The five finalist teams announced in March hailed from Boston University, Columbia, Fordham, Yale, and the University of Vermont.

Selecting the finalist teams presented an interesting challenge to the Good Capital Project and Wharton Social Impact Initiative teams. “We were struck by the range of approaches students took to creatively integrate ESG and impact considerations into their portfolio allocation decisions,” said Sharadiya Dasgupta, managing director of Good Capital Project. “They looked at individual holdings of mutual funds and ETFs to dissect ESG scores, studied the use of proceeds of municipal bonds, and scanned the composition of fund management teams to align to gender diversity and inclusion goals.”

The five finalist teams travelled to Philadelphia to present at Total Impact Philadelphia on May 1. It was a rivetting 60 minutes of presentations as the schools went on stage and presented their portfolios to the final panel of judges comprising of seasoned investment management practitioners like Jackie VanderBrug of Bank of America, Michael Lear of Bernstein Private Wealth, and Glen MacDonald of Bronfman Rothschild, and the conference audience of investors, investment advisors, and asset managers.

Maura Kalil, Emily Klein, Andrew Mallory, Peter Seltzer, and Alyssa Stankiewicz from University of Vermont’s Sustainable Innovation MBA was declared the first-ever winner of the Total Impact Portfolio Challenge amid much cheering from the participating students, and the conference attendees.

A team from Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business (Yu An, Cezar Aragao, Baoying Huang, Zihan Jiang, and Johanna Woldai) was the first runner-up.

The winning team from the Univeristy of Vermont with their faculty advisor, Prof. Charles R. Schnitzlein, and the teams from Good Capital Project and Wharton Social Impact Initiative.

The winning team from the Univeristy of Vermont with their faculty advisor, Prof. Charles R. Schnitzlein, and the teams from Good Capital Project and Wharton Social Impact Initiative.

It was a fitting end to the inaugural year. Nick Ashburn, senior director at the Wharton Social Impact Initiative reiterated, “At Wharton and beyond, we see growing student interest in impact investing. Venture capital often gets all of the attention on campus and in the industry, but asset owners are increasingly looking to integrate impact across all of their investments – from public equities and fixed income to alternatives. The Total Impact Portfolio Challenge equips students for a wider range of careers that will meet this demand.”

Along the way, participating teams were provided content and resources to aid their research by Toniic, Aapyrl, and Align Impact.

Stay tuned: WSII and GCP are currently designing the 2019-2020 program and we look forward to taking the Challenge to more universities and schools. Year 2 of TIPC officially opens for applications in August 2019!

Rolando Garcia