Winning the second consecutive National Energy Finance Challenge for the McCombs School of Business proves that the school has one of the best energy finance courses in the country, said members of the team that won this year’s title and $10,000 in prize money.
The seventh-annual challenge concluded last month and required five graduate students in the MBA program to present a finance plan for energy development to some of the energy industry’s most influential leaders. The McCombs students went up against 15 other top schools in the nation including Yale, Purdue and Columbia.
“We were really thrilled to win against a lineup of really tough competition,” said team member Chris Wolf. “It shows McCombs is one of the best in the nation.”
Wolf said the team, comprised of himself, John Shaddix, Jake Stroud, Sudamsh Bai Reddy and Ben Beyer, had one weekend to research a case written by Chevron. The team had to come up with a hypothetical finance plan that would not only develop an oil field in an impoverished African nation, but also finance social programs that would benefit citizens of the nation.
Wolf said the team knew they had submitted a good plan for the challenge, but understood winning would be difficult.
“We knew we had a good product and had worked really hard, but we also knew the talent of the other schools,” Wolf said. “We were pleasantly surprised to win at that level of competition.”
The challenge, which began seven years ago under the direction of the McCombs Energy Finance Group, a student organization, makes participants think critically about current issues facing the industry, said John Butler, clinical associate professor at the McCombs School’s Energy Management and Innovation Center.
“The idea is that Chevron, who writes the case every year, stops and looks around and focuses on real issues they are dealing with right now,” Butler said. “They make it into a case for our students.”
Butler said the event also gives leaders in the industry such as sponsors Chevron, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and EMIC a chance to meet with students.
Sudamsh Bai Reddy said he knew the competition would be stiff when they presented their plan for financing social programs to a hypothetical government, but he said he never expected the judges in the final round of competition to be so tough.
“They tried to show what happens in a real negotiation with a country’s government,” Bai Reddy said. “We started to present three or four slides but after we started they began questioning us like an actual negotiation.”
Beyer said the ability to interact with leading industry officials was a great part of the challenge.
“We presented to the CFO of Chevron and got to represent McCombs on a national stage,” Beyer said. “It was an honor. You don’t get to do that every day in the classroom.”