Maxi Heidenblut on authenticity, entrepreneurship, and solutions to save the planet.
The WHU alumna leading the way for climate-friendly investments
In 2013, she was a WHU graduate with a background in asset management. Today, she is Head of ESG & Climate Products for the Americas for MSCI in New York. MaxiHeidenblut is a talented finance professional., who is alsomaking an impact on the world. Prior to her current role, she worked for J.P. Morgan, then investment giant BlackRock, technology company Diversio as Global Head of Business Development, and, in her spare time,founded her own company. But, prior to all of this, in 2012, she joined the WHU Full-Time MBA program, looking for a change of direction.
“Joining the Full-Time MBA was a big risk for me,” she explains. “I quit my job and, of course, when you do that you lose the safety of regular income. But I wanted to immerse myself in the experience and explore other career paths. I found the focus on leadership skills attractive and wanted to develop my soft skills. We traveled to China, India, to the US, and these cultural experiences were valuable as they changed my whole perspective.”
Maxi is clear on the values she holds as a leader: inspiration, transparency, and authenticity. “The MBA really helped me to shape these principles. I want to encourage growth in my team while being transparent about any promises I can or can’t make. Being authentic and vulnerable is essential for a young leader like me. Admitting that you don’t know everything is important, and I think good leaders ask a lot of questions versus giving directions.”
“I advise any MBA student to develop their personal style by learning from the leaders they meet throughout their career. Learn from your own experiences and what you’re exposed to. Pick the best features and bring this to your core values for your leadership style. It’s always a little different for everyone, but that’s the best way to stay true to yourself
Investing in the planet
A year ago, Maxi joined MSCI, a global financial services company headquartered in New York. The company enables its clients to understand the drivers of risk and return in order to make better investment decisions. This includes ESG and climate products. “I head the ESG & Climate Products Team for the Americas,” explains Maxi. “I develop solutions for investors to better measure the carbon footprint of their portfolio and investments. When it comes to climate change, for example, there are a lot of net zero commitments that investors want to achieve. How can we empower our clients to get there with better tools or models? Understanding the risks and exposures and providing these inputs to our clients helps them to steer investments toward innovative solutions that will improve their portfolios and, at the same time, can help solve the climate crisis.”
“Where money gets invested can really make a difference. For example, if an investor finances a start-up developing decarbonization technology, that makes an impact. How investors allocate capital matters, and we assist them in these decisions by equipping them with better information. We are not what you imagine traditional financial services to be; everyone is committed to both improving our clients’ portfolios and to fighting climate change and making an impact. It’s a very empowering position to be in.”
A sweet partnership and entrepreneurial ventures
For Maxi, the WHU alum network left a lasting impression. When, in her spare time,founding her own vegan candy company, Häppy Candy, she reached out to the network in search of a a management team. “WHU has a fantastic network, and the alumni community is very supportive. I was surprised at just how communicative and encouraging this network has been, especially since I left the program: it’s a very active community. I posted on the WHU intranet and was lucky to find Kevin, a current Global Online MBA student, who is now our e-commerce advisor. He had already founded his own candy company and scaled it, so he brought a lot of skills I didn’t have. It was the perfect fit to bring Häppy Candy to the next level.”
Maxi explains that the idea of founding a candy company came from her relationship with food and struggles with an autoimmune disease. “I worked with a nutrition scientist in Germany as I didn’t feel very healthy and also decided to get a Certificate in Nutrition Science from Stanford. I discovered some surprising insights and how Germany and the US are facing an obesity epidemic. Many highly processed sugary options are on the market, backed heavily by the food industry. Our product contains 80% less sugar than conventional fruit gums and is rich in fiber. We also do not use palm oil due to the negative impact on biodiversity. It is a healthier option, and I am passionate about producing a product that is better for people and the planet. I truly believe that sugar in the future will be taxed and regulated like tobacco or alcohol because of the negative impact it has on people’s health.” She is blessed with an outstanding management team, who is running Häppy Candy on a daily basis.
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