Zurich with USD alumni

Jul 23

A street in Zurich

A street in Zurich on USD European alumni weekend

My last post showed a few pictures from the USD alumni reception in Zurich, Switzerland.  USD’s European alumni gather every year to reminisce, network, and just have fun.  This year, the events were in Zurich, a wonderful city on a beautiful lake.  With a record number of alumni attending, we had several professors and staff from the SBA and Law School.  As always, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing their stories.  Here are just a few.

Martin Pfender is the Head of Special Vehicles Brakes for Continental AG in Frankfurt, Germany.  Continental is a huge German tier-one supplier in the auto industry, making vehicle stability control (VSC) systems, brake systems, tires and a host of other parts and systems.  They are always designing advanced components to improve automobile performance and safety.  Continental sells to all the big car companies, as well as specialty producers, such as Aston Martin.  In this latter case, the volumes are extremely low, so the customer relationship is quite different than with high volume assemblers like Toyota and Volkswagen.  Martin manages the relationship with all the low volume, high end customers, for VSC and other systems.  I have taught various dimensions of manufacturing, product design and supplier relationships over the years, so it was fascinating to hear Martin’s perspective from the side of a huge tier-one supplier.

Stefano Jeantet, BBA ’98, was a portfolio manager at Banca Patrimoni e Investimenti, headquartered in Torino, Italy. He is now a senior private banker at Banque Privee Edmond de Rothschild in Luxembourg.  He moved from Italy to run this part of the business, which has several dozen clients from all over the world.  His team helps protect principal and generate returns, with low risk, using a mix of investments, including alternative vehicles, real estate, and of course bonds and equities.  I enjoyed talking with him about his investment strategies on behalf of his clients, especially in the wake of the great recession and subsequent (slow) recovery.

Then there is Assia Bencheikh, MBA ’92, a finance director for the Morocco firm, Merck Sharp & Dohme GmbH. Previously, she was finance director for the North Africa region at GlaxoSmithKline (GCK), one of the top five pharmaceutical firms in the world.

Arnaud Haefelin is Chairman and CEO of SME Gainerie 91, one of the leading European companies that manufactures display cases and boxes for jewelry and watches.  Arnaud earned his MBA at USD in 1991 and a Ph.D. at the Paris La Sorbonne in 1999.

A Zurich scene on USD European alumni weekend

A Zurich scene on USD European alumni weekend

And Beat Amman, who works for a company on the forefront of environmental sustainability.  Beat has held management positions for companies involved in large infrastructure projects taking him to Oman, Jakarta, Spain, Sarajevo, and back to Switzerland.  He is now Director of Arabern AG, a company that handles wastewater management, heat production for district heating, as well as bio methane production for CNG-operated public transportation vehicles.  Arabern’s inputs include waste water, waste food, and other things that would normally be put in a landfill or waste water treatment plant.  From these, remarkably, they produce energy.  They are paid to take the waste by, say, a grocery chain, and then are paid to sell electricity back to the grid, or to the waste producer.

James Nelson, who graduated in 2009 with an Accounting degree, went to KPMG in Orange County for a couple of years before moving back to the San Diego office.  He was then asked to manage the client relationship for Roche, the huge pharmaceutical and diagnostics company.  Roche also owns Genentech, the huge biotech company in the Bay Area.  (I used to teach a great case study on Genentec.)  James is having a great time working for KPMG, and closely with Roche, in Basel, Switzerland.  It was interesting to hear about the differences between Switzerland and the U.S. in the wake of Enron and Sarbanes Oaxley.  (Switzerland does not have the rigors of SOX.)  He is quickly learning German so he can work with the client without using English.

Paul (BAC ‘05) and Emily Misleh (BAC ‘04, MBA ‘06) are both USD alums in Finance/Accounting in London.  They moved from the Bay Area for this transition, where Emily is finance director for Airbnb, which she describes as a somewhat mature startup, and Paul is the Global Data Analytics Senior Manager at Ernst & Young.   I was quick to let him know how we are adding courses in Data Analytics and related “Big Data” content.  Maybe some of our current students will join Paul’s group in London!

I wish I could include them all, but our alumni continue to inspire me with their stories, intellect and professionalism.   And they are all delightful, fun people.


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  • Mizner Country Club

    What a nice traveling experience. Thanks for sharing.