HKUST MBA students win the Everyone’s Business Global Case Competition
Mariya Kaneda, Calvin Chan, Wensi Chen, Abhijeet Paul, Intake 2022
The USC Everyone's Business Global Case Competition is an enriching initiative for MBA students with a global focus. The winning team from our Full-time MBA Program, Mariya Kaneda, Kar Kei "Calvin" Chan, Wensi Chen, and Abhijeet Paul, tell us about the challenging learning experience.
What is the Everyone's Business Global Case Competition?
The Everyone’s Business Global Case Competition is an international event run by USC Marshall. The competition brings together teams of MBA students to tackle a real-world business problem. It gives students excellent international exposure in a pressurized, competitive environment.
This year the winning team was from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Business School! The team was comprised of Mariya Kaneda, Kar Kei "Calvin" Chan, Wensi Chen, and Abhijeet Paul.
The prompt for the challenge changes every year, but the judging system remains the same. Winning is based on the quality of the analysis, the feasibility of the solution, and the presentation's effectiveness.
This year's competition gave students the challenge of developing a digital client acquisition strategy for UBS Wealth Management. Applying fresh new strategies to the world’s largest wealth manager is difficult enough. However, the prompt also tasked teams with focusing on a specific US market segment: multicultural female entrepreneurs.
Winning required the HKUST team to create an effective solution that addressed not only the marketing issues but financial, digital, and also cultural issues.
How did the HKUST team approach the challenge?
With the prompt questions as a guide, the HKUST team began researching their market, target clients, and UBS values. After creating key connections that addressed both the challenge and client needs, the team from HKUST designed the Cherish App.
Cherish App’s niche lay in enabling UBS to attract their target clients by providing philanthropy management services. The team's research demonstrated that these services are disproportionately valued by multicultural and women investors.
One of the key requirements was to have a free app that would help UBS build trust. However, from a strategic perspective, the team wanted not only to broaden their reach to potential clients and also to provide data-driven insights. Cherish App was initially made up of:
Philanthropic donation tracking
ESG insights on how money is being spent
However, the team ultimately prioritized UBS’ key competencies and dropped the fitness tracking element. As Abhijeet Paul recalls, this would be a shrewd choice. “The decision-making process helped us deliver a better presentation in the end,” he says. “This was something even the judges acknowledged when we were doing the final presentation.”
Therefore, the team’s initial research into UBS Wealth Management’s core values paid off, and their approach was looked upon favorably by the judges.
Overcoming challenges with a data-driven strategy
The team’s success is even more impressive considering the difficulties they faced from the outset.
Firstly, the team lacked experience in digital transformation, which made finding a solution for digital client acquisition especially challenging. However, with just three weeks to prepare and in the midst of a fast-paced MBA, there was an opportunity to get ahead. There was a wealth of knowledge available right in HKUST to tap into.
Their technology and marketing professors were more than happy to answer questions and share their knowledge. Calvin says, “This quick-learning guidance really helped us to steer in the right direction and made progress much smoother.”
Added to that was the cultural challenge of studying in Hong Kong but working for a US-based client. As the only team from outside the United States, the team needed a cultural crash course to be competitive. They conducted extensive research including interviews with people familiar with the diversity issues in the US and wealth management. This research really helped the team understand a new market and to develop a winning solution.
Looking back on the sheer amount of work needed to succeed, Calvin summarizes the experience. “The situation proved to be a very steep learning curve for all of us. We had to put in very long hours to meet the deadline including working on the flight to Los Angeles.”
The role of the Enhancing Professional Skills course in the team’s success
In addition to the short-term push that won the USC Everyone's Business Global Case Competition, the team also drew the core element of their MBA program. In particular, the Enhancing Professional Skills course at HKUST. This one-week intensive workshop serves as an accelerator for students’ presentation skills.
“It includes specific training sessions,” the fourth team member, Wensi Chen, says. “For example, elevator pitches where we learn how to grab the audience’s attention within the first 60 seconds of a presentation, and a Q&A session where we learn how to anticipate and respond persuasively to questions.”
The week ends with a learning-through-competition model, making it an ideal training ground for future case competitions. By coincidence, they used a prompt from the previous year’s Everyone’s Business Global Case Competition which this team also won.
The constructive feedback provided valuable insights for the team to improve their approach. Knowing which presentation techniques work and which don’t laid the foundation for the USC competition strategy. However, Calvin adds, “One of the best takeaways of the EPS week was the confidence booster.”
Lessons learned from winning the Everyone's Business Global Case Competition
While the top prize for the competition was a $10,000 check, the personal and professional benefits stretch much further. The exposure of traveling to California expanded the team’s network to a vast range of USC faculty and judges who held executive director positions at UBS. The team and the UBS judges got to talk after the competition as well.
“We discussed ideas,” says Abhijeet. “They even came to a point where they were suggesting us to build the app for them, so I think it was overall a very positive experience.”
Mariya offers a more personal takeaway. “Most importantly, it was a wonderful experience collaborating with my teammates who are from different parts of the world and from different cultural backgrounds.”
Through the competition, the team got to open their eyes to different perspectives that made them re-evaluate their knowledge.
Experiences such as the USC Everyone’s Business Global Case Competition compound what HKUST MBA students learn in the classroom. Aside from the aforementioned skills and confidence it brings participants, it is a conversation starter at networking events and interviews. Winning is proof that they’re able to succeed under pressure and in unfamiliar situations.