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2019 winners

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2019 McKinsey Risk Prize finalists.

Congratulations to the 2019 finalists

The first-prize for the 2019 Risk Prize was awarded to Aly Verjee at the Risk Summit on 21 June 2019.

Visit the 2019 Risk Summit event page

First place finalist

Aly Verjee, MSt International Relations, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge

A maxim in commercial aviation is that airlines almost always lose money. Some analysts go as far as to argue that the global industry has collectively never turned a profit. Whatever the accuracy of the overall accounting, it is clear that commercial aviation is an industry in which it is difficult to thrive. The industry’s history demonstrates that airline expansion risks, and often overextends, the fundamental strengths of the business. However, despite the many pitfalls, most airlines do explicitly seek to expand. Therefore, identifying – and then managing and mitigating – the risks of expansion is essential if a growth strategy is to succeed. This essay addresses the case of what was, for nearly sixty years, a small, mostly unremarkable, state-owned airline, in an aviation market more commonly associated with war and poverty, and its rise to become its continent’s largest and most profitable airline, and one of the most rapidly growing worldwide: Ethiopian Airlines (call sign: ET), founded in 1945.

Managing strategic and financial risk in airline expansion: the case of Ethiopian Airlines

Honourable mentions

Mark Porter, MBA candidate, Cambridge Judge Business School

This report analyses the Madagascan vanilla cultivation industry from a risk perspective. It describes the environmental and economic setting of vanilla cultivation in Madagascar, before discussing its inclement risks. First, the external, macro-factors of natural hazard risk on Madagascan vanilla are examined and an assessment made as to whether, given a certain level of common knowledge surrounding these hazards, combined with challenges specific to vanilla agriculture, the decision by farmers to cultivate vanilla at the expense of other subsistence crops constitutes a measured choice or reckless act. The report then discusses how the ensuing price surge following cyclone Enawo created new risk factors in the form of poor-quality product and community violence, upending a simplistic model of commodities risk by placing both producers and their customers on the same side. Finally, the paper asks whether this alignment of risk provides a path forward, by providing incentives for both farmers and buyers to work together toward a more sustainable future.

Vanilla options – the effect of commodity price risk on Madagascan vanilla farmers

Eugenie Christine Regan, Executive MBA candidate, Cambridge Judge Business School

Despite being a significant risk to businesses, biodiversity loss (and associated ecosystem collapse) is a risk that is extremely difficult to quantify and therefore address within business decision-making. This paper outlines the issue of biodiversity risks for businesses and make a number of recommendations for how biodiversity risks can be addressed and in some circumstances present how risks can present opportunities for businesses.

Let’s talk about the birds and the bees: the uncomfortable conversation about risks

McKinsey & Company.