SPUR Recap: Asset Managers and ESG Practices

Cynthia Li Headshot
During the spring of 2020, Cynthia Li (BS '21) completed a SPUR project with the Center for Sustainable Business. Read on to learn more about her experience:

Name: Cynthia Li
Year: 2021
Concentration: Finance and Accounting

Briefly describe the project you worked on with CSB (both the topics of focus and the deliverable you produced).
I was a research assistant with the Stern Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) for two semesters. I assisted Dr. Tamar Gross, a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Sustainable Business, in analyzing how asset managers engage with and make sense of ESG practices in their everyday positions. My main tool was using qualitative analysis on interviews that Tamar conducted. During my first semester, I read seven academic articles and developed my mid-way presentation based on the themes that emerged from those papers. During the latter half of the semester, I transcribed a 27-page interview with an ESG Professional at an Asset Management firm and performed content analysis for my final presentation. For the second semester, I learned a different type of qualitative analysis (form) analysis and applied both types to a different interview. I presented major findings/themes at the end of each semester. My main findings included the various impacts of ESG on the investor and how that has changed a “traditional finance” mindset. 
In your own words, why do you think this research is important?
My main reason for applying to this program with CSB was my desire to learn more about environmental sustainability and gain a further understanding of its role in politics and the finance world. It’s a common theme for politicians/society to advocate for more sustainable approaches from corporations, as well as a villainization of banks for investing in “non-ESG” companies such as oil & gas. I wanted to gain a perspective from the finance side to understand the various difficulties from investors when accounting for ESG. I hoped that this research would help me for my future career path in finance. I believe that a green future is the only sustainable solution for our planet and that investors play a huge role in that. Hopefully, this research can help guide firms to an efficient solution, generate more important questions to be answered/analyzed, and provide finance professionals with some insight with our findings.

How did this project prepare you for future classes/projects at Stern? For your future career path?
My work with CSB has definitely helped with qualitative analysis in my classes at Stern. During my SPUR experience, I had to frequently analyze interviews and interpret phrases into overarching themes. This experience has helped with classes such as Law, Business, and Society (LBS) and (International Studies Program( ISP). I am working as a Wealth Management analyst at Morgan Stanley this summer. I hope to apply my learnings from the SPUR program to my internship and utilize them even further in the future.