Biergartens, Futbol and Banks – the B-School EuroTrip
How does the following sound right now as you are sitting at your cubicle or desk while trying to hit that latest deadline?
• Take a week off from work and travel with 60 of your classmates to preselected international destinations with programs designed to enrich your understandings and perceptions of businesses and cultures.
• Immerse yourself into the business landscape and culture of these destinations, focusing on relative business trends and current events
• Enjoy presentations and participate in discussions with leaders of industry and government on topical issues and trends across the business and global landscape.
• Take every opportunity to gain valuable networking time with your current classmates. Nothing opens lines of communication quite like a biergarten in Germany!
Above is an outline of the Global Study Tour (GST), one of the key differentiating aspects of the NYU Stern Executive MBA program. These international learning opportunities were a deciding factor in my decision to enroll at NYU Stern last August.
In April, our class had the great fortune to travel to Frankfurt, Germany, and Madrid, Spain, for a deep dive into the Eurozone Crisis. The main goal of the trip was to gain a perspective on what caused the crisis, how it should be fixed and how to try to avoid similar issues in the future. We were able to view the effects of the crisis on the healthier German economy as compared with the more difficult Spanish economy. We started our trip in Frankfurt – where we met with Thomas Mayer, the former chief economist at Deutsche Bank – visited the Bayer facility and toured the Opel car plant. However, for me, the highlight was a trip to the European Central Bank where Francesco Drudi, head of monetary policy, and Jonathan Yiangou, an economist for EU Institutions, spoke about the current challenges facing the EU and their recommendations to move forward. A great deal of the recommendations pointed to greater austerity measures that smaller countries, such as Spain, should take.
In Spain, we were greeted by fantastic weather and the old world European charm of the city of Madrid. In Spain, the unemployment rate is 27% compared with 7.5% in the U.S. Madrid at night did not reflect this fact as the streets were crowded with people enjoying life. We met with many great companies and individuals in Spain as well: Telefonica, La Liga Di Futbol Profesional, Acciona and José Campa, former secretary of state of economics for Spain. José spoke of the incredible growth of infrastructure in Spain since the launch of the Euro and then the impact of the collapse of the housing/real estate market in 2008. It was fascinating.
One of the most interesting facts was that in Spain, private debt, including mortgage debt, follows you for the rest of your life. I came upon this article from The New York Times regarding this issue. If a property owner falls behind in payments, the bank can foreclose quickly and move to auction. If there is no buyer, which is often the case right now, the bank will keep the property for 50% of the value of the loan, leaving the other 50% as ongoing debt for the owner. Just to compound the issue, the owner also has to pay court costs and interest on the outstanding debt. This issue is in the courts right now to try and reform the system so that it doesn’t tilt so much in the banks’ favor, particularly since they are approving the loans. The people in the article are basically stuck with this debt for the rest of their lives. They will never own anything again and, since the bank can take a percentage of their earnings, they will essentially be working for the bank until they can pay off their debt.
We learned that for our next GST in January, we’ll travel to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Bangkok, Thailand. In a pilot program for second-year trips, the Stern administration gave our class the opportunity to vote for the countries that will be included in our trip. We had to choose from South Africa, China/Taiwan and Vietnam/Thailand. This pilot program led to a healthy debate over lunch and a happy hour, giving students a chance to voice their opinions and arguments both for and against the destination options. For me, the GST is all about the experience and having the confidence that NYU Stern will set up a riveting program for an outstanding learning opportunity.
Tim Reid is getting an Executive MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business. He has spent 19 years in the retail industry with The Gap, May Co., and for the past ten years, Macy’s Merchandising Group where he is group vice president of product development and design for Macy’s men’s private branded apparel.