Dean Of The Year: Europe’s Business School Maverick

IE Business School Dean Santiago Iñiguez

‘I WAS VERY CLUMSY WITH MY HANDS’

Unlike many of his colleagues, Iñiguez didn’t come up from a narrow academic discipline and move into a variety of administrative roles that eventually led to the dean’s office. Son of a leading Spanish architect and a professor of architecture and design, Iniguez’s early inclinations might have led him into his father’s profession but an uncanny self-awareness about his own limitations made him reject that notion. “I didn’t have the skills to become an architect,” he says. I was very clumsy with my hands. If all the tools and technology we now take for granted were available then, I may have become an architect myself.”

Instead, he chose law, thinking it a “very practical degree.” At the Complutense University in Madrid, Iniguez threw his intellect into jurisprudence, falling in love with constitutional law and philosophy. After graduating with a PhD in 1985, he headed for the University of Oxford as a British Council Fleming scholar. Asked to become a professor of jurisprudence at the University of Madrid, Iñiguez concluded the university and law might not be his ideal path. “I had different friends who had taken MBAs, and I decided it was time to change careers,” he says.

Like so many MBA candidates, Iniguez saw the degree as a chance to start over and transition into something new. He became a student again at the age of 28, enlisting in the MBA program at IE Business School in 1990. It changed the arc of his life, though not in ways he ever could have imagined. Instead of using his MBA to land a job at a bank or consulting firm, Iñiguez talked himself into a position at IE, becoming director of external relations in 1991.

IE FOUNDER DEIGO DEL ALCAZAR ‘A MENTOR AND A FRIEND’

He redefined the role, becoming involved in virtually every aspect of the school other than academics. Iniguez ended up being responsible for admissions, career management, alumni affairs as well as international relations, marketing. and PR. He worked closely with the then IE President Diego del Alcázar who founded Instituto de Empresa (IE) Business School in 1973 at the age of 23. Their partnership has been instrumental to Iniguez’s success in the job, to having the support and the resources to grow the school.

“He has been my mentor and my friend,” says Iñiguez, “and we have worked closely together and shared a vision. He has been there as a soul for the strategy. I have shared all my ideas and visions with him. We sometimes understand each other without even talking. This is like a regular couple. We work and understand each other. It doesn’t mean that we don’t discuss, but we complement each other well.”

As director of external relations, a job Iñiguez held for 13 years, he smartly laid the ground work for IE’s emergence as a global player. “He was a maverick,” recalls Ángel Cabrera, dean of IE for four years from 2000 to 2004 and now president of George Mason University. “He understood branding and the power of communications. When I was dean my role was really to try to steer the school from what was at the time a very good Spanish and regional school in Latin America and turn it into a truly global school. That is what Santiago has done and taken it to a higher level. At the time, we had to figure out a way to tell our story to the international media and that is where he played a very important role.”

PUTTING FEET ON THE GROUND IN 26 COUNTRIES TO PROMOTE & MARKET IE

Cabrera says that Iniguez launched a campaign to have “feet on the ground” in key markets all over the world, reaching out to local leaders and the media, recruiting students, and cultivating local alumni. “Having someone on the ground who can tell the story of the school made a very big difference and he started it,” praises Cabrera. By 2004, when Iniguez succeeded Cabrera as dean, the school boasted eight offices in seven countries, initially Latin America because it would be more closely aligned with Spain and its traditions. Today, IE has 28 different offices in 26 countries.

“In Latin America, IE identified a lot of people who were smart and poised and brought them into Spain for management training,” says Bach, the former IE strategy professor who served as associate dean of the MBA program and then dean of programs until his departure for Yale in 2012. “These people ended up doing very well. By adding a lot of value to people who would not have necessarily been the most sought after by London Business School, INSEAD and the U.S. schools really helped put the school on the map. Over time, we got better and better students and more from Europe and Asia.”

The network was and remains essential to the school’s success—and a strategy copied by several other schools. “We cannot rely solely on our brand (to attract students), particularly because the brands of our American and European competitors are very strong,” says Iñiguez. “Brown University doesn’t need to do marketing to attract applicants. We need to run lots of initiatives in order to attract applicants from the U.S., the Middle East and China.”

‘WE NEEDED TO ACHIEVE SIZE AND SCALE’

He also had to overhaul the school’s offerings to make IE more appealing to global candidates. When Iñiguez became dean, the school’s portfolio consisted of an MBA, an executive MBA, and master’s degree programs in e-business, human resources management and marketing. Roughly 70% of those programs were taught in Spanish. Iniguez strongly believed the school had to build a much larger menu of programs, teach them largely in English, and expand the reach of the school far beyond Spain’s borders.

“One of the main ideas I had was that in order to become a truly global business school we needed to achieve size and scale and develop a full service strategy,” says Iñiguez. “So one goal was to become a full service, vertically integrated school. The other vector of diversification was markets. Spain is a relatively small market in comparison to others, and we couldn’t actually depend on the Spanish market. Diversification has actually built a shield for us. We are not dependent on a single market, definitely not on Spain. If we were, the past financial crisis would have killed us.”

To go global, however, meant teaching most programs in English and hiring the faculty to do so. “One of the principles I tried to implement is that we should run all our programs by default in English,” Iñiguez explains. “You can imagine there were lots of people who defended our Spanish programs. But we realized that if we wanted to compete globally, we had to use English as the lingua franca of the school. It’s the language of higher education and of business globally. Every new program is now in English. It is an exception to launch a program in Spanish.”

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  • Yaniv

    IE is known to the most innovative business school in the world. I won’t be surprised to see it as the best modern business school in the world ahead of INSEAD, LBS, and many top US school. I have seen lots of students pick IE International MBA program over the outdated INSEAD, and other good schools out there.

  • Alexey

    Very impressive, proud to be part of IE.