Strategic moooves: Management students advise Fonterra in 50th WMS Case Competition

21 Oct 2022

The iconic 50th Waikato Management School Case Competition saw four finalist teams of students present their business strategies for Fonterra to a panel of industry judges. They said the winners, Dynamic Consulting, demonstrated “out-of-the-box” thinking and collaboration. Pictured from left to right: Madison Sykes, Ashley Shanley, Miki Bryan, and Ethan Alexander.

Alfalfa feed for cows, collagen-infused dairy drinks, and investment in blockchain technology for farmers were among the innovative business ideas suggested to Fonterra by students in  Waikato Management School’s 50th Case Competition.

The iconic annual event, held on 19 October at the University of Waikato's Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, saw four finalist teams of management students present their strategies for Fonterra to a panel of judges, including Fonterra’s Chief Financial Officer Marc Rivers.

Each business strategy was focused on ways to grow Fonterra’s revenue and profits by leveraging the company’s core strengths, with advice on how to expand into new national or global markets.

The 2022 event marked the 50th WMS Case Competition, which was the first of its kind in New Zealand when it launched in 1996, and also coincides with the 50th anniversary of Waikato Management School (1972-2022).

The competition forms part of a required capstone paper, ‘STMGT303 Applied Strategy’, for students majoring in Strategic Management.

WMS Pro Vice-Chancellor Matt Bolger says the 50th Case Competition was significant, because it offered students valuable real-world experience.

“Case Comp is a place where students have to bring together all of the different skills they learn at business school,” he says. “It combines marketing, accounting, finance, and strategy - and they have to do it in a team dynamic, on a real business. To do that with New Zealand’s largest company is an amazing opportunity for students to connect with real-world experiences that supercharge their careers.”

The 50th winning team was Dynamic Consulting, made up of Ashley Shanley, Ethan Alexander, Madison Sykes and Miki Bryan, who received a cash prize of $2500 donated by longtime sponsor PwC.

“We are absolutely ecstatic,” says Madison Sykes, 23. “We put in hours of work, so it’s really cool to have the pay-off, especially this year when the calibre was so high.”

Their strategy explored ways Fonterra could develop milk with more nutrients and higher protein content, using alfalfa feed for cows and alternative high-pressure processing methods. This would enable the company to develop a premium nutritional drink product for older consumers that could be exported to overseas markets.

“It was awesome to be able to bring together all of the skills and knowledge we have gained in our time here at the University of Waikato and put it into a real-life application. Fonterra was an awesome case to work on as it’s such a big and important company for New Zealand,” says Madison.

Alongside Marc Rivers on the judging panel were PwC Partner Paul Nickels; PwC Senior Associate and WMS alumna Quin Leong; and Fonterra Milk Allocation Scheduler (and former 34th WMS Case Competition winner) Sarah Jones.

After each presentation, the judging panel grilled each team with questions about their strategy.

Fonterra CFO Marc Rivers says the benefit of being on the judging panel is that you get to hear ideas from different angles.

“It seemed that every group was looking at it from a slightly different perspective. Fonterra is not a simple case study, it’s quite complex, so it was really cool to hear some out-of-the-box thinking.”

He congratulated the students for demonstrating the skills that Fonterra looks for in new employees including innovative, holistic thinking and the ability to collaborate effectively with others.

“You saw that in spades with all of these groups: how they worked together as a team, each bringing something different to the collaboration. In business, it's no longer about power and hierarchy and people giving orders, it’s about everyone bringing a different perspective to the problem,” says Marc.

The three other finalist teams were Kokiri Consulting (Madison Cruickshank, Jacques Du Plessis, Stella McLean and Mihi Wickliffe-Gregory), M&C Consulting (Heath Campbell, Josh Goble, Lucas Hutton and Sam Scott) and Stoked Strategies (Ashley Bartleet, Grace Hawke, Sam Johnston and Jana Stokes).

Strategic Management is available as a major subject for the Bachelor of Business, Bachelor of Management Studies with Honours, and Bachelor of Climate Change.

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