All posts by svernam

A visit from Mr. Gunnar Oom, Swedish State Secretary of Trade

Guest post by Ludomir Wanot, Foster undergraduate

A few weeks ago, I was a part of an audience at the University of Washington that had the opportunity to listen to Mr. Gunnar Oom, the Swedish Secretary of trade, who discussed Sweden and the Euro Crisis. His role as the state secretary of trade is to promote Swedish exports.

Mr. Oom started by briefly addressing some Sweden’s economic advantages and disadvantages. He stated that more than half of Sweden’s GPD originates from its exports and about 70% of its exports go to the European Union (EU). In the future, he said, he would like to see more of Sweden’s exports go to developing markets. Mr. Oom mentioned that Sweden’s economy has suffered because of the housing market and other challenges, but was optimistic about the growth of the economy and stressed the importance of avoiding uncertainty in pushing the Swedish export industry forward.

Mr. Oom briefly addressed some of the solutions he would consider for Sweden’s economy. He suggested increasing investment in infrastructure as a way to build efficient and effective transportation networks, including new railroads. Sweden is consistently ranked in the top 3 most innovative nations based on the quality of its institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure and market business sophistication, and the results of innovations like patents and software, and Mr. Oom is committed to making sure that Sweden rises even farther to the top.

During the last half of his presentation, Mr. Oom addressed the current Euro crisis. He stated that without better policies, the worst could be yet to come, and recommended that the EU’s main focus should now be on evenly distributing the wealth of health care and social services. He concluded his presentation by saying, “More implementation, less talk. Instead of discussing what were going to do, we must take action now and do it.”

Banking and global business: an alumna’s perspective part 2

Jennifer Wallis is the Division Manager for Chase Commercial Middle Market Banking for the Eastside, North Puget Sound and Western Canada. Jennifer is a Foster MBA alum and member of the Global Business Center’s Global Business Advisory Board.

Tell us a bit about your career in Banking. What do you like the most about your position? Which aspects are the most challenging?
I came directly out of the Foster School and went to work for Wells Fargo as a banker to Middle Market companies. Middle market is defined in this case as companies that have annual revenues between $20MM and $1B. I coordinated a team of people to provide a full suite of financial services to middle market companies including credit, investments, cash management, and international financial and trade services. Based on my education and interests I specialized in banking companies that had an international component.

Later I had the opportunity to move to London with the bank to build the Financial Institutions business in the UK, Western Europe and South Africa. In this position I traveled a great deal and was in Europe during the worst of the financial crisis.  It was an anxious time. We were all trying to understand the quality of assets held on each other’s balance sheets. Some of my banking partners in Europe had purchased US mortgage assets via special investment vehicles to invest their excess cash and many of those investments included sub-prime assets. Ireland, Greece and Italy were in my territory and each of these countries was showing signs of strain. Banks became cautious about overnight lending to one another and so the ECB and the Bank of England stepped in as did the FED in the USA. It was a fascinating, yet incredibly tense time.

In 2011 I chose to move back to Seattle to be close to my grown children. With the move I accepted a position with JPMorgan Chase back in the Middle Market and am currently the Division Manager for Commercial Middle Market Banking for the Eastside, North Puget Sound and Western Canada.

Banking financial institutions in Europe was fascinating but I also enjoy the middle market which is why I returned to it. While financial institutions are quite similar, middle market companies are quite different. They are involved in diverse industries, offer distinctive products, local and global, and large and small.  Their competition varies as does their competitive advantage in the market in which they conduct business. It is the banker’s responsibility to know his/her client’s business thoroughly – and this is the most interesting part of my job.

The most challenging part of my business is competitively providing what a client needs while maintaining an adequate risk profile for the bank.

What would you tell business students about the world of global business?
One of my managers once said, “Everyday the world is getting more global.” While that sounds a bit obvious, it is accurate! These days almost all business has some global component. We get closer and more integrated each year across borders. My advice to business students is to take advantage of opportunities to move beyond your own country and learn all you can. I’m sure they all understand that top management in most companies must have some understanding of global business. There are great opportunities out there in the world, but barriers and pitfalls remain. A strong manager is not naïve about these challenges but is aware of them so he/she can guide his/her business to take advantage of a world full of opportunities.

Read more about Jennifer’s background and experiences.

Banking and global business: an alumna’s perspective

Meet Jennifer Wallis, Division Manager for Chase Commercial Middle Market Banking for the Eastside, North Puget Sound and Western Canada. Jennifer is a Foster MBA alum and member of the Global Business Center’s Global Business Advisory Board.

What were you like as a young person that set the stage for your career?
I didn’t expect to have a career in banking. As a young person I had other interests aside from money. I loved to read and learn about places outside of the USA. We had a number of books in the house that fed this interest. As I grew older, I purchased used travel books from Fodor’s and Lonely Planet and would read them as others would read novels. Throughout school I studied language (French, Spanish, Italian, and German). I majored in International Studies at the University of Washington gaining a BA from the Jackson School.

What made you decide to get an MBA, and what were your most valuable experiences at Foster?
I decided to get an MBA because I was returning to the workforce after time off to raise a family. I felt I would be better situated for a strong career with an MBA. I concentrated on Finance, but also earned a certificate in International Business while in the program. My most valuable experiences at Foster have to be the international experiences. I studied in Bangalore, India in my second year and traveled to Indonesia with the first MBA study tour. Even though I tried to prepare by reading as much as I could prior to being on the ground, I always ran into the unexpected. The learning that takes place during these experiences is not necessarily focused on what you would expect to learn in an MBA course. That was why the experiences were so valuable to me.

Can you tell us about the international places you’ve lived, worked, or studied, and some of the things you’ve learned through your global experiences?
While in school I lived and studied in Costa Rica and India. I traveled to Indonesia and China with the Foster school MBA study tours. I worked and lived in the UK and covered the UK, Scandinavia, Western Europe, Greece, Cyprus and Africa and spend considerable amounts of time in each country. I learned that you can never underestimate the impact of culture in business or in personal interactions. I always assume that I know this, but then I will unexpectedly encounter a misunderstanding or simply a different way of looking at things that I did not expect.

Read more about Jennifer’s experience working in Europe during the financial crisis.