How to make the learning process engaging and practical, which skills you may gain and what is special about Masters in Finance students - find answers to these and other questions in the interview of NES visiting professor Christian Schopper (PhD University of Vienna, Partner, Corporate Finance Central Europe).
You are one of the few invited professors at MiF who have both PhD and extensive business experience. Why did you go for PhD after a successful career at IB? What is more important for you now: your business practice or your teaching?
Actually, I did my PhDs in parallel to my jobs and service in the army. I was a bit crazy and the PhDs were for me some sort of sports. I was actually the fastest ever double PhD in Vienna, with the age of 25 having also worked full time then for more than a year … - Yes, studying was like sports and an intellectual challenge … - just fun!
Even when doing advisory in the CEE / CIS, it was always important to me to leave more behind than just a done deal. Sounds a bit stupid for a banker, but I also wanted to improve something, to do something good. – Nowadays I see giving advice and teaching very similar, as I am sharing experience from what I have learned in life. So teaching, coaching, mentoring, providing advice is pretty similar in my view and is all of same importance.
What is your main purpose or inspiration when you teach? Do you use any special teaching methods? What is the most important thing students should learn from you?
There are several aspects which have developed over time: First, I think that the interface of concepts and practice is at the essence, not only as a matter of relevance, but also as it seems that what keeps participants? interest, engagement, involvement and energy high. Second, there is an enormous level of experience and knowledge in the classroom and therefore I want all of us learn from each other.
Consequently, I see my sessions rather as workshops and a case study is always a good kick-off to get interaction in classroom going. The time in the classroom is the most valuable and precious for all of us and – hence – I think that we want to rather jointly learn there, instead of just holding lectures …
I can share with students what I have learned, experienced or what is possible (even if in other regions on this planet …). But they have to decide whether this is useful or whether they want to apply such lessons. They should also become critical and understand that in most situations there is no “solution”, but just better or worse next steps to be done …
Over the last years you taught many courses at MiF: Strategic Corporate Finance, Restructuring, Banking. What is special about them? What kind of knowledge and skills do students acquire from them?
To start with, all of these courses are multi-disciplinary, in that participants would have to assess situations from different angles. For example, finance will be driven by strategy, but also corporate governance or human resource management may play a role. So, therefore, look up and see concepts in a context.
Next to the fact that many issues in life or practice may not have a “solution”, all constellations we walk through in class usually end with the question: What would you do? – So: Make a decision! Make a – sometimes - tough decision! … - You want participants to step up, assume responsibility and credibly think through and argue their decision.
What do you think about the quality of Masters in Finance program (and MiF students) compared to similar programs in Russia and abroad?
NES participants in all courses are in regards to quality the best I have seen anywhere: The intellectual capabilities, energy, willingness to learn and decency are second to none. It is such a privilege and joy to work with them and I am thankful for NES to be provided with this opportunity.
Any participant in any NES program having passed with a reasonable score will be able to succeed anywhere in the world.
In the next module (May-June 2017) you are going to teach two half-courses on M&A and on Decision-making in Corporate Finance. Can you tell a few things about these courses: contents, learning methods, expected results?
There will be two elements which will be a bit different from my usual class formats. M&A will be a full workshop format in that we enhance the speed of changing topics and apply various tools, such as case studies, simulations, lectures in a speedy sequence. The one on “Decision-making in Corporate Finance” will be sort of a master-class format in reviewing concepts and then applying them in highly complex life stituations.