Immersion Learning

Pitching to a Heavy Hitter

by Nicholas Baker, MBA ‘15 (6/4/14)
Nicholas Baker, MBA ‘15How do you tell the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of an S&P 500 company that they need to do something different? That what they’ve been doing has worked well in the past, but can’t be sustained and you should think about our idea… a student’s idea. Well, I guess this is why I decided to attend business school but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t my third time visiting the bathroom in less than 20 minutes.

The Investment Banking Immersion capstone project is an open-ended case, with a presentation to a C-suite executive, presenting any idea relevant to their company along with all the supporting detail they expect of an investment bank. There was no written guideline, no case to read, just “think up an idea and do what I’ve taught you.”

The difficulty with this case is that the CFO in question is Brad Dickerson and the company is Under Armour, the multi-billion dollar sports apparel company with 20% annual growth for the last five years. The company started in 1996 in a grandmother’s basement, aggressively pursued every market it entered, only acquired one company, and that’s eyeing down Nike. The upstart. What idea would you bring to him?

This case is designed to bring those final elements of the real world: creativity and the need to really understand the client. According to Dickerson, one of the mistakes bankers make is that they pitch ideas without understanding the company, hoping that with enough suggestions one idea will stick. Presenting to the actual CFO of a company means that as students you can’t get away with not knowing how the company views itself, or the Chief Executive Officer’s views such as on wearable fitness technology (our discarded first idea).

As I sit here writing this, about to start my summer internship, I realize and appreciate the relevance of the case with which this course has culminated. I know it would be hubris to think that anything can fully prepare you for a career, other than actual time in the job. But I also realize that it will likely be awhile before I again present my ideas, in a professional capacity, to a CFO of Dickerson’s caliber.

Our idea included a transformative acquisition to purchase a Finnish portfolio of iconic global sports brands. A concept that is far from the path Under Armour is on. I will categorize the idea as daring and a tough sell. More than anything, it provided the foundation for a real-world learning experience, which after a little grilling from Dickerson, I am hoping will set my team and in good stead for the summer.

To any prospective student or employer looking to understand the Investment Banking Immersion, I suggest you contact any of the students who have completed the program. It is very vocational. As someone who wasn’t an analyst before attending business school, I have found that a foundation in the practical side of finance a real insight that I believe has given me far more confidence now than I would have had. All of my classmates echo similar feelings towards the program, which seem to be universally positive.