2017 Best EMBAs: Jeffrey Brunton, Northwestern (Kellogg)-HKUST

Jeffrey Brunton

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management-HKUST

“Inquisitive, hard-working, playful, high energy, extrovert, good listener, caring.”

Age: 47

Hometown: Sydney, Australia

Family Members: Wife – Laurie, Children – Lydia, Geordie and Lewis

Fun fact about yourself:  Here’s two: I love washing cars. I love ‘Icemagic’ on my bowl of icecream and I hide the Icemagic from my family (though they all know my hiding spot).

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Queensland, Bachelor Comm (Hons); Bachelor of Laws

Where are you currently working? AMP Capital, Senior Investment Director. I am responsible for relationship management, delivering investment advice, and growing our mutual business to ensure we continue to foster our partnership with AMP. I am responsible for bringing our investment thought leadership and insights from our capabilities across multi-asset, global equities and fixed income, infrastructure and real estate to AMP group. The relationship with AMP group covers about $110b of the $160b that AMP Capital manages and about 40% of the revenue of the firm. I am also a member of the Fixed Income Investment Committee, a member of the Infrastructure Investment Committee, and a member of the Wholesale Australian Property Fund. Finally, I am a member of the AMP Capital Executive Committee.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Deputy Chairman of Operation Smile Australia – a not-for-profit focusing on facial reconstructive surgery for children in developing countries. Over the last 10 years of my involvement, I have helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars which has changed the lives of thousands of children.

Occasional Jesuit fundraising for the community – including shifts at a homeless shelter, and fundraising work for international missions.

Other leadership positions:

  • Executive Director of the Board of AMP Capital Investors Ltd
  • Executive Director of the Board of Ipac Asset Management Ltd
  • Executive Director of the Board of Ipac Portfolio Management Ltd
  • Board Member of the Australian Centre for Financial Studies (a corporate / university collaboration institute)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Having had over two decades of experience in finance disciplines, I was most proud of my HP achievements in the fields of marketing and strategy. These fields were relatively new to me, but gave me frameworks to make sense of some of the successes and failures I had been a part of during my career to date. Gaining this new knowledge also sets me up for greater chances of success in the future as my responsibilities become more strategic in nature.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? It was navigating the global financial crisis. My team and I were responsible for the corporate bond positions for all of AMP Capital’s clients. We managed just under AUD$50B in global fixed income. As the events of 2008/09 unfolded, we dealt with very challenging market events, huge volatility, clients who were unsure of their investment strategy, large uncertainty, and an extremely high volume of work. We were able to achieve much during that time and in the years that followed the crisis including:

  1. Outstanding investment performance relative to the market and to peers in the industry;
  2. Achieved the highest possible rating from external researchers on our flagship corporate bond fund in 2012;
  3. Being awarded Fixed Income Manager of Year in 2013 and 2014;
  4. And we raised over $5b of new client money during this time.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? This is extremely tough to pick – can I give a three-way equal split:

Karl Schmedders – I had a very good understanding of the content of Managerial Economics & Decision Sciences, but Karl’s ability to connect with a diverse bunch of people and de-mystify complex problems was outstanding. Plus I’ve got my list of his favourite quotes! Earth to class!

Harry Kraemer – Took us for the capstone subject, Leading Global Organisations, and this subject allowed me to link it all together to develop meaning. Harry allowed me to understand part of what I had been doing for many years that had contributed to my success.  His values based leadership provided a “beacon on a hill” for me to follow.

Alexander Chernev – This one really got me thinking. There was a whole science behind marketing, the 3Vs, 5Cs, G-STIC…..all designed to help you answer the simple question: Why would a customer switch from a competitor’s offering to yours, and what’s the value proposition – if you can’t answer that, then a customer definitely can’t!

