Dean Interview: Santiago Iñiguez de Onzoño, IE Business school

Interview with the dean of IE Business School

Santiago Iñiguez de Onzoño is the Dean of IE Business School and an expert in management education. He is also portrayed by the Financial Times as ‘one of the most significant figures in promoting European business schools internationally’ and is a regular speaker at international conferences and frequently contributes to different academic journals and media on this subject.

Alongside his role as Dean, Iñiguez is a Professor of Strategic Management. He has published several articles and case studies on business management and is the author of several articles and books in the field of moral and political philosophy. Iñiguez spoke with topmba.com editor Ross Geraghty in February 2009. This is the first of a two-part interview.

Has IE Business School experienced a spike in MBA applications as some other schools are reporting? Do you think now is really the time to do an MBA?

We have experienced an increase in applications for the full time MBA. Interestingly we have even experienced an increase in Executive Education where I would have supposed companies were going to cut their budgets. Companies are still paying for their employees, although it’s more difficult, as companies are more reluctant to invest in their employees at this time. But, in full time MBAs, it is counter-cyclical. Many people feel that this is the right occasion to get better prepared to start their own businesses, change careers, or get ready to reinvent finance. We need to reinvent many skills including management and financial markets.

How do you reinvent finance?

By returning to the golden rules and basics. We teach things that are sometimes forgotten, long-term strategies, concepts of risk, analysing different courses. It’s not true that we teach graduates how to evade responsibilities, quite the contrary. So we should start with those basics of management. Finance and management are young subjects and need to be clarified - products and services can be complex. In the past two decades very few people knew what was going on. This applies not just to professionals and academics but to regulators and the media too. If journalists and regulators had known more about derivatives, credit or mortgages I’m sure they would have been out publicly announcing those shortages among those products. We all share responsibility, but we can see what has, or hasn’t worked. We shape financial institutions and we shape financial markets. We need to do that actually.

Some say that MBAs have, in part, caused the problem. Why would one do an MBA because of that?

I think it’s a cliché or a generalization. It’s like trying to get guilty people for a given crisis or a scandal by condemning the whole profession for being unethical. Imagine if we condemned architects because one building fell down or doctors because a given procedure is found out to be a malpractice after a few years. Of course there have been cases where people behaved imprudently or unethically, but this wasn’t caused by the MBA.  With the exception of a few notorious cases, many people running these cases weren’t MBAs. There are just as many MBAs who are creating value, setting up new businesses, running not-for-profits and helping public organizations effectively, so it is the time to re-vindicate management. It is one of the noblest professions that humans can engage. It’s an antidote to politics, to poverty and world illnesses. Good management practises and good business.

What are the recruiting hotspots for the school at the moment?

Clearly South America, with the Spanish language is important for us. Brazil has become a very hot spot, and Mexico is a large market as well. But then Russia and Eastern Europe too. Graduates from those countries return home and get top positions as CEOs. It’s amazing the management need in those markets. India is the biggest in terms of volume on our MBA however, over China. To be honest the Chinese labour market is so steady that not many MBAs are leaving China to study abroad. So we go to Guangzhou, Shanghai, and run programs there. The number of Chinese is increasing but not at the same pace as India, which is exploding.

Why has the issue of sustainability become so important at business school?

We have limited resources and we all care about the planet. There is a moral duty to future generations and a moral duty for business managers. Managers should say at least implicitly that they have a duty to future generations. Good management can have a big impact on the environment so managers should be aware of this. We pay a lot of attention to this at the very beginning of the program, when students are very open to new knowledge, but actually it’s through the program in all courses - finance, marketing and strategy. CSR is not confined to one given course but each professor deals with it on each course, applying it from different perspectives. These times of economic crisis provide the best platform, an acid test to show whether you are committed and respect CSR.  This is the time to show you care for CSR and for human capital.

CSR is not just a buzzword;  I don’t like the acronym CSR either. I prefer talking of it as business ethics. If you are a good manager CSR isn’t a buzzword or something added – I don’t think you can talk about good management without this in mind.. As in other professions, if you’re a good doctor that means you have more patients cured; a good architect makes buildings that dont’ get damaged in the rain. For a good manager the business has to be sustainable. It’s not disassociated from business, it’s sewn onto the fabric of business.

Written by QS Blogger
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