The EDHEC Profile: Christophe Roquilly

Written on 08 October 2014.

First of all, I’d like to congratulate you on your new post as Dean of Faculty and Research. What do you hope to accomplish in this new position?

Thank you! I feel fortunate to be taking on this new position because my predecessor Stéphane Gregoir did an excellent job of structuring and developing research at EDHEC, and because I know that I’ve got a team of competent Heads of Faculty upon which to lean. Also, I’ll be working directly with two very capable people: Cathy Harmegnies, executive manager of the Office of the Dean of Faculty and Research, and Murielle Catry, the office’s Assistant.

In this new position, my objective is to continue to recruit top professors from around the world and to ensure that EDHEC research has an impact – in France and beyond. I’d also like us to be more proactive in promoting EDHEC research – as well as faculty thought leadership – with international business leaders and thinkers, as well as with  Edhec students and alumni. It is very important for the school to show our stakeholders and the media how faculty production impacts the economy and how it responds to corporate needs. Companies and public authorities are facing big challenges: How to deliver goods and services in the digital age; How to respond to new ethical and compliance requirements; How to manage global risks in a world that changes every second of the day? EDHEC’s Poles of Excellence are already working to answer these questions and they’ve got a head start on a slew of other issues as well.

We are also creating a “Pedagogical Innovation Lab” where we will be able to develop new teaching methods to engage and inspire all students, from the BBA to the MBA. Student behaviour is changing and we need to keep them deeply engaged in their own training by using multiple resources.

You joined the EDHEC faculty in 1989. How has the school changed since then and how have you changed with it?

Not a nice question because it makes me feel old. In the past 25 years almost everything about EDHEC has changed except for our school spirit. We’ve grown a lot – adding new degree programmes and a lot more students from France and abroad. EDHEC has always been recognized as one of the best French business schools, but today its international reputation is really taking off. We have created vibrant, international campuses in Lille, Nice, and Paris, as well as in London and Singapore. How have I changed with EDHEC? Today I teach most of my courses in English, I know more about foreign cultures, and my professional network is truly global. Working at EDHEC is a continuous challenge and that is why I have never been tempted to leave.

Was there a professor during your own student years that particularly impressed or helped you; someone who became an intellectual or professional mentor?

Absolutely! Françoise Dekeuwer-Defossez, Françoise Auque and Charles Freyria were the three professors who encouraged me to do my PhD. I learned a lot from Françoise Dekeuwer-Défossez, who offered me precious advice and guidance when I was a young teaching-assistant at the Lille Law School. She taught me how to prepare a course and case study, to manage a team of teachers, and to be rigorous in research projects. But even with the help of these mentors, there have been some surprises. I once had a student who missed so many classes to attend his grandmother’s funeral that he must have had more grandmothers than cousins. He lacked commitment and, most of all, originality!

A 2014 White Paper that you wrote with Philippe Coen, President of the European Company Lawyers Association, analyses the complex role of the in-house corporate lawyer. Can you give us a quick summary?

Sure, I’ll do my best. The main problem in France, as well as in some other countries, is that the law fails to recognize the complexity of the role the company lawyer plays, especially in terms of client confidentiality. This weakens the role of in-house counsel and exposes companies to greater risk. In an environment where companies are facing more and more legal risks, it is crucial that executives and managers have the opportunity to exchange information with in-house attorneys in absolute confidentiality. What is the quality of these exchanges if they are not protected by the law? In this paper we give 20 recommendations to improve the legal recognition of the consubstantial independent quality of the company lawyer and of their work.

Rumour has it you adore cats. What is it about felines?

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved cats. For those who do not, they should read Baudelaire’s poem “Le Chat” and John Keats “To a cat”. You will be converted, I promise.

At a certain period in your life your friends called you “Rocky”. Why? 

It seems that you have access to insider knowledge! This nickname first came from my family name, Roquilly. Kids called me Rocky in elementary school. Then there was a second reason: In the 80s I was the lead singer of a rock band. I still remember our first gig at a rock festival: we played poorly and the crowd got hostile. The night ended with a brawl.

The old image of business students is one of young capitalists looking to get rich quick. What are business students like today? What motivates them to study business? 

I am not sure that doing business studies is still the best way to get rich quickly! And I would say that this image is more of a cliché than an “old image”. Obviously, students want a “payback” when they invest in business studies, but my feeling is that today’s business students are less motivated by money and more by the desire to find a job that will allow them to grow intellectually and emotionally, to discover the world and to discover themselves.

What is your personal motto?

I like this one: “On ne fait bien que ce que l’on aime” [We succeed only if we pursue what we love doing]. This is something I try to share with my students.

Which talent would you most like to have and why?

Definitively to play the guitar like a true musical genius! Unfortunately, if you recall my answer to one of your previous questions, if you’re the lead singer of a band it usually means you’re not good enough to play an instrument. Oh well, perhaps in my next life.


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