U.Va. Team Takes Second Place at Cornell's Sustainable Investment Challenge

May 21, 2009 — Second-year University of Virginia students Hana Abbas, Connor Fusselman, Sidhant Ganeriwalla and Donald McGregor earned a second-place finish in Cornell University's annual "SustaInvest" Sustainable Investment Challenge, held April 17 in Ithaca, N.Y.

Some 50 teams – many of them composed of M.B.A. students – were tasked with constructing an investment portfolio that maximized both sustainability and profitability. Abbas, Fusselman, Ganeriwalla and McGregor are all members of the McIntire School of Commerce's student-run Socially Responsible Investment Organization, which is open to students around Grounds.

"These students – none of whom were McIntire students at the time of the competition – did an incredibly impressive job of both researching the companies for their portfolio and then presenting their work to a tough panel of judges," said McIntire finance professor Mark White, who helped advise the group. "I'm looking forward to seeing what they'll do when we have them as students at McIntire."

White noted that McIntire business communication professor Marcia Pentz played a key role in preparing the team to make its pitch to the judges.

Also of critical importance, White said, was the role played by third- and fourth-year McIntire students Peter Cobos, Peter Elbaor, John Gregory, Puneet Maheshwari and John Messamore, who mentored the presenting team.

"Our success at SustaInvest was largely the result of all the support we received from the McIntire community," said Fusselman, who was recently accepted to the Commerce School, to which students apply in their second year at U.Va. "Our team received a tremendous amount of guidance from faculty members and students, enabling us to improve our presentation skills and expand our knowledge of sustainability and investing."

Under the tutelage of the McIntire students, the team devised a portfolio of stocks in three companies: Acciona SA, a Spanish-based green energy company; Intercell AG, an Austrian medical company specializing in the production of vaccines; and Hyflux Water Trust, a Singapore-based global water business.

"We chose companies that made products that are – and will continue to be – in high demand," McGregor said. "People always need energy, clean water and health care.

"We were able to convince the judges that these companies are producing products that are sustainable, and that the companies themselves are financially strong."

McGregor and Fusselman agree that the experience of competing in SustaInvest was "amazing."

"I learned so much – about working in teams, communicating effectively, and, of course, making smart sustainable investment decisions," Fusselman said. "I'm so proud of our team's success in the competition, and I look forward to bringing back a first-place finish next spring."