WIIP Co-Presidents Interview 2016

This week I sat down with WIIP’s three co-presidents–Jen, Sebastian, and Divinity–to catch up with them on their summer internships. We discussed how WIIP helped them prepare for their internships, what they learned on the job, and how it all relates to social impact. So let’s get started!  

Where was your internship and who was it with?

Jen: I had two internships this summer. During the first half of summer, I worked at RM Global, which is a boutique investment bank and consulting firm based out of Tel Aviv, Israel that focuses on life sciences. I followed that with a stint at Excelsior Group, which is an advisor, investor, and developer of African health systems based out of Nairobi, Kenya.

Sebastian: I was an Investment Fellow at Polymath Ventures in Bogota, Colombia. Polymath is a company builder that creates and invests in scalable, profitable companies that target the needs of the Latin American middle class - think VC combined with startup incubator and seed stage entrepreneurship.

Divinity: I was at Goldman Sachs Private Wealth Management in Los Angeles, which advises high-net-worth clients on investment opportunities and strategies.

What were your roles and daily responsibilities?

Jen: At RM Global, my role spanned across PE/VC deals and business development. I performed due diligence on platform plays and acquisition targets for a private equity fund. I also structured and negotiated terms for a new VC fund. Additionally, I worked on business development for startups. At Excelsior, I facilitated a hospital and outpatient acquisition between two PE funds. I also helped transition a grant dependent retail pharmacy model into a financially self-sustainable model.

Sebastian: I was responsible for helping Polymath devise its impact strategy in order to optimize its social impact and attract investors to its companies and funds. Working with Polymath to build companies from the ground up, trying to make them successful and articulating an impact story was an incredibly challenging but rewarding experience.

Divinity: I sourced new leads for prospective Goldman clients with $10M+ net worth. I helped analysts with various projects and completed weekly case studies and asset class pitches by applying my knowledge of the global economy and financial markets. My final project was an extensive business plan and presentation to the leaders in the LA office explaining how I would build a book of business.

How did WIIP prepare you for the internship?

Jen: The sourcing and due diligence work I did for WIIP really helped me dive into the healthcare industry and provided frameworks for evaluating different subsectors within it. The WIIP investment pitches also taught me what investors look for when evaluating a pitch, which gave me the confidence to speak up during management and due diligence meetings.

Sebastian: I actually found Polymath during WIIP’s sourcing process. I was excited to intern at Polymath because it’s the first company builder of its kind in LatAM and combines lean methodology, strategy consulting, and PE/VC rigor to creating companies from the ground up. My WIIP experience helped me understand what investors seek in terms of profitability and social impact, which allowed me to more effectively pitch Polymath companies and funds to investors. WIIP gave me the credibility, confidence, and knowledge to bring forth innovative ideas to help Polymath strategize and position themselves in impact investing.  

Divinity: Prior to Wharton, I had no experience in financial services or investment management. As a WIIP Investment Associate, I learned how investors think about asset allocation and frameworks for analyzing economic trends. Pitching to WIIP’s Investment Committee helped prepare me for the multiple investment-focused product pitches I had to make during my summer internship.

Can you provide a specific example of something new that you learned about impact investment?

Jen: My internships weren’t directly in the impact investing industry, but they did focus on creating and measuring social impact in the private sector. For example, the retail pharmacy project created a financially stable distribution model and improved access to medication. It was an interesting and different spin on traditional impact investing.

Sebastian: I learned impact has to be authentic and organic. Meaning if impact is not embedded within an organization’s mission, in my (somewhat critical viewpoint) it won’t be a successful social impact enterprise. Impact must be the driving force within the business model, not a secondary add-on. I also learned how hard it is to truly define impact across industries, especially when investors have different expectations and there isn’t yet a gold standard for evaluating impact.

Divinity: Although I was not directly working on impact investing opportunities, I had coffee chats with a few people from Goldman’s Imprint group. I was impressed with Goldman’s acquisition of Imprint as a testament to the growing importance of impact investing and the incredibly dynamic people working on that team. The firm also has a great report that outlines how investors are increasingly demanding higher environmental, social, and governance standards from companies in their portfolios.

Do you have any advice for current students considering internships/careers in impact investing?

Jen: Hustle. The industry is new and your reason for why you want to be in it and your relevant experience is going to be key. It’s a great time to be exploring, especially as a student, so use the time and network to your advantage as much as possible!

Sebastian: Impact Investing is a growing, but fragmented industry. You have to have a well-crafted story for why you want to do it and have a point of view! The landscape is changing quickly and we have an opportunity to influence its trajectory. Be critical of the way things are being done and look for opportunities that will allow you to move the needle in a direction you want it to go. Find an organization whose mission aligns with your passions.

Divinity: My advice is that students considering internships or careers in impact investing need to be scrappy, determined and have thick skin. Unlike established recruiting pipelines in consulting, big tech and banking, there are not that many jobs in this space which is still evolving. Similar to the entrepreneurs we vet for investment in WIIP, students pursuing careers in impact investing must be tenacious during the job search process. I have no doubt that determined, committed, smart students can network their way into the right opportunity in impact investing.