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Meet The MBA Class of 2021: Fernando Piekenbrock, University of Oxford (Saïd)

Fernando Piekenbrock

University of Oxford, Saïd Business School

Curious and driven. Love debating, tennis, dancing, comedy, and the British accent.”

Hometown: Madrid (Spanish-German national)

Fun Fact About Yourself: I decided to study economics and work in finance, but if I had the chance to live a parallel life, I would be a full-time philosopher.

Undergraduate School and Major: BSc in Economics, Maastricht University, the Netherlands.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Leveraged Finance Associate at UniCredit, London, UK

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Oxford Saïd’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? The Finance Lab and the Creative Destruction Lab.

The Finance Lab is a 160-hour extra-curricular valuation and modelling programme taught via cases by practitioners, with guest speakers including names such as Goldman Sachs, KKR and several hedge funds, VC firms, advisory firms, asset managers and private equity firms. It has been absolutely phenomenal.

The Creative Destruction Lab is an objective-based program for technology-based seed-stage companies which are mentored by exceptional people, such as the former CFO of Google and Chairman of Twitter Patrick Pichette. Students are allocated to these start-ups to provide them strategic advice and help them implement the objectives set by the mentors. The academic aspect of the lab is coordinated by Professor Hellmann, whose book Fundamentals in Entrepreneurial Finance has been lauded and recommended, amongst others, by the 2016 Nobel laureate in Economics.

What is the most “Oxford” thing you have done so far as a full-time MBA student? I found out for the first time that quidditch existed outside the Harry Potter phantasy world when I saw a quidditch pitch walking through the university parks, which left me completely bewildered. The excitement with which these Harry Potter enthusiasts were playing that sport was alluring, but not sufficient for me to join them. Instead, I have decided to take part in debates at the Oxford Union, and I will be representing the business school in a debate against Cambridge this year.

Oxford is known as a place where world collides, be it in the classroom or the dining hall. What has been the most interesting interaction you’ve had so far as an Oxford MBA student?

One of the unique things about Oxford is that you will have the privilege to interact with academically heterogenous students, who are all brilliant in their fields. Some of the most memorable discussions I have had so far have been the following:

  • Whether Karl Marx is responsible for the atrocities committed by those who claimed to implement his ideas (discussion with a political science master student who was himself a Marxist).
  • Oxford Professor Roger Penrose´s discovery that black hole formation is a prediction of the general theory of relativity, for which he won the Nobel Prize in Physics this year (with a PhD candidate in quantum computing).
  • The epidemiological advantages and shortcomings of the Oxford vaccine (with a student working in Oxford´s Jenner institute, which has developed the vaccine).

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: With 2.5 years of full-time professional experience, I am one of the youngest and less experienced students in the programme. To progress quickly in my career, I had to learn fast and not be afraid of taking responsibility. This approach enabled me to play leading roles in the leveraged finance transactions I executed and to be fast-tracked as the youngest Investment Banking Associate of the entire bank.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? I would probably pick the Morgan Stanley Private Equity challenge my team and I won. It was a 20-pages presentation on the take-private of UK packaging giant DS Smith, which we presented to the Morgan Stanley team.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Apart from Oxford, I applied to MBA and Master in Finance programmes in Cambridge, LSE, LBS and Imperial College, all of which were successful. My final choice was between Oxford and Cambridge, and I decided Oxford because it has a larger cohort, it is stronger in finance, and it has better reputation (particularly in the US). The entry process was also more challenging and because the university had always been my favourite since I was a child.

What has been the biggest epiphany you’ve gained about yourself or the world since you started your MBA program? I would say I have learned how important it is to feel at home and spend time with the people I live with. Having lived in six countries since I left my hometown, I tended to choose an accommodation which was functional and cheap, interacting little with my housemates. In my college household at Oxford, we are truly a family, and we have socialized every day during lockdown doing movie evenings, yoga sessions, Bumble workshops, disco evenings, walking tours, cooking contests and many more activities.