With a plethora of master programmes in the market, what sets INSEAD’s Executive Master in Finance (EMFin) apart from the rest?

Programme Director Massimo Massa (right), who is also the Rothschild Chaired Professor of Banking and INSEAD Professor of Finance, shares exclusive insights into how the programme stands out by combining its curriculum with a teaching pedagogy that focuses on practical application to real-world challenges.

Massimo Massa

Tell us about yourself and your role within the programme.

I've been with INSEAD for 22 years (and counting) and was responsible for designing the Executive Master in Finance (EMFin) programme. The EMFin started with an idea of building something for working professionals that was specific to their area of expertise, i.e. finance.

We tailored the programme in a way so that we could leverage the expertise we have from dealing with companies and solving business problems. This means that the faculty is not simply lecturing, but also discussing real-life scenarios and how to develop leadership capabilities within the finance space. I am still overseeing the programme and continuous evolution of the curriculum to ensure that we keep up with today’s ever-changing industry landscape.

What do you enjoy the most about being the EMFin Programme Director?

The interaction with participants is great. It feels like I am a father nurturing many children and it is extremely fulfilling when they graduate. However, it is also a bittersweet moment because another cohort has gone and there are so many memories and shared feelings you can’t replicate. Seeing people grow through the programme is a splendid journey.

We hear that you often go to class with a copy of the Financial Times, why is that so?

The idea of the Financial Times is to enable participants to apply the theories learnt in the classroom to the real world.

One of the biggest problems with many programmes is that people graduate with a lot of theories, but they are not able to draw a link to reality.

This does not effectively prepare them for the new business challenges they will face because the world is changing very fast and theoretical tools can become obsolete quickly. The Financial Times is an effort to operationalise what participants have learnt in class and provide them with an approach and methodology on how to understand reality in a way that when reality changes, they are able to react quickly and keep up with the changes. This is a life-long skill that is very applicable at work even after they have graduated.


What are some topics discussed in an EMFin class?

There are many links we can draw from the market to what is discussed in an EMFin class. Many of the current news have sparked dynamic discussions and captured the attention of the class. Some examples would be Disney & the Murdoch Empire Media Corp and the Sky News takeover battle.

Another thing that draws quite a lot of attention is the changing landscape within the finance industry. There is a lot of demand from participants to understand how we deal with FinTech, how we deal with technology, innovation and disruption, and why certain companies are behaving differently. Traditional discussions on the usual players (e.g, banking, insurance) are now being held in a very different way.

Can you give us an overview of the programme structure?

The main goal of the programme, first of all, is to create a levelled playing field within the class in terms of financial knowledge. The next important thing is to have the participants challenge each other to instil some entrepreneurial mentality.

The last part of the programme centres around communication, leadership and managerial skills, which help participants to hone their ability to network and interact with people to navigate bureaucratic structures. Their final Capstone project allows them to create new products and ideas using their knowledge of finance, and dedicate it to any business challenges that their organisations face.

You teach both MBA and EMFin classes. How different is it to teach the EMFin compared to MBA?

MBA participants have a much shorter work experience compared to EMFin students (on average, 5 years vs. 10 years), which means that the discussion you have with them is much less relatable to their practical life and is still very theoretical. There is quite a difference in the way the topics are taught.

The other big difference is an MBA is a general degree, which allows people to get an overview of the company, but with no specialisation in a specific discipline. The EMFin is much more rooted in finance, which means that it provides better anchoring to a specific set of tools.

An MBA has the breadth outside of finance whereas the EMFin has the depth of finance.

What advice do you have for candidates who are considering an EMFin?

Do your research. An investment in any programme or degree is a tough decision especially when there are so many options in the market, both on-campus teaching and online learning. The INSEAD EMFin is unique in the fact that it is taught by professors who have dedicated their lives to research, education and consulting. They link academics to research and real-life scenarios, and are people who really care about their participants and their future careers. I don’t think other programmes can say the same.

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