INSEAD Participant Interview

Learning to Master International Corporate Finance

Pierre Lambert

Past participant of the Advanced International Corporate Finance programme
CFO
Zetes
Belgium

"What the programme does is give you the theory and it gives you the ways to implement this."

Can you please introduce yourself?

I graduated in economics from Louvain-la-Neuve University. After spending the first part of my career in banking, covering the management of interest rates and later asset and liabilities management, I was approached by the CEO of ZETES. I joined the company in 2000 as CFO, a role I have been in ever since.

ZETES is an IT supply chain company. We develop ways in which to identify goods in the supply chain and we help people manage goods in the field and in the warehouse. In 2000, ZETES was growing, especially internationally through acquisitions. My first role was to help this growth and ensure that all the new companies acquired were safely integrated into the ZETES group. I helped structure the acquisitions to make ZETES a strong group. My CEO wanted me to help consolidate ZETES’ multinational organisation and advise on the business potential of acquisitions. 

Then in 2005, ZETES became a listed company and my role was to ensure that the IPO went smoothly.

Can you please tell us what some of your bigger challenges have been at ZETES?

I always believed in the business model and I trusted what we were doing. I always felt we were making the right decisions with regards to our growth and investment strategies.

However, managing a company with a huge leverage is very difficult. That was a real challenge. Also, managing the IPO was difficult. You have to change a company’s mentality. Suddenly you have to be even more accurate when it comes to reporting on company figures. You need to be strict in meeting deadlines. When you are a private company, you don’t have as much pressure. The challenge was to make sure the company was ready for all of this.

What made you decide to come on the Advanced International Corporate Finance programme?

I hadn’t done any finance training for the last six to seven years. That was a concern I wanted to address. I also wanted to take distance with the day-to-day business and think out of the box.

I was looking for an international group of people to do the programme with as I believe you can learn a lot more from an international environment.

When I saw the Advanced International Corporate Finance programme, I was interested by the Public-Private Partnership element. It’s something we’ve been developing for some time and so I felt I could gain a lot from hearing what Theo had to say about it. I was also interested to learn more about risk and managing it during an international expansion. Both of these topics are very applicable to my day-to-day job and so they drew me to the programme.

Were your expectations met?

I was happy yes. I came away with four to five new ideas I had never thought about before. We are small company which is growing and it’s important to think about ways to go forward. Out of the box thinking helps a lot with this.

Did you benefit from the diversity of participants on the programme with you?

I met some very interesting people and we had some great conversations. I was amazed by the diversity of those on the programme. There were participants from the Middle East, Africa, etc…this was very interesting. It’s a sign that the industry is global. Having so many different horizons was very interesting. Europe is still important, but you feel that Asia and the Middle East are emerging regions.

And what did you think of the teaching?

We could ask questions, give opinions. We could challenge statements. It was a very open forum. There was good interaction and the teachers were approachable. Their experience allowed them to answer all sorts of questions. They know the theory and they understand how it all works in practice. This made the environment very comfortable.

The professors were great. They had academic experience, but they are also in contact with industry. They have practical experience they can share. Theo has great accumulated experience. There was a good blend of theory and practical.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of doing the Advanced International Corporate Finance programme?

To get the most out of it, you need good field experience. When I saw the Advanced International Corporate Finance programme, I thought I could learn something new.

For the week you are on campus, you gain different perspectives on the industry. What the programme does is give you the theory and it gives you the ways to implement this. It refreshed my brain! I feel that it can help me meet challenges at work. And I like INSEAD a lot. It’s the 2nd time I’ve been there. I really appreciated the atmosphere and how everything is organised.

Interested in INSEAD's Advanced International Corporate Finance programme? Have a look at our Advanced International Corporate Finance web pages or contact Mark Hoggarth, the programme advisor, on +33 (0)1 60 72 40 38 or at mark.hoggarth@insead.edu.

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