John Graft, MBA 24, admits that he went “a little overboard” competing in four stock competitions during his first year at Haas. But the hours spent paid off. His team’s stock pitch in front of judges at University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler led to a coveted summer internship offer at his first-choice firm: Harris Associates in Chicago.
“The person who interviewed me at Harris had listened to me pitch at the UNC competition,” Graft said. For Graft and a group of Berkeley Haas students focused on careers in public markets investing, stock pitch competitions are an integral part of the Haas finance experience, allowing students to synthesize stock research and network with top firms that often judge the competitions.
Public markets investing is on the rise at Haas, said Bill Rindfuss, executive director of strategic programs for finance. Six first-year students seeking positions in public markets investing accepted summer internships at top investment firms including Blackrock, TCW, PIMCO, Clearbridge, Harris Associates, and Neuberger Berman.
“A decade ago we had up to a dozen MBA students going to public markets investing roles in a year,” he said. “Over time, student interest shifted more to tech investment banking and venture capital. While those interests remain strong, it’s great to see public markets investing bouncing back.”
Multiple internship offers
In a particularly difficult year for hiring, Haas exceeded expectations this year, with some students receiving multiple offers, said Ryan Tan, MBA 23, a Double Bear and the Berkeley Haas Investment Club president, who has worked closely with undergraduate and MBA peers to create more finance opportunities. That included bringing an impressive array of top industry speakers to Haas like Christina Ma, MBA 01, a partner and head of Greater China Equities at Goldman Sachs; Ben Meng, MFE 03, executive vice president and chairman of Asia Pacific at Franklin Templeton, and Ben Allen, MBA 05, CEO of Parnassus Investments.
In a particularly difficult year for hiring, Haas exceeded expectations this year, with some students receiving multiple offers. — Ryan Tan, MBA 23
Wearing many hats, Tan is also a graduate student instructor for the undergraduate Financial Economics course and a principal with the pioneering Haas Sustainable Investment Fund. (Since 2008, student principals in the Sustainable Investment Fund have more than tripled the initial investment to over $4 million, learning about SRI and ESG investment strategies and practices.)
Students in the public markets investing track agree that their group is collaborative, helping each other both in class and during job searches. They’re also given the chance to participate in a half-dozen stock pitch competitions that the club enters annually.
At competitions, teams develop a thesis around a stock or bond, build a financial model to value the security, evaluate the risks of the investment, and build a Powerpoint after synthesizing the research. “You put this together and pitch the security to a panel of judges, all of whom work at the top investment management firms,” Graft said.
Navigating pitch competitions
MBA students credit Tan for mentoring teams on how to navigate a pitch competition.
“He helped us to understand what the judges were looking for,” said Austin Schoff, MBA 24, a co-president of the Haas Investment Club, who led an MBA student team at the MIT Sloan School Stock Pitch Competition last November. Haas placed second at MIT Sloan, second at Chicago Booth, and third at the UNC Alpha Challenge.
Schoff, who came to Haas planning to pivot from private wealth management, landed an internship this summer with the equity research team at TCW.
“Ryan has done an enormous amount of work,” said Steve Etter, who teaches finance at Haas and is a founding partner at Greyrock Capital Group. “It’s nice to see when a student goes beyond himself for the benefit of all.”
Xavier Jefferson, MBA 24, competed in a pitch challenge online hosted by Columbia Business School and at the in-person event at Chicago Booth.
“At Haas, we go to as many challenges as we want and that gives you exposure to all the firms and prepares you to pitch a stock or bond,” he said. “That’s a huge part of the interview process, and having the practice of pitching gives you a leg up.” A Toigo Fellow and a Haas Finance Fellow, Jefferson will intern at Clearbridge this summer.
“At Haas, we go to as many challenges as we want and that gives us exposure to all the firms and prepares you to pitch a stock or bond.” —Xavier Jefferson, MBA 24
After participating in multiple pitch competitions—as usually the only woman or one of two women—on the team, Meredith Albion, MBA 24, noted that the competitions would benefit from having more female members.
As a Berkeley Haas Finance Fellow in investment management Albion was assigned a female mentor, who helped prepare her to interview for summer internships. (All 12 of the Finance Fellows named each year are assigned a Haas alumni mentor.) Albion credits her mentor with helping her land an internship at PIMCO in Newport Beach this summer. Like other first-year MBA students in the Investment Club, she plans to work on the Haas Sustainable investment Fund next year and integrate sustainable investing into her career.
With Albion, Schoff, and Graft at the helm as co-presidents of the Haas Investment Club —Tan said he’s confident that Haas will continue its success.
“The message we need to get out is that if you come to Haas for investment management and sustainable investing you will be involved and plugged in, you will be given mentorship,” Tan said. “And people get jobs.”