Since 26 September 2017, Nuno Fernandes is the new Dean of Católica Lisbon School of Business & Economics. After almost 10 years at IMD, this Professor of Finance returns to direct the school where he graduated and began his academic career. He considers this a great challenge, declaring himself ready to assume the position, stating that the most important thing is to make an impact with all those who interact with us.
CATÓLICA-LISBON – Who is Professor Nuno Fernandes? How would you describe yourself?
NUNO FERNANDES – Those who know me well usually describe me as a Financial Marketeer. I'm always thinking about what's behind the numbers. And behind the numbers are people, consumers. I'm a finance person, but I'm also a man of people. I am usually demanding, very pragmatic, a citizen of the world and a patriot. I am 42 years old, married and have two children. In my free time, I love to ski, which now is something that will probably be a little more difficult to do...
I graduated in Economics from Universidade Católica and obtained a PhD from IESE Business School in Spain. I was a Professor at CATÓLICA-LISBON, where I created and directed the Masters in Finance and, until I received this invitation, I was Professor of Finance for almost a decade at the IMD in Switzerland where I headed the Strategic Finance programme along with other customised programmes for companies of international reference.
CATÓLICA-LISBON – How did you receive the invitation to become the Dean of CATÓLICA-LISBON?
NUNO FERNANDES – I received the invitation from the Rector of Universidade Católica to my surprise, as I was not expecting it. I confess that I was very happy with my career at IMD, as I felt professionally accomplished having been involved in several international projects that gave me great joy. Nevertheless, it was with a very special warmth that I received the invitation and felt very honoured to have been chosen. The decision was not easy to take. I obviously love my country, I am a patriot, I graduated from Católica and I always felt the call to return to Portugal. As soon as I accepted the invitation, I have taken ownership of this responsibility and now I am here, heart and soul, 100%. I really like good challenges.
CATÓLICA-LISBON – In the last 10 years CATÓLICA-LISBON has lived through a golden period of great growth, notoriety, national and international recognition. How do you feel about this heritage?
NUNO FERNANDES – It is indeed a very demanding heritage. CATÓLICA-LISBON is an institution that is very well positioned for the future. The School has run a systematic path and since its foundation has been able to anticipate and adapt to the needs of the market. One of the great transformations took place 25 years ago when we decided to invest in excellent research at international level, but also in the international training of our professors and, later, in hiring foreign professors. This allowed the School to take on a truly open view of the world, to adapt, and to add what is best done abroad to our own excellence. I was a student here at that time of transformation and I witnessed this happening. In 2007, the School received the coveted Triple Crown accreditation and entered the ranks of the Financial Times. All this reflects upon the consistent work of preparation that began almost at the foundation of the School. My predecessors have demonstrated an unique strategic vision, namely a focus on innovation and the international dimension.
I have been away for 10 years, and now that I return, I find a School with many similarities of the past, but also some great differences. The School has maintained its pioneering, innovative spirit, and that of always doing more and better. But things are very different at programme level. When I left there were no masters yet, the internationalisation of teaching that we have today did not exist, as we were taking the first steps in this direction and recruiting the first international professors.
It's a different school now. About 50% of the students are international, and we have executive training programmes where we are very well positioned in terms of rankings, and we are selected by big companies that want to have training here. The internationalization of the School that took shape over the last decade represents a path started long ago and proves that my predecessors have all had a great vision for the future.
The School has been able to adapt and in some cases, anticipate market requirements. We are reaping the fruits of the strategic thinking and pioneering that this School has always had. But the work is not all done, CATÓLICA-LISBON still faces some interesting challenges.
CATÓLICA-LISBON – How do you see the challenge of moving from an academic career to the daily management of a business school? Is it a challenge to move from Professor to Manager?
NUNO FERNANDES – Without a doubt, it is indeed a great challenge. But I have always enjoyed challenges, and this is an opportunity that makes me very happy. Throughout my career, I have had a very strong connection to companies and the market. I have always sought excellence, and part of my role here is to continue to improve the quality of education. I like to "do" things and I think I can make a good contribution in a broader sense.
On the other hand, I have dealt a lot with business leaders as a consultant (about a third of my time at IMD was dedicated to consulting) and I have seen many mistakes being made by top business leaders, so I have learned a lot from this experience. Obviously, I have never experienced in person what I will experience here; bearing the consequences of my own decisions, which is what happens to most of the leaders who run businesses. It's a big challenge, but I'm here for it.
CATÓLICA-LISBON – What are your main goals for the School?
NUNO FERNANDES – I have several. I want to increase the impact on businesses and students through the programmes they choose for their training. I believe it is essential to create stable and long-term relationships with a wide range of national and international companies that allow us to create synergies between research, education and careers.
I want to continue pursuing the goal of being in the Top 10 Business Schools at European level. For this, we must be excellent in everything we do. However, there are always areas where we can do better. For example, we must be excellent at teaching, have excellent professors and excellent programmes. Furthermore, we must be totally focused on the students and the companies that work with us, and we must use the best methodologies to have the greatest possible impact on the people who choose to work with us.
For me, the most important thing is to be able to have an impact, a quality impact, and this will be measured in both the careers of the students who choose us to make their degree programmes and in the performances of the companies that choose to work with us.
We must focus on the quality of the services we provide and on the impact that we have on the general population, whether it is for undergraduate, masters or executive students.
The impact on students is directly reflected in their employability, by having access to the careers they desire. We must therefore adapt the programmes to the needs of the students.
If we do a good job and impact our key stakeholders, the rise in rankings comes naturally.
CATÓLICA-LISBON – What advice would you like to leave the current and future students of CATÓLICA-LISBON?
NUNO FERNANDES – First, make the most of this period of your lives. Studying at CATÓLICA-LISBON is an obvious choice. It is the choice that allows us to join several important factors, such as the quality and excellence of our education, the connection we have with the best national and international companies and a fantastic lifestyle without giving up the quality of your careers.
We have the basis to train excellent professionals and to establish a differentiating learning environment, capable of responding to the educational needs that arise during a student's professional career. And this is visible, for example in the success of our alumni, who now hold leading positions in some of the most prestigious and dynamic national and international companies. We are aware that we also mould human beings who then make a difference in the world around them. If these are your goals, then you have made the right choice.