Interview with Leonardo Banegas, Global MBA Class of 2013

After graduating from the ESSEC Global MBA in September 2013, Leonardo Banegas, from Honduras, joined KPMG Advisory in Singapore, as part of the Operation, Synergy, Separation & Integration Team. He discusses about what he learned from his Global MBA, why he chose to study in France and the benefits of gaining international exposure.

What made you decide that you needed to get an MBA?

After working more than four years at Citibank in Central America, I felt the need to expand on my academic and international experience, particularly in Europe and Asia. The MBA was the perfect step in my career; it gave me the tools and general knowledge to perform at higher levels in organizations.

Why did you choose ESSEC?

I am pursuing an international career so I had to do something global. The Global MBA at ESSEC offered me exposure to business in Europe, Asia and Africa, so it definitely met my requirements. Besides this, ESSEC’s reputation in Europe and its extensive alumni network were key drivers of my decision. I applied to four programs. Apart from ESSEC, I applied to INSEAD, HEC Paris and IE Business School in Madrid. I was accepted at IE, but decided against it because the program had a high percentage of Latin Americans and being with more Spanish-speaking people was exactly what I did not want. ESSEC was the right place at the right time.

What did you gain from your Global MBA?

During my MBA I spent time in six different countries – France, Singapore, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Germany and India – not only taking academic courses, but also visiting companies, creating social enterprises for global competitions and completing my international immersion projects, where I had the opportunity to work for one of the biggest IT companies in India for eight weeks. One of the other most enriching experiences of my MBA was the diversity of the class, which included people of 14 different nationalities! There were people from Qatar, India, Mexico and China, people who had served in the military in Afghanistan, people who had PhDs. This all enriches the Global MBA experience and the discussions we had made it clear that cultural factors are important when doing business internationally.

Global MBA Class of 2013
How did your MBA prepare you for your current role at KPMG Advisory, both day-to-day and on a higher level?

Before the MBA I had a rough knowledge of private equity and valuation models for M&A. Now, after my financial courses, I have the confidence to discuss and challenge any initiative in my day-to-day work at KPMG Advisory. My personal experience in integration in combination with the broad general knowledge of the MBA allows me to do business development consulting in a variety of sectors. As part of the Global MBA program at ESSEC, we examined the differences between business in developed countries and emerging countries, complemented by rigorous finance courses that trained us in the M&A processes. Both of these competencies are required in my new role at KPMG Advisory, where we see many corporations from developed economies completing acquisitions in these fast-growing regions! Additionally, during my MBA we spent five weeks in Singapore, where we visited many companies and got a clear view of the economic situation in the region, which helps when you are developing business not only in Singapore but also the rest of the ASEAN countries.

Tell us a bit more about your time in Bangalore.

My International Immersion Project was one of the most exciting parts of my MBA. I went to India to work for one of the biggest IT players in India. I experienced a giant company from an emerging market doing business mainly in developed countries, which gave me a different perspective on doing business. I was doing research and analysis of the innovations process for microfinance institutions (MFIs) globally, and guiding MFIs on how to develop successful innovations for the base of the pyramid. The challenge was to deliver a foundation for developing innovative products and business models which would allow MFIs to meet the needs of low-income segments in a sustainable way. I had the opportunity to learn about the operations of the MFIs and work with with the CEOs of microfinance institutions from India, Latin America and some countries of South East Asia.

Are you where you thought you be after your MBA?

Before my MBA, I lived two years in Taiwan. I was open to starting my post-MBA career in Europe or Asia. During my job search I was focusing in consulting as my priority and I was targeting most of the 1st and 2nd tier consulting companies.

Tell us something about your non-academic MBA experience.

A result of the diversity of the class was that every dinner organized with my classmates was exotic – from amazing cheese and wine tasting to Chinese and Russian dishes. Of course, one has to mention the beauty of Paris, where there were so many cultural activities to do, and restaurants and bars to visit. One of my favorite memories of my MBA was a social business competition, to which we had to dedicate extra time in addition to our normal curriculum. In this competition we had to face global challenges such as the food crisis in urban slums and present our proposal in Dubai.

What are your future plans?

I expect to progress in my career as a consultant and in the long term I expect create my own businesses here in Asia or even Europe.

What advice would you give to future MBA candidates, particularly those from Central America?

Be curious and get out of your comfort zone (in non-English and non-Spanish speaking countries). Try to study in two or three different continents to get wider perspectives and experiences. Analyze the strengths of the programs and quality of the faculty, so you make sure you are making a good investment.

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