Texas MBAs Win Second Consecutive National Energy Finance Challenge

A team of master of business administration (MBA) students from the McCombs School of Business won first place and $10,000 at the seventh annual National Energy Finance Challenge on Sept. 30. This is the second year in a row a team from McCombs took home the top prize, and the fifth national case competition won by a McCombs MBA team in the last 12 months.

The National Energy Finance Challenge, hosted by the McCombs School at The University of Texas at Austin, is a business case competition focused on real-life finance issues within the energy industry. The 2011 case involved developing and commercializing oil resources found in a fictional resource-rich-but-economically-disadvantaged developing country. The challenge included choosing a pipeline route while designing a suite of social investment and infrastructure projects that would benefit the people and government. To further complicate matters, the country had a history of piracy, civil war and political corruption.

"The winning team was able to understand the 'big picture,'" said Roger Ihne, a partner at Deloitte, who served as a judge. "They did the research to understand the difference in the oil infrastructure and stability of the competing pipeline locations and evaluated risk from a strategic perspective, somewhat separate from just 'the numbers.'"

The McCombs team included second-year students John Shaddix, Chris Wolf, Jake Stroud and Sudamsh Bai Reddy, and first-year student Ben Beyer. The team, known by the moniker "Licensed to Drill" each team used an alias so the judges would not know which school they represented beat Purdue, Columbia and Yale in the finals.

"There was some pressure on us to perform well and put up a good show considering that last year's team won the challenge," said Bai Reddy. "I am very happy that we could keep the winning streak going."

The case was distributed the week before the event, and the teams had three days to prepare and email their final presentations. In the first round, the teams presented their pitches as if they were project managers advising the fictional company's board of directors (played by the judges) on why and how the company should invest. In the final round, the judges heard the pitches as if they were government officials from the developing country.

The competition was sponsored by Chevron (which also provided the case), ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and the McCombs School's Energy Management and Innovation Center (EMIC). Executives from the sponsoring companies, including Chevron CFO Pat Yarrington, and supporters of EMIC served as the competition judges. Other participating schools were University of California-Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, University of Chicago, Cornell, University of Virginia, Duke, University of Michigan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, Rice, Vanderbilt and University of Pennsylvania.

"The 16 schools at the competition represent some of the most prestigious universities in the U.S.," Ihne said. "The ability to compete at this level is rewarding and challenging and indicative of the type of people who will be successful in whatever career they chose."

In the past year, teams of McCombs MBA students also won: