Wednesday, July 7, 2010


On Friday, May 28, the group met with Mr Alain Girardeau-Montaut, Exchange Risk Manager of Dassault Aviation. Dassault is the maker of the Falcon Jet and is a world leader in global aviation. It is a privately held global company and still owned by its founding family. At the meeting we learned about their process of hedging currency risk through derivatives trades. Dassault utilizes swaps, futures, and forward contracts to hedge or mitigate the risk of adverse currency movements. They do not speculate on the foreign exchange market as a way to invest. Dassault also hedges currency risk by diversifying their operations in the U.S. and Europe. They have factories in the U.S. and in Europe and keep 60% of their costs in Euro and 40% in USD. This gives them more flexibility than if they had their entire operation in Europe using one currency. We discussed some of the different factors that drive exchange rate movements such as oil. As oil prices rise, the US dollar typically declines, and the Euro increases. The inverse is also the case. This is because high oil prices are generally bad for the US economy, therefore detracting investors from investing in US treasuries and potentially enticing them to invest in the Euro. The issue of credit or counterparty risk was also discussed. Dassault mitigates this risk by requiring all counterparties to post collateral and mark to market daily. Dassault believed at the time of our meeting that the Euro was an attractive level to buy, which 1.23 to the USD. The meeting was very finance specific but was interesting to me because I am concentrating in finance and had just taken the Investments class where we learned about derivatives.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Phillips Global Headquarters- Amsterdam

On Tuesday May 25th, the group visited the global headquarters of Phillips. The company was originally founded in Amsterdam in 1891 and today employees over 116,000 people. At the start of our visit we were greeted by Nancy Work who escorted us to a conference room where lunch was waiting for us. This was great news for me as I was extremely hungry after a long night out the prior evening and missing breakfast before check-out ;-)

The meeting was spread out over 4 hours with presentations from four individuals. The company overall makes a big effort to promote healthy living and specializes in energy efficient consumer goods. They have three areas of focus, including Healthcare, Lighting, and Consumer Electronics.

The brand is based around "Sense and Simplicity" and much of what they showed us lived up to this motto. Several products were discussed and more than a few caught my attention.
Probably one of their more well know products are their LED lightbulbs. These bulbs run on just 10 watts and last 25 times longer than the old 60 watt incandescant bulbs. Just by purchasing their lightbulbs and installing them in your home you get a sense that you are doing your part to conserve energy.

Two other products really stuck out for me that day. The first was a concept for a new street light that generated its own energy by solar power and wind power. The design was to resemble a flower that could open or close based on if it was in use or producing energy. This i san idea that I think could really gain some traction as elected officials around the globe look to cut costs for things that are more or less essential to the infrastructure of our cities.

The second product that stuck out for me was the concept of a solar "alarm" clock. Instead of waking to an annoying alarm, it is designed to simulate the rise of the sun and the light itself woudl gently wake you up in the morning. That sounds very interesting and I have even found it on their website for $169.99. Check it out!

We also had some interesting discussion about lighting of stadiums and new LED ambient lighting that is being used on the tops of buildings and public spaces to really change the dynamics of skylines. In fact, it was revealed that the Prudential Tower in Boston is actually one of their clients and they are working on new lighting options for the top of that building.
Overall, our trip to Phillips was highly informatitive, very interesting, and well worth the trip!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The screeching sound of rails echoed through my ears, as the overcrowded and stuffy metro train halted to a stop. The endless French murmurs, noticeable American tourists and elegantly attired business people surrounded me as I, sandwiched alongside Elliot, Matt, and Poom, was whacked constantly with the elbows of impatient commuters. Nevertheless, c’est la vie in the ultra chic and charming city of Paris. We are now exiting La Defense Grande Arche to the University Pole Leonard De Vinci.

Upon arrival, we are greeted by Mr. Albrecht Sonntag, professor of Int’l Business at ESSCA, who has graciously offered to discuss issues concerning the European Union. Daunting as the topic may seem, I prepared myself (diet coke in hand) to focus on the presentation in progress. Mr. Sonntag’s strong grasp of the subject, perfect English and excellent presentation skills kept us intrigued and alert.

