TIPC Contestant Spotlight: Regan Fink

April 24, 2020

This guest interview is a cross-posting from the Investing For Future blog, maintained by our Climate Finance Documentation Team of Public Research Interns. It is the first in a series of profiles edited by Penn College junior Maria Murad, featuring contestants in the 2020 Wharton Business School’s Total Impact Portfolio Challenge. For more on their work, visit Investing4future.org

Editor’s Note:

The Wharton School’s Total Impact Portfolio Challenge (TIPC) “is designed to inspire the next generation of at-scale capital mobilization to address the world’s critical challenges,” according to the competition's website. As an Anthropology student at Penn, and someone interested in whether capitalism can serve any good, I wanted a peek behind the curtain at the TIPC competition. 

The Climate Finance Documentation team’s mission is to find and shed light on the human faces behind, in charge of, and affected by climate finance. Part of my personal mission is to understand how we as humans, ensnared in a capitalist world, can change previous investment patterns in fossil fuels in order to save our planet in the age of the Anthropocene. The students participating in TIPC span the United States and Canada, and they are all scrambling to think of the most creative answers to how and whether (fictional) Pawnee University should divest from fossil fuels. This is a question our own university is grappling with itself.

I was born and grew up in Hazard, Kentucky a small coal-mining town that relies on fossil fuels to support its own and the U.S.’s economy. Kentucky is the third largest coal producer in the U.S. I know how essential the workers that power our nation are, and the health impacts they have faced in order to do so; I’ve conducted research on lead poisoning among Eastern Kentucky coal miners. I’m also aware of the impending danger facing all humans, whether pro- or anti- fossil fuels, in the wake of climate change. 

Documenting the strategies and perspectives of leaders on the other side of climate finance is essential to finding a middle ground and saving humanity from rising carbon emissions. 

This first post in our series of profiles offers the perspective of Duke University graduate student Regan Fink, who is studying at both the Fuqua School of Business and the Nicholas School of the Environment. As a student of both fields, her perspective is essential to finding the connection between two words that can sometimes seem paradoxical: Climate and Finance.


photograph of Regan Fink in blue shirt with white sweater, smiling

Photo from Reagan Fink

Name: Regan Fink

School: Duke University, Fuqua School of Business and Nicholas School of the Environment

Degree: Currently obtaining a Master’s in Business Administration and a Master’s in Environmental Management

Graduation Year: 2020

TIPC Team Name: Duke Group 2

Team Members: Nathan Hixson, Jacob Gwilliam, Vrinda Gupta

snippet from investment portfolio rationale -- executive summary


Q: Why did you decide to join the TIPC Challenge?

A: I wanted to learn more about ESG [environmental, social, and governance] and impacting investing. I wanted to build my skill set as someone who both wants to work in corporate sustainability and plans to invest my future earnings in a meaningful way.


Q: What is the most important thing you have learned so far in the challenge?

A: I've learned two things:

  1. Asset allocation is key to hitting a certain target return

  2. There are a TON of ESG-related funds out there, but with it an entire spectrum of impact v. greenwashing.


Q: What does climate finance mean to you?

A: The process of funding projects that either reduce carbon emissions or build resilient and adaptive measures to climate change in a sustainable and equitable manner.


Q: How has your investment strategy and overall understanding of financial markets evolved amid the coronavirus crisis?

A: Our financial markets, and entire society for that matter, are not resilient. No companies, governments, or consumers have incentive to keep a "rainy day" fund —instead, we're encouraged to pile on debt and return value to shareholders. So, when a crisis like a pandemic hits, everyone asks for a bailout from the government with monopoly money. We need to change this mindset if we want to survive worse crises to come. 

Also, diversification in investment strategy is so important. Some industries and asset classes are faring much better than others in this unexpected crisis.


Q: TIPC asked your team to invest a fictional college's endowment so that it would drive climate solutions. What do you now believe the role of college and university endowments can be in climate finance?

A: University endowments can play a significant role because they have so much money, they have long-term interests, they are not burdened by the short-termism in public markets, and they have a respected public voice that other institutions will follow. They should invest in climate finance and freely talk about it.