This past week at IMD was filled with revelations; while economics and finance were new to most of the group, the biggest news came in the form of a seemingly innocuous envelope bearing our “NEO” personality assessment results.
Before arriving in Lausanne, we had each been asked to complete a questionnaire to assess our personality traits. While I had been through similar exercises in the past, nothing could have prepared me for the test results. Not only did the document give an objective view of our personalities (split across parameters such as Emotionality, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness), it also detailed how these traits might affect the way we function in our personal and professional lives. Deep down I guess some of us always had an inkling about our distinctive qualities, but this exercise still forced us to reflect on how we had managed to cope with these idiosyncrasies over the years in our own lives.
That very same day, while we were still trying to comprehend these (not so) new-found intricacies of our inherent disposition, we were introduced to one of the biggest personalities at IMD – Professor of Finance Arturo Bris. I had known of Arturo for several years before I even thought of applying to IMD, mainly because I had come across one of his articles questioning whether democracy is in decline (for context, this was published in the aftermath of Trump’s ascent to power). As interesting as the article was, I was most intrigued by the fact that a finance professor had delved into topics that most finance professionals I knew of at that point always steered clear of. As an investment banking analyst, I felt there was wisdom in following this finance guru for a broader view of matters that affected us all. In later years, several of his publications would help inform my discussions on topics as disparate as India’s global competitiveness, Brexit, and the true impact (if any) of a CEO on a company’s financial performance.
The professor’s first few finance classes covered the basics of risk and return, and even for someone like me who had worked at banking and private equity firms, it was an eye opener. Drawing links between seemingly unrelated concepts, Arturo was able to convey the importance of focusing on the things that really matter. In his own inimitable style, he called these NPWS – for the uninitiated, the acronym stands for “Noble Prize Winning Stuff”. It’s rare to come across someone who makes highly complex and technical subjects interesting for all, and in addition to the new learnings, this is what makes the finance classes even more enjoyable.
Last week, as I was preparing to write this blog, I was worried I wouldn’t have very many things to talk about as the schedule for the week was just filled with classes. Now, as I sit on the verge of breaching the prescribed word limit, it’s fair to say I didn’t really have any dearth of things to write about. As we enter our second month at IMD, I am certain there will be even more supposedly harmless acronyms to write about that will in fact be even more revealing than NEOs and NPWS… follow this space!