Seema Balani '15

Sustainable and impact investing is a burgeoning industry that has allowed me to pursue opportunities to build my career and make a meaningful difference.  I am currently a second year MBA student at Columbia Business School and spent the summer as a Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Fellow.  This exciting program provided me an opportunity to observe how financial concepts from the classroom come to life and create positive impact for communities.

I am originally from Negril, Jamaica.  Growing up there, I became very passionate about social impact issues from an early age as I saw first-hand community struggles around access to healthcare, education and other vital services. I pursued this passion in rural India, leaving management consulting for one year to volunteer with an international development non-governmental organization (NGO), working to empower women through entrepreneurship and helping build affordable access to women’s health products and information across rural India.  Seeing the impact that the NGO was able to make in the local community catalyzed my interest in impact investing space.

Upon entering Columbia Business School, I wanted to further develop first-hand experience in impact investing and see how the private sector could galvanize large-scale change for communities in need. As a board member of our Social Enterprise Club, I learned about the new Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Fellowship and was thrilled to join the inaugural class of Fellows.

Over the summer, I joined the Public Finance Housing team that helps state and local governments structure and issue housing bonds to support affordable housing development for low and moderate-income families.  In my role, I helped analyze housing bond issuance to ultimately help clients better understand the broader market context in which they are operating.  In addition, working collaboratively with the Global Sustainable Finance team, I conducted preliminary research that analyzes the growing need for affordable housing, opportunities and challenges for meeting that need, and the ability of stakeholders across the public and private sectors to create sustainable financial and social impact.

Through the summer experience, I began to more clearly see the need for creativity in developing affordable housing solutions given the current market context, particularly in light of the post-economic crisis housing market recovery.  Financing affordable housing through the public finance market has been critical in enabling the flow of private capital to reach the underserved and support the building of stronger, healthier and more sustainable communities across the country.  Affordable housing development has a direct and positive impact in communities nationwide, addressing homelessness, supporting broader health and wellbeing, and building up the long-term diversity and sustainability of the cities we live in.

This Fellowship has provided a window to a broader spectrum of opportunities within the sustainable and impact investing, and I hope to pursue a long-term career at the intersection of business and social impact.