Vlerick Business School rebranded

Interview with Patrick De Greve (General Manager, Vlerick Business School)

2012-2013 will be a hallmark academic year for Vlerick Business School with a new name, a new brand, a new website and a new campus in Brussels. How is the school changing and where is it heading?

Patrick De Greve: If we look at the period 2000-2012 we see that the Vlerick Business School has grown substantially. The number of available programs, research domains, employees, faculty have all increased. The budget of the school is now about 30 million euro (23 million coming from education programs and 6 million from research) compared to a budget of 3 to 4 million euro more than 10 years ago. Furthermore, the school has evolved from a local champion to a reputable international business school by attracting international students, faculty, research programs and by providing customised programs for international organisations. This growth combined with increased competition in the business school landscape and a continuously changing business-context has triggered us to make some changes. We want to stay on top of the game, evolve together with the clients we service and offer them the best possible insights and trainings available on the international market.

We have noticed that both Belgian and International organisations are increasingly seeking the best possible development for their leaders and top-talents. When they select a business school as a partner for their development needs they do not only evaluate the quality of the programs but also the reputation of the business school and the international reach and range it offers. Similarly, the research we offer has to combine local relevance with international impact. That is why, as an academic business school, we chose to reinforce our 2 main axes: our academic backbone and our business focus.

2012 is indeed another milestone for the Vlerick Business School. In a strategic exercise we evaluated our program portfolio, determined which programs we want to focus on and how we can best bring them to the market, matching the needs of our clients. The internal structures of the business school have strongly evolved over the last years, resulting in strong program coordination structure and a more efficient go-to-market approach. The new name and brand are logical result of the evolution we experienced in the past and the ambition we have for the future. Especially in an international context where reputation and brand recognition are crucial in business school competition, we needed to further reinforce and communicate our strengths. The top-level business schools like INSEAD, IMD, London Business School, Harvard, Kellogg, Wharton just to name a few, are all well-known brands with strong reputations which allows them to attract more and more students to their programs. We are a local champion on the Benelux market, where the competition is also fierce, but with a clear ambition of international growth. We took a good start in our internationalization process by integrating our Russian business school, creating a joint-venture in China, and a strategic partnership in South-Africa. Yet, we also have the ambition to attract international students to our Belgian campuses in Leuven, Ghent and soon also Brussels.

The new campus in Brussels is indeed another of our strategic projects. After more than 50 years of historic ties with campus Ghent and our alliance of almost 10 years with the Leuven campus (including our 2 campuses close to the Leuven and Ghent universities) we decided, in agreement with both parent universities, to bring a new Vlerick Business School campus to Brussels. With the Brussels campus we want to reach the international community and expats who are more difficult to attract to our Leuven and Ghent campuses. Furthermore, the Brussels campus will also allow us to have a sector focus on f.e. financial services and non-competition markets and better focus and serve these specific industries. This is a new approach for our school since a couple of years. Traditionally we were organized according to competence centres (strategy & entrepreneurship, accounting & finance, sales & marketing, people & organisation, operations & technology) whereas now we will bundle our knowledge, expertise and talents over these different domains, focused on a specific market segment.

In summary, our new name and new brand reflect both the result of the changes we experienced and the ambition we have for the future. The new and colourful Vlerick Business School brand is built on 4 key drivers: International, Open, Pragmatic and Vibrant. These drivers were already present within the school and with our employees as brand ambassadors we will now also openly and visually communicate them to the outside world.

Which are the most important clients in financial services for Vlerick Business School?

Patrick De Greve: For many years financial services organisations (banks, insurers, market infrastructures organisations) are key clients of the school. Faculty from our different competence centres worked intensively with financial institutions. But what we never did before was bundle this knowledge and expertise into one integrated service offering for the FS-industry. This will allow us to serve in a customized manner, this specific sector from the multiple disciplines present within Vlerick Business School. Since the last 3 years, regardless of the difficult times they experienced, financial institutions became the most important clients of the school. Among our top-10 clients overall we can easily find 5 financial institutions. Today, the school can count Rabobank, ABN-AMRO, BNP Paribas Fortis, KBC, Belfius, ING, AG Insurance, Swift, Optima and many more to its portfolio of financial services organisations we service. For many years now Vlerick also provides an MBA in Financial Services and Insurance, an international, open program in collaboration with University of St. Gallen and HEC Montreal. This program was also a real stimulus to further develop business games, case studies and new teaching materials for the financial services sector.

What added value does Vlerick Business School bring to these financial services organisations?

Patrick De Greve: A lot of financial institutions were hit very hard by the economic and financial crisis and their brand names and reputations suffered from this. This made it increasingly challenging for them to retain and attract talents for key positions in their organisations. This is a sector that will face a lot of challenges to come: restructuring, regulation, new business models, increased importance of efficiency, operations and technology, … A strong middle- and top management layer will be needed in these organisations to deal with all these changes. We clearly see a trend of FS-organisations investing in their talents, developing their competencies and training them for the road ahead. It still is much more efficient and cheaper to retain and develop your people then to attract new ones. Vlerick Business School has developed long-term (20 to 30 days), customised programs together with these financial services organisations to train and develop entire management layers at an MBA-level. These are investments from the financial services sector in their leadership and talent pipeline we have never seen before. So even in difficult economic times financial services institutions keep investing in people development. Vlerick Business School, with its experienced faculty and specific sector focus is a strong partner for financial services institutions in facing their challenges. The internal Vlerick structure has even been adapted to have dedicated account managers that further develop their expertise on how to best service the FS-sector and offer customised programs to their specific needs. Similarly, our sector-focussed research output (studies, white-papers, research, case studies) is aimed to inspire FS-leaders to integrate these insights and results into their organisations. Here the combination of our functional expertise with a sector focus is a strong advantage: combining customer value with sales approaches, new marketing and distribution approaches, impact of technology and social media of business functions, building new and stronger (e-)business models, … Finally, due to our year-long experience with the MBA-FSI program we have the experience, the faculty, the business games, the cases and the tools to be the top-of-mind partner for the financial services organisations.

Vlerick also contributes to the supply of talents to the industry. On a yearly basis, Vlerick Business School delivers around 100 graduates from our degree programs (Master in General Management, Master in Financial Management, Master in Marketing Management, MBA-programs) who find their way to financial services organisations. The focus on financial services in our programs and our Brussels-based Centre for Financial Services in which we keep investing and developing for research is the best illustration of our commitment to this specific sector. 

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