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Some days ago I wrote about the preparation of the Global Business Experience trek to the United States and how we got excited about spending time in Boston and New York with about 70 other 2nd year MBAs. The main purpose of the trek was to get a deep understanding of the Asset Management industry, and therefore, visits were scheduled at leading companies like KKR, Baupost, Fidelity Investment and many more.

Regarding these visits, everybody came with different levels of expectations,  because after all: Company visits are like a box of chocolate, you never know what you’re gonna get. Little did we know about the sheer calibre of the speakers we were about the meet, their willingness to share their almost unlimited pool of experience, and the care they have put in receiving us! Every visit, we could here “ah”’s and “oh”’s in the audience.  This was not a box of chocolates, but an Asset Management candy store! Some of the speakers we met were so insightful and inspirational that it almost felt that you were having a dinner party at their home and they were sharing their thoughts with an infectious enthusiasm and without many taboos.

Just a little flavour of day one. At State Street Global Advisors, we learned what it means to manage BIG money in a consistent way, and the importance of vision and consistency. During our visit at Fidelity, we saw our ideas about normal distribution of risk and a predictable world being blown with the force of a tornado. The unequalled Mr Cheng demonstrated “crystally clear” (using a broccoli, some metronomes and a whole pile of witty comments) that our interconnected, non-linear world doesn’t abide by the rules of the past, and that fat tale distributions of risk is here to stay! After amazing interventions at Pioneer Investments and Old Mutual we fought off the creeping jet lag with beers and wine and were brought to the legendary Boston Tennis and Racket Club. In this timeless setting, full of tradition we met with the Dick Tracy of financial investigation. We had a speech from Mr Markopolos, the guy who almost singlehanded uncovered the vastness and harmfulness of Madoff’s 65 billion dollar Ponzi Scheme. From the start, against all odds, he guided his crusade for financial justice! Even in the face of risk for his own safety, he persisted and succeeded in uncovering the biggest financial fraud in modern history… A remarkable ending of a very intensive day!

Any MBA student would be excited to have a Q&A with either an ex-CEO of Citigroup, or an ex-chairman of the NYSE or the chairman of MIT…  The next morning, we didn’t even have to choose because we spent time with Mr John S. Reed, a soft-spoken, thoughtful gentleman who accomplished all three of these! The weight of his experience was almost tangible, and his candid view on the financial industry set the tone for another day of deep diving in the fascinating scene of asset management in Boston. Later, the group split in two parts to visit either Northfield or The Baupost Group. At the Northfield, we learned from a distinguished and diverse panel about the complexities of quantitative analysis and we discovered that nothing ever is what it seems (not even your retirement savings, so watch out). The students at Baupost were honoured by a presentation of Mr Seth A. Klarman, often touted as an investor with the skill and insight approaching Warren Buffet’s. His thoughts in value investment alone would have made the travel worthwhile for many students. A true highlight of the trip.

After visiting Loomis, where we received investment insights of living legend Mr Dan Fuss, who has 54 (fifty four, indeed… this is not a typo) experience in the investment industry, we geared up to make the 6 hour bus trip to New York. The three “Rocky” movies we watched on the bus where a welcome moment of letting our brains rest and digest the learnings of the last two days.

At the time of this writing, through the windows of the bus, the nightly skyline of the Big Apple shows up for the first time… A teaser for everything that is yet to follow!

Stay tuned!

Wouter

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It’s a know fact: during the Summer Olympics, not all days are the same. We tend to get more excited about the finals of the 100 meter than about the preliminary rounds of powerlifting (no offense). If the MBA is like an Olympic campaign, where every day is different and exciting in its own way, I think we are gearing up to have one of our absolute highlights events of the program: The Global Business Experience. Months ago, we had to decide where we wanted to go for a week long international assignment in what was portrayed as the Rolls Royce of all field trips. There were five very juicy projects in different corners of the world: entrepreneurship in South Africa, marketing in Istanbul, economics in Hong Kong, strategy in India and an interesting finance in the United States.I decided to join the Boston/New York trek, which has a strong focus on asset management and is lead by an amazing team of LBS faculty and staff. Which business school student can resist the vibration of a place like New York, and the possibility to visit leading companies in their field…

At the time, it seemed far away, and we were more concerned about approaching internships than about this post summer adventure. But as the summer moved on, and preparatory emails were sent to the batch who had decided to join this trek, you felt that a momentum was building.

First came the logistics, and people were discussion whether to travel before or after the “official part”. A bit later came the program, and it was the time to really get excited about the adventure that was lying ahead. Scheduled visits of companies like KKR, NYSE, Baupost Group, Fidelity, Citi and many more are really appealing. I think it’s the part students look forward to the most: to discover these mythic names from the inside. The opportunity get backstage access to these players doesn’t come frequently.

