It has been a busy week for the Corporate Finance Master’s director; by the time we get round to talking, she had just wrapped up another candidate interview. It is a relentless schedule for the SDA Bocconi School of Management professor.
In December, the leading Italian business school announced plans for a new finance program. SDA Bocconi teamed up with Fordham University's Master of Science in Global Finance. Both schools will deliver an international collaboration. It is an extension of SDA Bocconi’s current MSc in Global Finance.
Alumni will test-drive the new structure in June. They will spend six weeks in New York City, working with Fordham professors and top financial firms. The first official collaboration intake begin studying at SDA Bocconi’s Milan base in September 2014. Students will spend 10 months in Italy with a month in New York – but Fordham professors will teach some content during the Italy-phase of the program.
Over the next few weeks, the school will try to ramp-up awareness of the new collaboration. Recent company visits include GE Capital, RBC Capital, the NASDAQ market site and CNBC.
SDA Bocconi has invested resources in the program. They have closer ties with a bevy of top companies – including UBS, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan. Tuition will cost about €34,000. There are a number of scholarships available.
It has proved popular. “We are going to have about 20 students – alumni working in big positions, taking time off to do this,” says Lucilla, talking about this summer’s test-run. “We never thought that we would have so much success.”
The original MCF is in its fifteenth year. Students tend to be younger than MBA cohorts – “an average age of 26 or 27”. SDA Bocconi has had great interest from Asian candidates that want European exposure. But the new partnership will provide a financial route to Wall Street.
Lucilla lights up when we talk about the Fordham agreement. A band of SDA Bocconi graduates enter the US banking scene each year. New York is hailed as the financial capital of the world.
“Students are going to have a different teaching methodology,” she enthuses. “They will be exposed to American companies and Italian companies working in New York. For them, it will be a transformational experience.”
Like many professors at the school, Lucilla is no stranger to finance. She has published two books, one on economics and business management, and one on sustainable investments. In 1995 she wrote a paper on the Italian pension system. Five years before that she graduated from NYU Stern, before studying a Master’s in international economics and management at SDA Bocconi in 1991.
It seems a perfect background to spearhead the new operation. “Exactly,” she laughs. “Fordham lacked European exposure and we lacked American exposure. It is a double advantage.”
SDA Bocconi’s MBA program is ranked as one of the best in Italy. But Lucilla thinks students should consider a specialized Masters for the “real experience”. “They have the possibility of getting into the job market with an experience that MBAs would not [get],” she says.
Lucilla says MBAs get a good overview, but it is not in-depth – “such as behavioral science or real estate. Whereas if you take a Masters you do simulations. You have more in-depth exposure to the concepts of finance”.
SDA Bocconi students can bank on learning about corporate finance, microeconomics of competitiveness, financial statement analysis and investment decisions – to name but a few topics
The last time I saw SDA Bocconi professors in action the topic on everyone’s lips was a declining interest in financial firms. Banks had been taking a barrage of criticism since the financial crisis. Masters’ students began shunning investment banks. It is still a less popular career path.
Today, Lucilla has a more optimistic tone. But she is under no illusions as to the challenges that financial institutions now face. “The old way of doing finance does not attract students anymore. So they don’t do it anymore,” she deadpans.
Earlier this year, leading European business schools published figures showing that students are going into finance in fewer numbers. Careers directors expressed concern. Recruiters from leading banks said they were reducing their campus recruiting. Only a handful of schools have maintained the same links to the biggest finance firms.
“In the 90’s and the 2000’s, students were going into investment banking. I think the crowd going there now is fewer and fewer,” says Lucilla. “Students are changing their views. The old way of doing finance is not a good way.”
So, business schools are searching for a new way. “Corporations and investment funds are more interesting now,” she continues. “Where students would like to work is now is in private equity funds, which are now having more recruitment. This is changing the world of finance.”
Yet Lucilla insists the school still has close connections to a raft of leading banks and consulting firms. She name-drops UniCredit, PwC and Deloitte.
About a third of her MCF students go into banking, a third go into consulting and a third go into corporate finance, she says.
Most want to find careers in Europe. But through this US collaboration, that may change. The ultimate hope is to provide an easy route into the States. SDA Bocconi has established internships with Italian companies with offices in New York.
“So I think that collaboration could be the starting point for the students to be staying in the States,” says Lucilla. Her alumni class, due to start this summer, may provide some scope.
I ask what she hopes the collaboration will provide MSc students with. Exposure, she laughs, is a huge draw.
“They will be exposed not only from a teaching point of view, but they will also have an idea of how companies over there work. It’s going to be very interesting to have a world-wide overview of corporate finance.”