We discussed topics such as the effects of cultural integration, the impact of the crisis, the future of the EU, the role of leadership, federalism, the Lisbon Treaty and shared sovereignty, to name a few. I was amazed to learn about how Europe’s history and collective desire to band together evolved to what we now know as the European Union. This unique structure and entity differs from any other type of governing body in the world and continues to change and progress. Professor Brunel’s passion and advocacy for the Commission sparked a lively debate regarding the validity of elected and appointed officials as well as the public’s role in shaping the union. We concluded that due to human nature, the public generally supports the “idea” of the EU, but not the actual “realization” of what full integration entails.

The million-dollar question of the day was “Is Europe in a crisis?” Contrary to what we all may have assumed, Mr. Sonntag responds with a resounding, “YES, Europe has been in a continuous and permanent crisis because they have come to no resolution as of this day. Europe’s direction demonstrates a strong step towards federalism, as proven by the euro, but also a strong opposition to coordination on fiscal and economic policy.” Although this hybrid entity has proven successful in the past, the impact of the economic crisis and any other future catastrophes leads us to question the EU’s future sustainability.

The future of the European Union is still unknown. Perhaps we will see increased control over the Euro budget, amplified pressure by nation states on tighter economic governance, or the withdrawal of certain nation states. We will have to wait and see...

On a side note: It is the 10th anniversary of the European Field Seminar and we should all congratulate Prof. Brunel for giving us this unique and exciting experience! Santé!!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Peclers Paris..."fashioning the future"

On Tuesday, June 1, our group visited Peclers, a styling and trend agency specializing in textile, fashion, cosmetics, home decoration, consumer and retailing industries. Peclers offers products and services including: 1) trend books; 2) trend consulting and personalized trend analysis; 3) innovation consulting for trends, concepts, products and services; and 4) style consulting and design recommendations.

We met with Ms. Emma Fric, Global Development Director. Ms. Fric informed us that in the late 1960s, large-scale manufacturing of fashion and design products allowed for the replacement of haute-couture production methods and commenced the ready-to-wear industry. As a result of this emerging market, Dominique Peclers launched Peclers Paris as a consulting agency for the fashion industry, home and decoration retailers in 1970. By 1980, Peclers realized it had paved the way for trend publication based on its use of historical trends to decipher and anticipate future trend direction. A huge hurdle for Peclers is predicting consumer behavior, anticipating future attitudes and imagining future aesthetic preferences. Interestingly, Peclers employs no focus groups and instead relies upon research teams that recognize innovation and know emerging areas. These teams frequently travel to access and formulate new trends, as well as research and strategize the industries and clients they want to advise.

While some brands request exclusivity, other clients realize fashion trending is a global enterprise in which trends are not created in a vacuum. Fashion trends often encounter a 2-year-forecasting-to-market timeline, whereas architecture (10-year timeline) and cosmetics (5-10-year timeline) take longer to emerge in the marketplace. A recent trend is the myriad of interplaying contexts in nature due to the introduction of sustainability. Peclers is utilizing this trend in an effort to appeal to emotions and issues surrounding over-consumption.

Today, Peclers garners 55% of its revenue from consulting and 45% from trend and forecasting publications. Ms. Fric told us that some trends are cyclical and consumer thoughts tend to come back around to people and profiles in different global areas. Out of the 18 trend books produced by Peclers, "Futur(s)," utilizes global analysis to understand evolving values and future consumer behaviors. The 10th, and most recent, edition of "Futur(s)" is printed in both French and English and retails for approximately 5,000€.

Although the global economy has affected sales of Peclers' trend books, we were told the fashion industry will not stand still. Trends will revamp and reintroduce themselves to the global market and consumer purchasing behavior, though different from before, will still require agencies like Peclers to aid brands in deciding what to produce for which markets.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Business Objects - Friday, May 28th

After finishing lunch outside on a beautiful Friday in Paris, we walked to Business Objects. We met with Michael Thompson and Timo Elliot to hear about business intelligence and the company's strategy. Business Objects strives for intuitive interfaces for client information through information management, enterprise performance management, business intelligence, and governance risk and compliance.

