IESE Adds An Americas Track To Its Global EMBA Program

IESE Business School Associate Dean Franz Heukamp

IESE Business School Associate Dean Franz Heukamp

There are worse places to study business than at IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. When we meet Associate Dean Franz Heukamp here, New York, Philadelphia and Boston are probably still recovering from a snow storm. But here in Barcelona the weather is mild, with temperatures in the mid-fifties, and some students still prefer sweaters over jackets.

And there’s more than just good temperatures. IESE’s main campus in Barcelona sits atop a hill overlooking one of the world’s most beautiful cities and the azure Mediterranean. The view is stunning. To the right you can see Camp Nou, the futbol mecca home to FC Barcelona, and to the left of it, one can see Montjuic, the hill on which Barcelona organized the 1992 Olympics. In the campus bar, a young woman is having a beer, and as we enter, another student is holding a flyer promoting IESE’s pub crawl for that night.

Yet for all the lightness surrounding it, IESE means serious business. In the most recent Financial Times global MBA ranking for 2015, the school placed seventh worldwide for the third straight year, one of only three non-U.S. schools in the top ten, along with London Business School and INSEAD. And the school is not resting on its laurels: next summer, it’s opening a sixth campus in Munich, Germany, coincidentally also the home country of our interviewee, Associate Dean Franz Heukamp.

Heukamp, who earned his PhD in engineering from MIT, teaches managerial decision making at IESE where he had been secretary general from 2009 to 2012. Since then, he’s served as associate dean for MBA programs.

In a wide-ranging interview with Poets&Quants, Heukamp talks about recent changes at the school, placing more bets in growth markets, the use of technology in learning, and the need for a Michelin-like ranking of business schools.

It’s been two years since last we last interviewed Dean Jordi Canals of IESE. What’s new at the school since then?

Two things are new in terms of programs, I would say. First, we have added an Americas track to our Global Executive MBA, specifically in our New York location. That makes it more balanced. We already had a presence in Europe and Africa on the one side, and Sao Paolo on the other side of the Atlantic. With the addition of New York, it has become truly transatlantic.

In our full-time MBA program, we started our overseas module in Kenya, Nairobi. It’s very much the first of its kind in Africa. In the first week, students gain knowledge of the country and the economy, with a mix of case studies and guest speakers from Kenya. And in the second part, students work with designated SMEs on projects the students have prepared beforehand. Getting that real working experience is very much appreciated by our students.

Finally, we’re also preparing the opening of our Munich campus, consolidating our presence in Germany. We already had an office there since 2005, and offered executive education, but now we’ll have our own designated campus, with a permanent staff presence, opening possibilities to offer more programs there in the future.

Is it a coincidence those expansion programs are mostly in growth markets that suffered less or have recovered from the global financial crisis?

In a way, it isn’t, of course, as people are attracted to growing markets. But we have a long tradition of working in and with emerging markets. As a school, we’ve been around for 57 years. Things here don’t happen overnight. We’ve been in Latin America since the 1960s, and in China since the 1990s, when CEIBS (China European International Business School) in Shanghai was founded and many of our professors went there. It’s not a must for us to do this, but it is quite natural. We want people to help have a positive impact, and you see that good business education helps people improve and helps societies improve. And as I’ve said, we do offer an overseas module in our New York campus as well, which is not an emerging market but the most advanced economy in the world. And that happily coexists.

Exactly my point. You seem to focus more on the growth pole US /Africa now and less on the stagnating markets of Spain/Brazil.

I wouldn’t be so pessimistic about Brazil. We started an Executive MBA there in 2012 and we just graduated the first class in the summer of 2014. Brazil is indeed not having an easy time, but it is a big economy with a lot of potential, and a lot of need for business education. And as for Europe, we do also believe that even if it is not growing rapidly, the need for business education remains. New generations of leaders have to be trained. That is specifically true for Germany, which unlike the U.S., U.K., France and Spain does not have a long history of business schools.

You explained why you expanded in the U.S., Brazil, Germany and Africa. You haven’t talked about Spain, the country where IESE is based and which suffered tremendously from the crisis. Are you trying to decrease your weight here?

No. Our internationalization strategy is not based on the situation in Spain. We would think about Brazil and Kenya in the same way if we didn’t come from here. Already, only about 20% of our students are Spanish, meaning we have a very international MBA program. If we think about where to add presence, it is not related to where we are currently, but where there are interesting learning opportunities.

But even then we could choose to expand in non-growth markets, such as Japan, as Europe could learn a lot from the process Japan has gone through in the last 20 years. The order of our thought process is not so much “I want to go to growth markets,’ but “I want my MBA students to be prepared to do business in a growing, globalized world.’ And that indeed coincides with growth markets.

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