Though Jan-Ru Muller works and lives in the Netherlands, Vlerick was an obvious choice for him. “No other business school gives that level of personal guidance, ” he says. And he should know. He has looked into several schools at home and abroad.
“I've known Vlerick for quite some time. In 1986 I did a Master's in Business Administration, Accounting and Finance at KU Leuven. It was taken over by Vlerick, and I stayed in touch as an alumnus. I had been toying with the idea of doing a PhD for a while, and I looked at the options closely. In the Netherlands you’ve got the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. In Italy there's the Bocconi University … But Vlerick came out head and shoulders above the rest.
I felt that the other schools are a lot more inclined to leave you to your fate. And that the programme was narrower in scope. At the other educational institutions, you had to choose between qualitative and quantitative research. But what if you are not sure about the differences? At Vlerick they give you an introduction to both.”
Today Jan-Ru teaches Finance & Accounting at Amsterdam College. His own academic career began when he did an MBA in accounting on top of his industrial engineering. He has spent the whole of his career with one foot in finance and the other in IT. “The perfect match,” says Jan-Ru. “I started at Anderson Consulting (now merged with Deloitte: editor). Before long I was working as an independent consultant. In 1990 I set up my own IT company. After selling that I went to work for an investment fund. Then I spent ten years at Nostrum Oil & Gas. And in 2021 I came up with the plan to start the DBA programme. To stay on top of the workload I went into education part-time. I teach subjects like maths and business administration to business-economics students. I also tutor interns and recent graduates. Being a student myself helps a lot.” (laughs).
The seeds of his research were sown about four years ago. Today Jan Ru is still only at the very beginning. He lifts a little corner of the lid for us. “My research is in business process management for regulatory compliance and actually came about through frustration. As Chief Financial Officer I was often occupied with external financial reporting. I was forever facing new laws and regulations. It's the same in every sector. But in the oil and gas industry it's a little harder. The reporting in third world countries is not as transparent as we are accustomed to in western Europe. You can't find all the information you need through the computer systems. It takes up a huge amount of time, which it shouldn't. That summarises my research in broad terms. I know too that my research question still has to be refined. The same is true of the methodology. I started out by thinking that I could get an idea of corporate risk management strategies by scanning the annual reports. But I have had to abandon that approach.
Jan-Ru is keen to talk about how Vlerick helped him narrow his research question down. And he is also happy with the support from Vlerick. “It is a pretty intensive programme. But Vlerick guides us well. I created the circumstances in which to combine my work with the DBA programme. But when I see my fellow students managing a full-time job with lots of responsibilities, I think: ‘hat off to you’. The interaction with them is what makes this programme so worthwhile. There is a lot of diversity in the group. Everyone has their own experience and background. With hand on heart I can say that I pick up half from my fellow students and half from the professors.”
What about after the DBA programme? “I see several possibilities. A published paper, obviously. And my research helps enrich my work as a consultant. But what I actually dream of, is a management game for managers who are not fully acquainted with IT or the latest laws and regulations, but, through the game, gain an insight of the main parameters and a true understanding of the complexities. But that is a long way off in the future.”