Three female and one male student, the winners of the THRIVE case competition, pose together.

THRIVE Students Develop Unique Banking Solutions

Thursday, March 7, 2024

How can a bank “put people first” and “stay a step ahead?” That’s the challenge U.S. Bank set for participants in the THRIVE case competition.

It’s a broad question, and students were challenged to develop specific strategies for achieving that goal. They were required to not only research the banking industry and ideate a new strategy, but also to understand the financial impact of their proposal and how it would impact the customer experience.

Typically, a case competition is timed in hours. This one is timed in weeks - because most of these students have never participated in one before.

“This is a great learning opportunity for our students,” said Angie Murray, Assistant Director of Diversity, Transition, and Retention Initiatives. “It’s a much longer process than your typical case competition. It’s not something to be fearful of, instead it provides a low-stakes opportunity to be exposed to case challenges.”

All participants in THRIVE, an invitation-only leadership program, were invited to participate. A total of 51 students formed 13 teams for the competition.

“I decided to participate in this case challenge because I wanted to get more experience as a freshman,” said Kara Kuang, ‘27 BSB. “What really pushed me to join was the community I built at THRIVE beforehand. I didn't have to worry about finding a team that I could both rely on and work well with.”

They were presented with the challenge in mid-January and made their first-round presentation a week later. Every single team received clear feedback from U.S. Bank, which has partnered on this case competition for the past nine years.

“You often don’t get constructive feedback in these kinds of competitions,” Murray said. “Especially for freshmen, this is a great way to understand where you have room for growth.”

The top three teams progressed to the final round, held four weeks later, where they presented once again, incorporating the feedback from the first round.

The winning team proposed a new credit card targeted at people with disabilities. The team consisted of Goomaral (Marla) Bat-Ulzii, ‘26 BSB, Puch Panha Aun, ‘25 BSB, Kara Kuang, ‘27 BSB, and Adrian DeLuna, ‘26 BSB.

“Their idea was innovative, they tapped an underrepresented market, and made a clear and thorough case for their product,” said Murray.

The final proposal was detailed and well thought out, and made a clear case for a new U.S. Bank product that would both be profitable and tie in to the company’s core values. Most of all, the team enjoyed the process of working together to understand the problem and develop a unique solution.

“My favorite part of the case challenge was the ideating stage, when we were all trying to piece together our ideas, elaborating on our selected idea, and bringing it to life,” said Aun. “There were undoubtedly stressful moments, the late nights spent on research and analysis, but it was because of those moments that we could execute it well. My other favorite part was during the day of the final presentation, the minutes before we went in for one last time before this was over. We were sitting side by side in silence and meditating to calm ourselves down when it dawned on me that it was almost over. The one-month effort and commitment were near the end, and I could feel that each of us wanted to give our best in this final stage."