The stakes couldn’t have been higher for the final six teams that presented their cases in Weatherhead’s 2018 Case Competition, which focused on tech strategy for Charles Schwab. A total of 26 student teams was whittled down to six as each round came to a close, and the final round was judged by Patti Schaar, the president of BluShift Strategy, Simon Peck, associate professor of Design & Innovation at Weatherhead and Catherine Golladay, senior VP of participant services & administration at, you guessed it, Charles Schwab.
The winning team, made up of Weatherhead MBA students Anuj Nirwal, Alex Turner-Frowein, Ana Kuoman and James Coffelt, pitched the idea of blockchain as a new technology for better security and optimization of transactions without the necessary fees or lag times. They also introduced an investment-focused app to attract millennials and improve their financial literacy. With cutting edge technology available and the vast amount of startups focusing in this space, the team knew they had to figure out how Charles Schwab could continue to innovate. “We emphasized that, although Charles Schwab has always been known as a disruptor, it has also been affected by internal and external disruptors such as the SEC, FINRA, security threats, the 2008 financial crisis and the development of new platforms such as Venmo, PayPal, and the Acorn and Robin Hood apps,” said Ana Kuoman.
The direction was the right one, earning the team the number one spot and $1,000 in prize money. But it wasn’t just the money or a glass memento that the team walked away with. The experience is something they say they’ll take with them beyond graduation. “I think we all feel these competitions will help now and in the future,” says Coffelt. “Regardless of winning (which is always a good thing), it's great exposure to new ideas and learning how to construct and flesh them out into real strategies in a short amount of time. Case competitions also help tremendously with your presentation skills and in being able to understand the multiple facets of an idea or case in a short amount of time.” Turner-Frowein agrees and adds that these competitions also create networking opportunities that can be capitalized on later. “The more case competitions the better,” he says. “You are learning about individual companies, their industries, issues and opportunities, and all of these can help during an interview process.”
During the awards presentation, Nirwal recalls his adrenaline pumping when they approached the stage. “All the effort and hard work we invested in this case competition finally came to fruition,” he said.
The first runner up team was comprised of part-time Weatherhead MBA students Megan Allen, Hao Qu and Danqi Wang and the second runner up team included Weatherhead MBA students Namrata Nagdev, Nishant Barlinge, Rodrigo Mayen Gonzalez and Weatherhead MSM-ORSC student Dinesh Bommireddy. The runner up teams went away with $750 and $500, respectively. The competition was organized and run by MBA students Pradeep Sahukar and Hunter Hoge.
Pictured above: Winning team members, Anuj Nirwal, Alex Turner-Frowein, Ana Kuoman and James Coffelt with Catherine Golladay, Senior VP, Participant Services & Administration Schwab Retirement Plan Services.