“Taking all three programmes enabled me to build practical knowledge step by step”
- Programme: Corporate Finance Programme
- Nationality: Portuguese
- Job Post-programme: M&A Analyst, Optima Corporate Finance
Imitating Steve Jobs for a moment, Hugo Dias admits that “think different” is his life motto. But his adage runs with another layer, “think better”. And that’s where the Corporate Finance portfolio at London Business School (LBS) comes in.
Hugo is well schooled in finance. After studying for his undergraduate degree in economics in Portugal, he went on to complete an international Masters in Finance at Grenoble Ecole de Management at the London campus. He has worked all over the world – from Lisbon to Hong Kong and Madrid. He was briefly with Bloomberg as an economy analyst but says it was a blip: “I’m entrepreneurial, my real love is M&A and private equity.” So he went back to his area of expertise and joined the small M&A advisory firm Optima Corporate Finance, which specialises in recruitment and human capital – or, as Hugo puts it, “intangibles”.
Why would a technical specialist go back to business school?
Hugo juggles multiple projects at any one time. For instance, on top of his day job he’s advising a tech start-up on its fundraising strategy and plans to tap the Executive Education alumni network to help. He’s also working on the financial modelling for a boutique hotel in Portugal. So why did the busy analyst go back to business school?
“I’d studied market and corporate finance in the past, but it was very broad. I hadn’t explored topics deeply. I was looking for applied knowledge, not just theory,” he says. By studying each Corporate Finance programme one after the other he learnt what approach to take, and when, something he’s implementing with the boutique hotel venture.
“Taking all three programmes enabled me to build practical knowledge step by step. For example with the hotel, I’ve created a financial model from scratch and analysed financial statements, which touches the first programme – Accounting and Financial Analysis. I valued the whole company and prepared an exit strategy, which relates to the second – Valuation. I will also need to talk to banks to put the funding structure in place, which is relevant to the third – Financial Strategies for Value Creation”.
“I will cover the whole portfolio in just one project.”
Building knowledge brick by brick
Hugo started his “explosive” learning journey with Accounting and Financial Analysis where he was taught which tools to use in various scenarios by Professor Chris Higson. “You can easily get lost with so many different available metrics when you analyse complex companies. Through case studies we learnt to focus on what’s relevant, when,” he says.
Next he studied Valuation taught by Professor Christopher Hennessy who brought fresh perspectives. “He studied in the US, so he thinks differently. Technically speaking he's very sharp and able to explain difficult concepts fast,” says Hugo.
Thinking differently paid off when Professor Hennessey assisted Hugo with an element of financial modelling during a class coffee break. “He helped me structure something complex using EU funding and came up with the solution in just 15 minutes.”
The Valuation programme could also help CEOs and CFOs who intend to sell or acquire a business, he says. “The marketplace is full of people who haven’t got a clue how to value a company; they think X multiplied by Y is the answer. So it’s relevant to anyone looking to make the right decision at the right time.”
A ‘doing it better’ knock-on effect
Finally he embarked on the Financial Strategies for Value Creation programme with Professor Henri Servaes. Because Hugo works alongside lawyers and consultants, he appreciated Professor Servaes’ consultancy background. “He knows what people want to hear, he’s solved complex problems for large corporates himself and so he’s able to bring practical insight. He told us, ‘In the real world managers take decisions based on what they know at that time, but also what they think shareholders will react to.’” On that basis Hugo experienced a revelation: a new level of complexity – human irrationality.
The next lesson for Hugo was even more important. “Henry said that we will experience shortcuts in the real world – say when large investment banks compute the cost of capital. But he suggested we do our calculations correctly.
“He said: ‘When you face a financial model that’s been falsely calculated, correct it, and then discuss it with the management.”
Now not only can Hugo choose what tool to use when, but he can also distinguish what's right and wrong. What’s more, he’s equipped to shape the way companies approach their financial strategies altogether.