January 29, 2001

Taking Home the Title

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A three-student team from the Johnson Graduate School of Management’s MBA program won first place at the second annual Citigroup/Salomon Smith Barney E-Commerce Case Competition in New York City on Dec. 1.

The team, consisting of Allan Aks JGSM ’02, Greg Hubbell JGSM ’02 and Sean Neville JGSM ’02, was awarded a prize of $10,000. Each team chose one of 23 real-life business issues that Citigroup and Solomon Smith Barney (SSB) faces with the advent of the Internet.

The Johnson Graduate School of Management was one of five business schools invited by Citigroup to participate in the competition. The other business schools were from University of Pennsylvania (Wharton), University of Michigan, Columbia University and New York University (Stern).

“They are all top schools. We thought the competition was going to be pretty stiff but we were able to bring in the first place trophy to the Johnson School and Cornell,”Aks said.

Executives from SSB judged their solutions on ease of implementation and creativity. The teams were also evaluated on their presentation and their knowledge of the problem.

The Johnson School team chose to focus on how the Internet will affect children’s interaction with service firms.

“We proposed financial service firms need to build relationships with children by educating them about fiscal responsibility and by preparing them to be business leaders of tomorrow,” Aks said.

To accomplish this, the team built a website that used bright colors, graphics and music to keep children interested.

“If you want to grab kids’ attention, you have to play by their rules,” Hubbell said.

The website included a game zone and used cartoon characters as virtual consultants to teach children about savings, interest and small business.

“We took a very original approach and that is what let us win. The other presentations were out of a classroom,” said Hubbell.

“They did a marvelous job,” said William Huling, senior director of corporate programs at JGSM, who attended the competition with the team. “They were so far above the others in how they presented their presentation and how they connected with the audience.”

Along with the financial benefit of winning the competition, the team also took home less tangible prizes.

“It’s a great way to enhance our business school experience outside of the classroom,” Aks said.

Huling added, “The school [Cornell] also earned bragging rights over the other top business schools …”

To qualify for last month’s competition, the team first competed Nov. 11 in Ithaca against 11 other teams of MBA students. The students won a $5000 prize from that contest.

Archived article by Luke Hejnar