Maastricht's cobbled streets and medieval-era architecture may not seem like the most likely place for a modern case competition. But it was this city in southern Netherlands where four UBC Sauder School of Business students recently locked horns with 15 other business schools for the International Case Competition at Maastricht (ICC@M).
Bachelor of Commerce students Talise Tsai, Stanley Yu, Genn Tang and Ian Paul emerged victorious after three days of rigorous evaluations that involved two, three-hour case presentations and one 24-hour grand case pitch. The team outperformed fellow universities including Copenhagen Business School, National University of Singapore, University of Florida, Simon Fraser University and hosts Maastricht University, earning UBC Sauder’s second consecutive win at the annual competition. Team member Tang also walked away with the “best speaker” award at the competition.
The art of wealth management
No industry is immune to the shifts brought about by technological innovation, and financial services is one such area under pressure to adapt and evolve. Wealth management, for instance, is traditionally viewed as a niche financial service relying on personalized and face-to-face relations between wealth managers and their clients. But compared to a computer software, wealth managers are expensive and professional services cannot be easily scaled to match changing needs.
With this information as the backdrop, Rabobank – a Dutch multinational banking and financial services company – presented their challenge to the final four teams in the competition: how does the company's wealth management portfolio remain relevant and support its long-term growth?
Teams were given 24 hours to prepare without external help. A background in the related field helped UBC Sauder’s cause; Paul, Tang and Tsai are all pursuing a specialization in finance, while Yu's studies have focused on Business Technology Management.
"We recommended a blended approach between having an online solution for the vast population in order to reduce cost, but to also retain that intimate contact point when customers need it the most," explains Paul.
The team also realized that there was another, deeper insight that could have far-reaching implications for Rabobank's strategy and the industry at large. Along with the technology, the audience for wealth management services is changing.
"Wealth management currently focusses on high net-worth individuals who are generally in the 65 plus age group and have outsourced the responsibility of managing their money," Paul pointed out. "But there's going to be big shift in 20-30 years; the largest shift will come from baby boomers giving their money to millennials and the younger population. So, our recommendation relied on capturing that younger base who doesn’t necessarily have the wealth right now. But in the long run, they'll be inheriting all that money and they'll be wealthy individuals in society. Those are the people you need to target."
The team's case presentation and solutions resonated with the judging panel, which consisted of senior executives and academics. The team confidently answered challenging follow-up questions and won the acknowledgement that the insights and solutions were consistent with the panel's assessment of the industry's trajectory.
Well-groomed at UBC Sauder
In addition to a strong base in finance and technology, the UBC Sauder team also benefited from Associate Professor Kin Lo's help in the weeks leading up to their departure for the Netherlands.
"We had about five to six practises where he would give us a case, we would solve it and present it to him as if he were the judge. He would then evaluate it, give us feedback and tell us where to improve - both with our specific recommendations and how we presented them. He was instrumental in helping us develop into a working team and adapt to difficult situations," said Paul.
Dr. Lo lauded the team’s performance: “I knew this team had great potential. I recall our final practice session in which we used the previous year’s final case. At the end of the session, I told the team that their presentation would have placed them first or second. I don’t often do this as it can set up unrealistic expectations and make them over-confident. It was gratifying that my prediction was proven accurate.”
View a video recording of final presentations here.