A team of four incoming MBA students took home an $800 prize on Aug. 22, 2019, for winning a live case competition sponsored by investment bank Morgan Stanley.
First-year students in the full-time program at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business were divided into 12 teams during their two-week orientation.
The challenge was to figure out how Morgan Stanley could encourage collaboration on a newly formed global team with offices in different time zones. Students were given three days to prepare their recommendations.
Instead of presenting to professors or classmates, they pitched their ideas directly to company executives.
“It was nice to be kind of thrown in the deep end a little bit,” said Virginia Pierre, part of the winning team. “The professors did a great job of giving us some core things to think about.”
Unlike traditional case competitions, which involve historic business problems, a live case competition involves an ongoing challenge in real-time with real people and data.
“This is not a backward-looking problem that Morgan Stanley has solved already, but a real-life challenge the company is currently facing,” Maryland Smith management professor Neta Moye told the MBA participants during their orientation.
To manage expectations and stress levels, Moye and her colleagues made sure to ease the groups into the activity. After multiple years of running the competition, they have found that a three-day window is the right amount of time for the sometimes nervous groups to prepare.
“If we tell them too much they start to get mired in details,” Moye said.
The 2019 challenge was particularly open-ended, calling on students to consider both technological and interpersonal skills in their presentations. The freedom to explore different options yielded a plethora of ideas, serving as a mutually beneficial process for students and Morgan Stanley representatives.
The winning group — consisting of Pierre, Braden Walden, Alyeen Jones and Balajee Chandrsekarans — offered the most comprehensive solution, Smith professor Paulo Prochno said.
“It addressed major challenges that the company is facing now,” he said. “There was a path, recognizing short-term and recognizing long-term solutions.”
Pierre said the activity encouraged freedom of thought and ultimately showed the numerous resources that Smith has to offer. “It forces you to go through the live feedback that you don’t get in any other format,” she said.
— Thomas Hindle, Maryland Smith Communications Writer