Jun. 17, 2019

Franz Heukamp


Franz Heukamp

Dean, IESE Business School

“Our origins are in Barcelona, which in the late 1950s was Spain's commercial capital in many respects.”


Franz Heukamp is the Dean and A. Valero Professor of Management at IESE Business School, where he was Associate Dean for MBA Programs before. He graduated from MIT with a PhD in 2002. As a scholar, he studies decision making from a behavioral and neuroeconomics perspective with a special emphasis on risk and decisions under uncertainty. In this context, he regularly works with a wide range of participants, from MBA students to CEOs.

Would you tell us about IESE Business School's origins and evolution since 1958?

IESE Business School started as a business school 60 years ago in 1958 and was among the first of its kind. Our origins are in Barcelona, which in the late 1950s was Spain's commercial capital in many respects. We started with programs for senior executives. The first program we offered was Advanced Management for owners and senior executives of mostly mid-sized, family-owned businesses from the Barcelona region. IESE Business School has grown since then, and today we have five campuses in Madrid, Barcelona, Munich, New York, and São Paulo. We have grown from offering only very senior executive education programs to offering MBAs and master's management programs spanning from young, recent graduates through to the most senior executives domestically and at the international level. In fact, we started the first MBA program in Europe in 1964, and today our MBA program has students from around 60 countries – 25% from Asia, 35% from Europe, 17% from North America, and 23% from Latin America. We have 115 full time faculty members who come from about 30 countries. Therefore, the school has a quite international set up. Spain is in a completely different situation than when we started. Today, the country is a flourishing democracy, and we have been able to grow from being an educational startup in Barcelona to being a broad multinational operation in the education space.

What is IESE Business School's strategy for attracting international students and do your collaborations and offices in Asia play a role in this?

Our offices definitely play a role. With a constant presence, with people on the ground in the market, you can explain better services to students in these countries. Our MBA program is international. This is attractive to prospective students. These are people who want to have an international business career, and they want to interact with people from many countries. They are also interested in coming to a school that emphasizes entrepreneurship. Through our programs, we provide students opportunities to start their own businesses. Students are also interested in the strong emphasis we put on purpose and values. From the beginning, IESE Business School has had a clear purpose and important role to play in society. We believe that business leaders need to understand what their responsibilities are.

IESE Business School's program was named in 2018 the top full time MBA program globally by The Economist. Is there something specific about Spain that attracts international students to come here?

In the education sector, Spain has been able to develop world-class institutions over the past 60 years. Some other comparable economies in Europe have not been able to do this for many reasons. Of course, Spain is a popular destination as a travel destination. When you combine Spain's sights with the country's education and business experience, it makes Spain an attractive proposition for international students.

What is your relationship with the University of Navarra?

We are part of the University of Navarra. We are the Graduate School of Business there. It is natural for business schools to be part of academic institutions, because there are more and more interactions between what is being taught in business schools and other parts of universities. Today, we all talk a lot about how technology is changing business. One of the things we are looking at is how we can leverage for the business education process the knowledge of technology that is present at universities. In fact, the origin of the word university alludes to the entire body of knowledge that a person should be mastering and accessing. This synergy makes us strong.

How does IESE Business School interact with the private sector?

We are close to business in several different ways. We interact with the business community when they look for talent to recruit from our students. At the same time, we interact with the private sector in our role as a provider of executive education to senior corporate executives. At the corporate level, we also offer customized executive education. There are a good number of companies that come to us with specific training requests for their executives. We design custom-made training programs for them. We are one of the bigger providers in this space. Our exposure to the business community is intense. This means we have a good sense of what is going on in various sectors. As we offer general management programs, we have broad exposure. We do not host students and participants from a specific sector. Besides teaching the private sector, we also offer a program at our Madrid campus for senior civil servants to help them improve their management skills.

IESE Business School has had a collaboration with Harvard Business School for over 50 years. What role does that collaboration play?

Our connection with Harvard Business School goes back a long way, starting in the early 1960s. At the time, we were trying to improve our ability to teach through the Case Method, which Harvard was already using. Several Harvard faculty members were part of the academic team that launched our MBA program in 1964. Since then, we have had a tight collaboration with Harvard Business School. We currently offer two senior executive programs jointly with them. One is at our Barcelona campus and the other is run in different parts of the world. We also collaborate with other institutions on specific projects or programs, such as our CEO program with the Wharton School and our collaboration with CEIBS in Shanghai. Our MBA program also has an exchange program with more than 30 of the most renowned business schools.

What impact and implications do you see digitization and the internationalization of study having on the future of higher education?

One side of internationalization, it boils down to students traveling or taking up residence in different parts of the world. This is what happens in our MBA program, where people come from afar and spend a year and a half with us or at another campus, such as in New York, São Paulo, or Shanghai. At the same time, digital and online learning and communication is a way to bridge distances in a way that allows you to reach new communities. IESE Business School also offers complete online programs.

What challenges and opportunities do you see generally in the field of education for the near future?

Technology is bringing changes in the workplace environment and new companies and business models are being built. One of the clear trends for the education sector is that people will need to educate themselves even more than in the past, but this may be in different formats. There is a need to accompany people as they go up from their first undergraduate and work experience through life, career, and position changes. It used to be the years between 25 and 65 were relatively static but working life has been extended and this will be accompanied by additional educational experiences. The education sector's role in peoples' lives will actually be growing and diversifying. Education will become more flexible and lifelong learning will become a need and a reality. This is a great opportunity for the education sector, because it is there to meet these kinds of needs.

What are some of IESE Business School's objectives for 2019-2020?

We are involved in an important expansion of IESE Business School's physical footprint in Madrid. When that is completed in 2020, it will double our level of activities in Madrid. In 2020 we will have also just started our new Masters in Management program and will be offering a lot more educational programs online.