In August 2008, I became the Chief Country Officer for Deutsche Bank in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). I am responsible for strategy formulation and practical implementation of all business and management activities of Deutsche Bank’s various legal entities and business lines in the region; these comprise commercial, private and investment banking, as well as sophisticated capital markets and asset/fund management activities. I was previously Chairman of global banking and capital markets for Russia and the CIS at Dresdner Bank. I am a third-time employee of Deutsche Bank, having served as the Bank’s Head of Sales and Origination for the same region between 2005 and 2007 and covered energy related clients in the Russian market within the Bank’s Corporate Finance team in London between 2001 and 2003—a position I resigned from to move to Moscow and help VneshTorgBank develop an investment banking arm. My initial academic background is in technical engineering and applied mathematics—I have a Masters in Systems Engineering and a PhD in Technical Cybernetics (Omsk). After a career in Russia that culminated in my heading an industrial company, I moved to the USA to do a two-year executive course in business administration (University of Massachusetts) and, fifteen years ago, started a new career as a finance specialist. Working from Houston, I first served as advisor to the President of a major oil company, providing strategic advisory and financing structuring and then helped the Russian Minister of Fuel and Energy identify management and legal issues to modernise the energy sector. In 1998, I joined the World Bank in Washington D.C. to assist in the implementation of strategies and tactics for advancing the energy reform agenda in Russia.
Too often in business life, you work in survival mode and stay ahead by knowing just a little more than the pack. In my current capacity and to prepare for the next stage of my life, I need my brains to think beyond that. I have been a generalist of finance for fifteen years and now feel I need to systemise my feelings and understandings and renew my knowledge; doctoral studies help you do that in a rigorous and time-structured way. My first PhD has proved very useful in my professional life to date as it found many applications in seemingly unrelated fields; I am looking for the same kind of experience.
I came across the EDHEC PhD in Finance by chance, reading the Financial Times. The format did it: the programme allows executives to follow a rigorous doctoral programme without interrupting their careers; this is unique and was the main reason for my choice. Like most participants in the class, I had been looking for such a programme for years but without success… EDHEC really opened up opportunities for us all!
I believe all of us in the class enjoy the curriculum, the faculty, and the learning atmosphere. It is extremely motivating to learn from the best in the field as well as to learn to learn. Faculty does not hand out lists of one-size-fits-all advice and recipes for success but instead opens doors by providing us with the concepts and tools to investigate our own questions. While very intense, the block-week setup of the courses is great. Each half-course delivered over the week gives us a concentrated overview of the key issues—the type of broad vision that is typically lacking in practice—and serves as a toolbox for in-depth work on the readings. Each residential week is extremely useful to flesh out the size of the mountain ahead of me and provides exactly what I need: a structure for learning and pressure to do so. By age and position, you are the most senior member of the inaugural class, how does it feel? As I am learning a lot and working with much younger peers in the PhD, I feel a lot younger. My peers in the class are extremely smart and well-educated and it is energising to take up the challenge of being up to their level. Besides, the programme material and discussions with fellow PhD participants also allow me to better understand what, for example, our traders are talking about. I am happy to share my experience and hope other PhD participants can also learn from me.
It’s just been six months; I consider I am still in accumulation mode. When I completed my first doctoral degree, I felt I had built a dam and stored water, and thus potential energy behind it. Over the last twenty-five years, I have used this energy to fuel my professional career without doing enough to maintain the dam and tap water streams. The water’s now downstream. I am building a new dam and accumulating energy, new knowledge and techniques, which I will later be in a position to use.
Workload is the challenge—the programme is extremely rewarding but demands a big time investment. While I have executive responsibilities, I am lucky in the sense that my children are grown-up. My advice to potential candidates is to think through how they intend to balance the demands of their work and family lives with those of the programme.
I would recommend the programme to people in the finance industry who have a thirst for knowledge and self-development. To recognise and seize opportunities, you need to study and learn continuously; doctoral studies provide you with the tools to do that. Speaking from experience, a PhD is second to none to help you develop your information processing and decision making abilities.