Nisha Prasad ’17

Nisha Prasad ’17

Student Diary: Using the Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship to Gain Experience in Impact Investing

I was one of the lucky few who knew what I wanted to do after business school, and one of even fewer who actually stuck to it. After many (MANY) informational interviews with recent alumni, and very specific recommendations to do so, I quickly became good friends with the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise upon starting my MBA. I learned of the many classes, clubs, alumni, faculty, and staff available to me as a student extremely focused on entering a career in impact investing. Despite these many resources, I also quickly learned that experience was the only ticket into this extremely nascent and competitive industry. And although there was no direct path to recruiting like my banking and consulting classmates enjoyed, there was definitely a secret sauce to getting that critical ’in‘.

Enter: the Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship (SESF). Thanks to Sandra Navalli ’03, Managing Director of the Tamer Center and my personal mentor, I learned that SESF would help fund me so that I could gain that critical experience without the financial stress. I was fortunate to receive the fellowship through both of my internships spanning the entire 18-week summer. I gained experience across asset classes as well as through different roles in the impact investing industry.

First, I interned at Nonprofit Finance Fund, underwriting loans for nonprofit clients in the health care and charter school sectors targeting low-income populations. Through this experience, I was able to build my analytical and research skills and learned about the nuances of investing in the nonprofit sector while continuing to expand my network.

After this, I became an investment research analyst at Veris Wealth Partners, a private wealth management firm that offers impact strategies and advisory services to its foundation and high net worth clients. At Veris, I researched asset managers in both private and public strategies in order to recommend new impact products for client portfolios. In addition, I helped author a thought paper with Women Effect on gender lens investing, which highlights the trends of this investing strategy, available products, and positive performance. Lastly, I assisted my chief investment officer in advising a private foundation client in starting their Mission Related Investing initiative by conducting peer analyses, providing a staffing plan, and constructing a cross-asset class portfolio of investments. Through this I gained experience working with a large foundation, conducting investment research and portfolio construction, as well as creating and presenting succinct pitches. There I learned that my interests lie in being a part of a large organization that deploys capital across asset classes in an impactful way, and continued to do this great work throughout the rest of my second year of school.

I came into Columbia Business School with a personal story and a dream. Through my two years I took advantage of all the resources to build my knowledge, skills, and network, but SESF was by far the turning point for me in my eventual career in impact investing. This program bought me the chance to immerse myself in work that I really cared about, and get a feel for what a career in the industry would be like. I am forever grateful to the generous alumni who support SESF so that people like me can get the critical experience necessary to make our dreams a reality.

By Nisha Prasad ’17