Meet the MBA Class of 2020: Philip Svendsen, IMD Business School

Philip Svendsen

IMD Business School

“I am adventurous yet balanced. Collaborative though direct. Honest still respectful.”

Hometown: Oslo, Norway

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have a strong passion for marine wildlife and am particularly fascinated by whales. In 2018 I snorkeled with orcas (killer whales) for the first time and next on the list is to observe humpback whales in the same way. And if by any chance I get to be in the water with a blue whale, the list would be complete…

Undergraduate School and Major: 2014 – BSc Financial Management and Services, Banking, Corporate Finance, Real Estate, and Securities Law, Copenhagen Business Academy, Denmark

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Investment advisor, Storebrand

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? This year has truly put the class of 2020 to the test by turning their MBA experiences upside down in the blink of an eye. The IMD MBAs have faced challenges head-on and come out on the other side with invaluable learnings of how to manage crisis through their impressive ability to adapt and persevere. Reflecting on the past months I cannot say that there is much that impresses me more than their ability to get things done despite adversity.

Aside from classmates, what part of the school’s MBA programming led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Through attendance of both “open days” and self-organized visits to IMD, I quickly realized why the school was on the top of my list. The leadership stream and how it is incorporated as an integral part of the entire MBA program was fundamental to my decision. This set the IMD MBA apart, as did the hands-on experience of applying learnings to complex business issues faced by Swiss start-ups and working as a full-time consultant for top-tier firms in their respective industries. By having a highly dynamic approach to the changing business environment and an emphasis on global, digital, and entrepreneurship, I realized that IMD provides a way of teaching and learning that coincided with how I wanted to unfold and excel.

IMD has a reputation for being intense, with heavy reading and assignments. Did the school live up to its reputation? What did you do to get through the workload? Without a doubt, IMD fully lives up to its reputation and made sure that we were in no shortage of assignments to be completed, presentations to be held, or cases to prepare for. At the same time, this is where true learning comes from: being challenged on a daily basis to push for new knowledge and perspectives through collaboration and insightful discussions. My success at getting through the demanding workload was predominantly rooted in mentally preparing for what was to come and identifying what I wanted and the effort I was willing to put into it. One of the secrets, however, is to focus on nurturing and building high-performance teams, as IMD is heavily focused on group assignments. Doing this, seemingly time-consuming and difficult tasks suddenly become “easy” and your willingness to go the extra mile increases exponentially.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: When working as an investment advisor, I led the establishment of a strategic partnership with a regional division, with the purpose of strengthening local presence, structuring new prospect-flow, and enhancing client offerings to revamp activity through regional exposure. To successfully find a dynamic that would attain our goals I had to holistically approach the situation and manage the interests of different stakeholders to ensure cooperation and value creation on both ends.

Describe your biggest accomplishment at IMD so far: Having designed a go-to-market strategy for the introduction of predictive optimization services for a leading European renewable energy sales platform with a multi-cultural team of six. As a unique part of our MBA experience, we are given the chance to deep dive into the world of entrepreneurship and work with a Swiss start-up and their core issues!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After five years of professional experience in the financial services industry, I was looking to take my career to the next level. Pursuing an MBA where I could provide an overall business context to my financial knowledge and complement them with requisite leadership skills seemed like the right step at this stage.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? For me, it was simple. I understood that there is no perfect business school, but I had found the business school that was perfect for me. I applied only to IMD and told myself that if I did not get accepted this year, I would work even harder and apply again the next year.

What did you do during the application process that enabled you to get accepted into IMD? Just as I uncovered why IMD’s MBA program was the best fit for me through campus visits, class “sit-ins” and close contact to school representatives, I believe I managed to show IMD the potential in me to become a future leader as well as a person who would bring energy, experiences, and perspectives that would enrich a carefully selected batch of 90.

What is the biggest epiphany you’ve gained about yourself or the world since you started at IMD? Being exposed to numerous groups, in a multitude of situations, covering all sorts of topics, has truly enriched me with new perspectives on the importance of diversity. Having cracked cases and business issues alongside colleagues from India, Switzerland, Russia, Mexico, and Lebanon, just to name a few, has shown me how completely different backgrounds and mindsets equals more together than its individual parts.