Interview: Markus Rudolf of WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management

Markus Rudolf

The financial crisis has taken center stage in business school classrooms around the world. Rightfully so, says the finance chair at one of Germany’s leading business schools.

How is the financial crisis affecting the way you teach finance?

One positive thing about the things that are going on right now is that we can learn a lot from them. You can empirically analyze how markets react in extreme scenarios. This is something you find in our lectures. Our lectures are focused on recent developments anyway, but this year we are teaching a lot about the financial crisis.

Of course, we also have conferences where we invite academics, as well as professionals. One example was the Campus for Finance New Year Conference recently where we had a lot of CFOs and CEOs here, one Nobel laureate, and a lot of professors. We were talking for three entire days about the financial crisis – what the reasons for it are and what can be improved in the future in order to avoid these developments that we have right now.

Is anything changing in the students?

What we do see is that the behavior of employment changes. The most popular employers have been investment banks and consulting companies. The popularity of banks as possible employers was low in late 2008. This year, things seem to turn back again. It is also partly because many of our students are interested in jobs that are related to social responsibility. Some of them are even doing a kind of social year. That is something that we did not have to such an extent in the last nine years that I’ve been here. My feeling is that values are changing among the students.

Even among the students that work in the banking and finance sector?

Exactly. There are definitely less that go into the financial sector, and that has to do with the fact that there are not as many jobs as in years past. But I also have the feeling that the minds of the students have changed.

Everyone I know in the sector is thinking about the business model, and it’s quite obvious that the business model of the past will not be applicable to the business model of the future. It is quite obvious that there have been mistakes made, and my impression is that the finance sector has not exactly found it’s place in the future, but many people are thinking about it.

You are also the academic director of the Master of Law and Business (MLB) program with Bucerius Law School in Hamburg. Why would someone do this program instead of an MBA?

Well, the basic concept is that there are a lot of issues in the economy and the business world where you need expertise in both fields – business and law. Think about the regulation and the problems we are having because of the financial crisis. This has to do a lot with regulation of the banking sector, of mergers and acquisitions, and in those kinds of transactions, there are always business people involved as well as lawyers.

Our feeling is that legal people don’t understand very much about business, and business people don’t understand very much about law. This program allows them both the business people and lawyers to understand the other side better, to have added value. We also offer lectures on the same topic from two perspectives. We encourage our law and business professors to interact with each other, and basically to have connections between the courses so that the students become aware of the different views – the business and the law.

Is this something that employers were demanding?

Well, we’ve already had two classes that have graduated, and all of those students have been quite successfully placed in law firms, industrial firms, and banks. One integral part of the program is an internship. It was not too complicated, even though the program was brand new and nobody knew about it to place them for those six weeks in those companies as well as the law firms. There is obviously demand for our graduates, and that shows that our concept seems to be interesting to the business world.

Photo Courtesy: Markus Rudolf

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