The company's success has been in creating interfaces that allow clients to manage data easily and create reporting with this data. Business Objects, Business Intelligence Explorer products allow companies to make informed decisions based on solid data and analysis. Current activity for the company has been around SAP Streamwork. The new product focuses on data (outside of the financials) needed for decision making. The software looks at "Collaborative Decision Making" to assist companies in managing the collaborative process in a team work setting. It creates a traceability on decision making in a team setting and increases buy-in for companies.

Both Michael and Timo also expressed the challenges that they have faced with the SAP and Business Objects merger over the last year. The process has been difficult on many fronts for both companies. This is something new for the employees of Business Objects that have had successful mergers in the past. One of the main issues has been the lack of "cross pollination" between the two companies. Both seem to be working along separate tracks instead of integrating together both in their process and location of employees. The difference in company culture for both has also been an issue.

The discussion then moved to the differences between US and European labor laws and the challenges of living/working abroad as an expatriate. The EU offers more job security with a longer benefit package for employees laid-off (ie. SAP had a 3 year pay package for employees laid-off). Although the EU requires a 4 month trial period for a new employee, it is much more difficult to fire that worker once employed compared to the US (ie. US - you are an employee at will). Employee privacy is an issue within the EU. For example the EU Worker Council ruled that information regarding an employee's title was indicative of their salary, so this became censored within companies. There is also a much lower turn-over rate for workers in Europe, but the promotion process in the EU is much slower compared to the US. In regards to living broad, both stressed the importance of integrating into the culture of where you are living to be a successful in a relocation abroad. One must also be aware that by working abroad you are "paying into the system" of the country you live in, making it more difficult to leave after many years. Your benefits become tied into the country.

Audi- on June 4, 2010

We arrived Audi around 12.30 after visiting Lear Corporation. The distance between Lear and Audi is not far at all, helping JIT to be more efficient and practical. The size of this factory is very large. If I'm not wrong, Audi is the second biggest company or the biggest engine plant in Hungary. We were presented by financial director whose dress was very cool and looked like a car racing guy, with red PUMA shoes =)

In this presentation, we learned about the history of Audi and obtained some key figures such as revenues, productions, staffs number in 2009 and 2008. Also, he presented us specifically the facts about the factory in Gyor. Audi Gyor produced engines and mainly 3 car models such as TT Coupe and TT Roaster with the daily capacity of 6,900 engines and 300 units respectively. However, net sales and investment in 2009 had decreased due to the economic crisis, therefore, they tried to increase efficiency through current employees. Their vision is to try to “Become quality/flexible/highly focus on being productive. Also, they apply lean operation as Toyota. Their strategy is to focus on four main areas: Profitability, Customer attraction/Customer Focus, Growth, and Most attractive employees.

After the presentation, we went to the factory’s dining hall and found out that Sodexo was the caterer of food for Audi- What a coincidence! I really loved the food here but sadly I forgot to take photos of this meal but I still remembered the taste of chicken pasta- so yummy . Then we went out for a walk to see the oldies sport car rally…All the cars were so cool!!, which I think they are hardly seen somewhere else. The mini BMW is so cute and funny, the owners were very friendly and welcomed us to take photos.

Lastly, the most exciting part of the day came- Assembly line tour!! but we were not allowed to take the pictures inside...I remembered I was very sleepy after a full meal but after walking and see the lines, especially for the car assembly, it’s very spectacular to see how each component were put together in both manually and robot in sequence. I’m also impressed with the facilities inside but most of the work here is done manually instead of robots due to cheaper labor costs, whereas, other factories focus more on robots. Finally, company visits of this trip ended here!!- It was the perfect end of the journey. I feel like I fall in love with Audi TT now and want to get one for myself but how many years do I have to work to get it then- hahaha 