When the preparatory work email flashed up on the screens, we were brought back with the feet on the ground, and we realised instantly that the trip is not going to be like a lazy summer holiday extension. It’s the way it’s supposed to be, the LBS-way: intense, professional, group-oriented and rich from lots of different angles. We were asked to reach out to our network to set up meetings with experts from other companies, in order to fulfill the requirements of a group work that we have to complete. Some memories of our study groups (the interesting small group of people we’ve spent most of our all nighters” work in the first year with) came back to mind. That’s what LBS is about: achieving more, by working together.

Of course, it will have it fair share of networking with alumni and current students alike, and there will even occasionally be some time to sleep, although I’m not so sure about the latter.

I will try to keep you posted about how the week unfolds! In any case, I’m very much looking forward to take another juicy bit of the the Big Apple!

Wouter*

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iLBS

Posted by: Wouter

You don’t have to be a fruit lover or carry four iDevices at all times to acknowledge the void the passing of Steve Jobs has created. Virtually everybody who is remotely related to business and/or personal development finds inspiration in some of the legendary tech pirate’s mantras. MBA-students spend the better part of the day on both business and personal growth, so projecting key learnings from the first 6 weeks through quotes of the master can shed some light on LBS-life for applying students. (Noticed there’s even an App in the word applying?)

1. It’s wonderful to have a beginner’s mind.

Honestly, before the program started, I thought I was a citizen of the world with brought interests and a keen understanding of what business and society was about. It was only until I started hearing the million life stories of MBA-peers that I realised how small the micro-cosmos actually was I had been operating in. There is so much going on, and so many things to explore, that it makes one dizzy just to think about it.  Nothing more refreshing than biting for the first time in a new and unfamiliar subject! Understanding bond markets, grasping the dynamics of rugby or seeing for the first time words appearing from behind the previously mysterious Cyrillic letters of a Russian sentence comes close to magic. It’s like the world is finally telling you some of its precious secrets.

2. You can’t connect the dots forward – only backward

Most incoming MBA students march to LBS campus with the determination of an undaunted army: sharp objectives, a clear strategy, and a list of activities/clubs & courses that needed to be attended to guarantee victory. As the weeks roll by, resistance to deviate from the plan lowers. Interest is sparked in areas that were not part of the battle plan… Loss of focus?  Should I panic?

I would argue that you have to follow your gut and try out new things. Take risks. Have faith that whatever you undertake now makes sense, maybe not today but at some point in the future. Join an Art club, date a Kazach girl, eat with your hands, take acting courses, represent your class in a political role or compete in a stock pitch. Executive Summary:   “S  t    r    e    t    c   h   ! “

3 Say no to a thousand things

The previous point doesn’t mean that you don’t have to make choices. Remember the time you went to a nice all-you-can-eat-buffet and you actually tried to eat it all… a stomach ache for sure. It’s essentially about making choices (There’s no Kazach girl in my agenda)! New things don’t come easily, and consume more energy than a tuned Hummer. So choose and engage. Engage and marvel. Marvel and blog (optional).

4. Stay hungry, stay foolish

This one’s so much larger than business school (and doesn’t relate to the all-you-can-eat buffet above). It’s about identity, curiosity, humbleness  and fun. Don’t become the sleek suit you’re wearing, don’t turn into the list of A-brands on your resume.

5. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

V.I.T.A.L. Especially in the MBA context. This study is probably the biggest gift you will ever offer yourself. An endless pile of minutes and resources to find your voice, to carve your personality, to finally chase that dream (job). Don’t get caught by trends (Private Equity seems hotter than the iPhone 5!), peer pressure, time pressure, juice pressure (unlikely). If you want to fool yourself, there are way cheaper ways to do so. You’re smart, check. You’re articulate, check. You’re maybe even good looking… Stop proving points. More importantly it’s you-time, the real you-time! Enjoy.

Wouter 4S

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Pre-Term 1: Carpe Diem with a disclaimer

Posted by: Wouter
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When I stepped off the Eurostar in London’s Saint Pancreas station, about two weeks ago, my two overloaded suitcases were formal: this was not another city trip or a short term stay to find a flat. This is it, I’m here to stay, to start my two year MBA adventure.

Ever since, there is a funny itchy feeling in my neck. It’s the feeling that something is about to happen. A momentum is building up, with the energy of a late summer evening storm.

The very first week of the program is called Orientation. It is the time when people scramble to meet & greet (and re-meet & re-greet) as many fellow students as possible in a short time, and to get to know the specifics of the program. It’s a time were the only notes taken are names and phone numbers. Somehow, it feels comfortable and warm, like an eternal cocktail party. However, subtly, after some days things changes.

Increasingly, you see people walking with huge binders full of course material, or you notice somebody selling financial calculators on the school’s online portal. In the informal talks, current students refer systematically to a mysterious key ingredient to MBA-success called “time management”. The notes you take transform from phone numbers into to-do lists. The momentum builds.

If you look at the horizon, it looks like it’s going to get busy, it’s going to be a hell of a ride, and it’s going to happen very soon.

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