Courtney Asher Thompson '17

I came to Columbia Business School with the intention of pursuing a career in sustainable investing, and was honored to join the field as a 2016 Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Fellow.

Prior to business school I began my career in economic consulting, where I honed a strong quantitative and analytical skill set. Inspired by the B Corporation movement and the concept of harnessing for-profit business as a force for social and environmental impact, I subsequently joined a consulting firm dedicated to driving economic development through its work in underserved communities across the U.S. There I advised a range of small businesses, non-profits, and foundations on everything from growth strategy and operational improvement to financial management and capital raising. Through both of these roles I developed a desire to fuse analytical rigor with the pursuit of socially and environmentally responsible business practices across a range of industries and business models.

Drawn to the power of well-aligned investments to catalyze and scale these business practices, I knew that I needed more formal training in finance and capital markets. I was drawn to Columbia Business School for its strong reputation in traditional finance, as well as its commitment to impact investing and prime location near many of the world’s thought leaders on this subject — including Morgan Stanley. In addition to the courses and extracurriculars I pursued on campus, the Sustainable Investing Fellowship provided a unique opportunity to see and contribute to the frontier of sustainable investing.

As a 2016 Sustainable Investing Fellow, I worked within Morgan Stanley’s Wealth Management division on the Investing with Impact Platform, which provides solutions for individual and institutional clients to successfully achieve unique social and/or environmental impact objectives alongside their financial goals. During the summer I advanced three primary initiatives across the Platform, including a tool kit on gender diversity investing, due diligence on asset manager investment strategies, and a set of tools for financial advisors and clients to facilitate discussion of specific impact goals. Through the course of this work I gained exposure to a diverse set of clients, financial advisors and asset managers while collaborating with colleagues from across Morgan Stanley, including wealth management, sell-side research and the Institute for Sustainable Investing.

The fellowship not only expanded my professional network and understanding of sustainable investing decisions, but also helped clarify my career goals within this expanding and evolving sector. Being exposed to the many ways in which sustainability is embedded within Morgan Stanley’s business model — as well as those of other firms and investors — has further convinced me of the power of capital markets to improve transparency and drive positive social and environmental outcomes. I hope that this fellowship will continue to provide a mutually beneficial experience for Columbia students and Morgan Stanley in the years to come.