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Why An MBA Is Still Your Route To The World's Top Boardrooms

If you want to climb the corporate ladder and land a top MBA job, b-school is your best bet. Almost a third of all chief executives leading the biggest global companies started with MBAs.

Sat Jan 25 2014

For those of you that want to climb the corporate ladder, an MBA should be considered your best bet, according to new analysis by the Financial Times
Business school graduates will take inspiration from hearing that almost a third of all chief executives leading the biggest global companies gave their careers a kick-start with an MBA program. 
Of all the world's leading companies featured in the FT500 index, 29 per cent are headed by an MBA graduate. The listings, compiled by the FT, smack of b-school success.
This research suggests that the world's top companies are placing great value on the earning of an MBA degree. At a time when commentators say that an MBA is no longer worth it, and at a time when applications to top business schools continues to increase each year, this is welcome news.
A recent study by QS Top MBA reported taking up a leadership or management position as one of the highest reasons cited by applicants for pursuing MBA programs. The majority (56 per cent) of those surveyed hope to lead a company, compared to 31 per cent who hope to start their own business. 
Arak Bhokanandh, a Bath MBA graduate who left a consulting job at Deloitte, agrees: "Ultimately, my ambition is to move into industry and run a company one day. My target now is to climb the corporate ladder. That's my ambition," he told BusinessBecause.
Alex Figueroa, an MBA recruiter at leading investment bank Goldman Sachs, says having an MBA degree can be a significant advantage when it comes to banking a top job - especially for those lacking financial experience. 
He believes it would have been "much harder" to have landed his job there without one, and having an MBA can be "beneficial" at Goldman Sachs. "But we’re not cookie-cutter in our approach. What we like to see is that whatever sort of endeavor that you were undertaking, prior to business school, we look for there to be a level of high achievement in that context," he said.
Jonny Bevan, a senior resourcing consultant at EE, the leading UK mobile network, says that MBA degree holders are skilled in sales and can be groomed into leadership roles more easily. 
"We want to tap into the MBA market for quality talent. We get quite a lot out of MBAs," he said. "They understand the commercial side of the business, and are even more relevant in sales.
"MBAs are a good place to start for our future leaders. We will bring an MBA in at whatever level, and in three or five years they could be in leadership roles."
The FT's research also shows that the majority of these chief executives came from top MBA Ranking business schools. 
Although not released yet, two-thirds graduated from a school ranked in the top-100 of the FT's Global MBA Ranking 2014.
Nine of these top-ranking schools produced 68 FT500 chief executives, including the Tuck School of Business, HEC Paris, Cass Business School, EMLYON Business School and the Fuqua School of Business
Another MBA who made the list, Antony Jenkins, chief executive of Barclays, graduated from Cranfield School of Management in the UK. 
Harvard Business School, considered the number-one 2013 MBA program by the FT, has the majority of top chief execs among its' alumni - an impressive 24 per cent. Of the 50 largest companies in the US, four are led by Harvard graduates, including Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric and James Dimon of JPMorgan Chase.
This represents a trend of US schools producing the biggest amount of FT500 company leaders. A 71 per cent majority of MBA graduates who are FT500 chief executives came from US b-schools.
INSEAD is the only non-US school to have more than two MBA alumni represented in the FT500 listing. 
Overall, 46 per cent of the US-based FT500 companies have chief executives with MBA degrees, compared to 37 per cent of UK companies. 
However, in other parts of Europe, including France and Germany, less than 10 per cent of chief executives have MBAs. In mainland China, figures are about the same. In Japan, just two chief execs of the 34 Japanese companies listed in the FT500 are led by MBAs - Toyota and Bridgestone. 
US dominance of FT500 chief executive positions continues. Even in non-US based companies in that index, 30 are led by graduates who got MBAs from business schools in the States - including Credit Suisse and Novartis. 89 per cent of MBA alumni who run US-based FT500 companies went to business school in America.
And only a few leading US companies are led by those with MBAs from b-schools outside of America - Muhtar Kent of Coca-Cola, who studied at Cass in London being the most prominent example.
Despite the US producing the most chief executives, demand for MBA programs in the country has decreased, with many students seeking their fortunes in Asia. 
A recent report by QS Top MBA, reported by BusinessBecause, showed that demand for US-based MBA programs was predicted to rise by just 2 per cent. In contrast, China was set for a staggering 35 per cent demand for MBA applications, with India expected to see a similar 29 per cent increase. 
Reasons for the surge include the strong economic growth in Asia and international student scholarships, rather than better job prospects, according to the survey.
But Ying Hu, a second-year full-time MBA student at the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance, says that China offers the best job prospects for financiers in the region. "Shanghai is the financial capital of China," she said.
"We have the most advanced financial concepts, and many financial institutions are located in Shanghai, so 'Saifers' have more opportunities than other cities," she told BusinessBecause. 
Yingzhen Hu, another SAIF MBA student, said that b-school has been essential in helping her climb the coproate lader. "The majority of our MBAs have few financial experiences, yet we are hunting jobs in financial areas and we still have obstacles. Employers might doubt our competence," she said.
"But as soon as we entered SAIF, they got us lots of interviews to search our career goal and build our career planning."
Ying agrees. "The SAIF career development center provide job consulting services throughout all the two years and help us find our own internships by providing suggestions."
With almost one in three of the world's top chief executives holding MBAs from leading b-schools, today's graduates can take confidence in the fact that MBA programs are still producing boardroom leaders. 
For Mac Schuessler, international president of Global Payments, an MBA was "essential" for his rise to the top of the leading global payment processing company. 
"It demonstrates a level of ambition and also the ability to manage complexity," Mac, who went to  Emory University’s Goizueta Business School in the US, said. "Just the fact that you get your MBA is a testament to the ability to manage your time and priorities effectively."
Although, he says that a b-school degree is not essential for everyone - and it will not guarantee you a position at the top of the corporate ladder. "But it is a respected accomplishment," he added. 
"All the executives recognize that it’s an achievement and it helps move your career forward."
Our sponsor schools are producing corproate leaders
The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University:
Tim Cook (US)
A 1988 MBA graduate who became chief executive of Apple in 2011. Apple is still the world's most valuable floated company.
The Tuck School of Business At Dartmouth College:
Alexander Cutler (US)
A 1975 MBA graduate, was appointed chief executive of Eaton in 2000. Eaton is a power management company, acquired by Cooper Industires plc in November 2012. At the time of the take-over, their combined revenue was $21.8 billion.
Cranfield University School of Management:
Antony Jenkins (UK)
Completed his MBA in 1988 and by 2012 was the chief executive of Barclays. The leading universal bank has been in business for over 300 years. 
City University: Cass Business School:
Muhtar Kent (US)
Graduated from the Cass MBA in 1977, became chief executive of Coca-Cola in 2008. Coca-Cola was valued at $79.2 billion in September 2013.
HEC Paris Business School:
Pascal Soriot (UK)
Graduated from the MBA program in 1986, became chief executive of AstraZeneca in 2012. AstraZeneca is a leading pharmaceutical company, with sales totaling $28 billion in 2012. 
EMLYON Business School:
Jean-Pascal Tricoire (France)
Left the MBA program in 1986 and by 2006 was the chief executive of Schneider Electric. The electricity distribution company reported second quarter 2013 revenues of €6,219 million.