In August 2016, the Executive MBA Office and FS Alumni Management teamed up once again for two Executive Talks with high-profile and inspiring guest speakers. On August 5, Dr Simone Lazarus, Head of Personnel and Organisational Development at the international insurance group Helvetia Versicherungen, gave the first Executive Talk, followed by Ram Shoham, co-founder and managing director of Accelerator Frankfurt, on August 19. Some 120 students and alumni from the EMBA, MBA and other Master programmes attended the presentations and lively discussions.
In the first Executive Talk, Simone Lazarus shared her experience from the recent integration of Nationale Suisse into Helvetia in 2014. “I had joined Nationale Suisse just a year earlier. While there had always been rumors about a possible merger, it is difficult to prepare mentally for such a step”, she said. “Essentially, you just wake up one morning, get the news, and do not know what this will mean for you.”
“I was on vacation and thought that I would lose my job on my return to the office. Instead, I was asked to step into my current role and lead the merger from the HR side. I just said “yes” without really thinking about what it would mean”. Dr Lazarus illustrated the process of integrating two firms’ separate management teams and structures to create the basis to increase customer benefit, product value and process efficiency. She particularly highlighted the challenges people faced during and after the merger, with regard to restructuring, staffing, communicating, dealing with different mindsets and work styles, and creating a common corporate culture. “Never underestimate the human factor in corporate transformations like a post-merger integration”, was her final message.
Two weeks later, Ram Shoham spoke to another packed lecture room. A former professional surfer, Ram Shoham has 16 years of experience working with entrepreneurs. “I co-founded my first start-up while I was doing my MBA”, said Ram Shoham before sharing his tips for current and future entrepreneurs. By drawing on lively examples from various pitches, he illustrated the important aspects in the interplay between entrepreneurs, startups and investors. “Surround yourself by passionate people”, was his most urging recommendation.
Ram Shoham also presented the program of Accelerator Frankfurt. “This program has been three years in the making. It now relies on some 30 partners to screen and mentor new venture teams through an intense international four-month program in the fields of fintech, cybersecurity and web-applications”, Ram explained. “Frankfurt is a fantastic location. In this region, there are both business and technical universities, there is a good mix of angel investors and venture capitalists, and there is plenty of talent!”
The subsequent network receptions provided all attendants with ample opportunity to exchange their thoughts and make new contacts.