I can’t believe that I don’t have a vote left for Gad Allan – Strategic Decisions in Operations.  Prior to attending this course, I had not really given much thought as to how the broader business around me was designed. Gad opened my eyes to the challenge that operational strategy must specify all real assets and processes in the value chain and plan for the future being mindful of the company’s strategy.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I wanted to be part of a pre-eminent program. I wanted an East meets West cohort, given my firm’s footprint in Asia, and I didn’t want to do a finance heavy program. As my career progressed, I needed breadth and I needed frameworks in the areas of strategy, marketing and leadership. The Kellogg brand is pre-eminent in these fields and coupled with HKUST met all my requirements.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I really enjoyed two things most – the learning experience and the social experience. Firstly, the 50 of us in HK have really become a family, it’s pretty special, and then when you realise you are part of global network – it’s really what the experience is all about. The program director, Judy Au, and her team, deserve a huge call out here. They work tirelessly to ensure the class is well suited to each other and that we are all well looked after throughout our EMBA experience.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I remember how the Dean told us at the beginning of the program that an EMBA makes you speed up – you get faster at what you do. You don’t waste time. I was able to juggle an immense program of personal, family, and corporate change throughout the program. Part of the way I did this is that I would get into work an hour early every day – and not start my day job until the normal time, and I would use the first productive hour of each and every day on the program. One of the secret ingredients for a successful EMBA is a great study group. Judy and her team put me in KH19 group 5 – and we are a fabulous team. There were 7 of us for most of the program (we got an extra member for the last third), and the success we enjoyed throughout was due to the combined efforts of us all – special call out to Fiona, Sunny, Calvin, Mikey, Shigeo, Denzel and Fatima for making my experience so enjoyable, enriching, and rewarding.

What was your biggest regret in business school? No regrets, apart from the fact that it is ending too soon!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? That’s really tough. We are so diverse and we all have our individual strengths and gifts. I really admire all of the women in KH19 – in my experience they are smarter than the men. They work harder, and they have done amazing things to get to where they are in their careers.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…the Chairman of my company explained how a demonstrable commitment to personal development was a critical indicator for the Board to consider how to choose the future leaders of the enterprise.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…another step further from my goal of achieving my potential and leaving a great legacy for those that come after me in my organization.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the executive MBA experience? That’s easy – an extra 30 minutes in bed before class starts each day!

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal?  To make a real difference to those I lead, the clients who rely on me, and to leave a legacy for those who follow in my footsteps after I go.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? That’s a tough question, I would be nowhere without the support of my wife, Laurie, who is a tower of strength and a very accomplished woman who has devoted her life to fighting for the underdog, working with prisoners, refugees, HIV sufferers, and sex workers at various times in her career as a lawyer.  I’d also credit a lot of my natural abilities to my grandmother, my dad’s mum, whose life through the depression years taught me great resilience and to be thankful for what you had, and to always work as hard as you can. Plus she was a whiz at numbers!

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I was part of creating an amazing legacy for the future customers, employees and shareholders of my firm.

Favorite book: I do so much reading for work that I find I don’t read for pleasure.

Favorite movie or television show: I am an avid fan of sci-fi, action movies. I have watched the Matrix and Bourne movies many times. I also like watching rom-coms with my wife.

Favorite musical performer: This is a tough choice, I have broad tastes – I love the 1980s, so Bruce Springsteen, Nick Cave, Cold Chisel, but I also really enjoy listening to Robbie Williams and Adele. Hard to go past David Bowie, The Doors, CCR, and then there is Neil Diamond!

Favorite vacation spot: I made a decision with my wife Laurie about a decade ago that we would try to see the world with our kids before they got too old to want to come with us. So I take a month off every December/January and we go away as a family. It’s a special time for us to spend together and with friends, and we like to get out of our comfort zones as a family and immerse ourselves in the culture. One of our all-time favourites is India, with Vietnam and Thailand a close 2nd and 3rd.

Hobbies? My wife and I really like to watch live sports – Australian football. I also like time to reflect and ponder life and I do that in my garden.

What made Jeff such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Jeff Brunton has been an exceptional candidate in the Kellogg-HKUST EMBA program. While the majority of the students who study in the program are from a few hours flight time, Jeff impressed the admissions committee that he was determined to take a 10-hour plane ride from Sydney to Hong Kong every month.

Apart from excelling in his studies, as he has done exceedingly well in all subjects, you will never see jet lag or fatigue in Jeff. He is ever so positive and highly regarded by his classmates and faculty. Additionally, Jeff is a significant contributor to his class. He helps cultivate a cohesive and collaborative culture within the cohort. His positive energy not only exhibits to his peers, but also to all the staff members. We are all very proud to have Jeff as our alum.”

Judy Au
Program Director
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology