François Degeorge

Professor of  Finance at USI Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano, CH.

“Degeorge: I'm here to facilitate the learning process”

Teaching mid-career communications professionals the finer points of financial management isn't François Degeorge's primary aim when he steps to the lectern in the EMScom classroom. Rather, he aims to engage EMScom participants in the exploration of broader issues related to corporate finance and financial markets.

Degeorge, who is in his fourth year as an EMScom faculty member and his fifth year with the Università della Svizzera italiana, previously taught at HEC Paris, where he was the Associate Dean for Research from 1998 to 2003. He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University and a Master's Degree from HEC Paris, and is a former Fulbright and Arthur Sachs scholar.

Like most of EMScom's faculty, Degeorge is active in business research; his work has been published in leading academic journals, including the Journal of Finance, the Journal of Financial Economics and the Review of Financial Studies.

"I enjoy teaching non-finance specialists. They ask questions I'm not used to," said Degeorge, whose EMScom seminar covers a variety of financial management topics, including firms' financial needs and various financing sources, use of financial statements to evaluate companies' financial position and profitability, and how to raise capital, as well as the principles for determining the value of shares and other financial securities. "I have to put myself in the EMScom participants' shoes. I cannot assume that they know a whole lot about finance and economics, even if they're very well trained, although some are very well trained in economics. So, I must strike a balance in the way I teach."

Degeorge said he considers himself a facilitator of learning experiences.

"I don't consider myself to so much be delivering information, as here to help the participants learn. If they can get a few concepts and understand a few big themes that they had not previously thought about, we have accomplished a lot," he explained. "Truthfully, there are books out there that people can read, but teaching mid-career professionals demands a fresh, engaging approach."

A classroom full of professional communicators has its own rewards, Degeorge said.

"These people are in their 30s and they have some experience in the business world. They're perhaps more eager to share their professional experiences, and these exchanges in the classroom are an important part of the learning experience; they're the way people remember information," he said. "I am here to facilitate the learning process."

Another reward is that EMScom's participants bring new perspectives that Degeorge can use in teaching other audiences.

"From the EMScom participants, as compared to a younger audience with less experience in the business world, I have a higher chance of getting original input during class discussions. These are nuggets that a teacher accumulates over time," he said.

Degeorge said a broad overview of financial management is essential to professional communication managers aiming for a seat at the CEO's table.

"For example, stock prices are higher than they were 20 years ago and, all things equal, if the market changes its opinion about a company, there is much more at stake for a company in terms of market value. So, it's a high-stakes business," he said. "That's why you want to do your professional communication very well. Communications professionals need to know the fundamental principles of finance so that they can make the right moves in high-stress situation and so that they can advise their boards of directors on communication issues related to the business. Communication isn't just about writing the annual report; it's a year-long business. Communications professionals have an important role to play in the business."

Text based on interview carried out in Summer 2007.