The Marketing-Finance approach: Bridging the gap between Marketing and Finance

Tobias Massing (left), Cornelia Birnbrich and Konstantin Molinari were the three nominees for the 2012 Marketing-Finance Excellent Student Award.

“The industry is waiting for you, the industry embraces you,” said Prof.  dr. ir. Joost Pennings as he welcomed a gathering of Marketing-Finance master students and alumni to the annual Christmas drinks celebration offered by SBE’s Marketing-Finance Research Lab on Tuesday 11 December.

Pennings praised the students for their academic motivation and performance and promised them a bright future ahead: “We have an excellent placement score: I do not know any single student who did not find a job after defending his master thesis.”

The Marketing-Finance Student Award

This year, the founders of the Marketing-Finance Research Lab, Prof. Pennings, Dr. Arvid Hoffmann and Dr. ir. Nikos Kalogeras, decided to inaugurate an annual Excellent Student Award “to honour students who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment and outstanding academic achievements”.

The three nominees for the 2012 award, Tobias Massing, Konstantin Molinari, and Cornelia Birnbrich, made the three-hour trip by car from Frankfurt in Germany especially for the occasion.

Hoffmann told the audience that it had been a difficult task to select a winner. All three nominees had obtained their Marketing-Finance master degree in 2012 with a cum laude distinction and had been involved in numerous noteworthy activities with academic and social relevance, throughout their study year.

Nevertheless, one of them clearly stood out. “After due consideration, we decided to give this year’s Excellent Student Award to Cornelia Birnbrich,” Hoffmann proudly announced.

“Our decision was based on Cornelia’s outstanding achievements in conducting a thesis with a high societal impact, the quality of her scholarly research, excellent grades, and an exceptional work ethic,” he added among cheerful clapping.

Cornelia Birnbrich won the 2012 Marketing-Finance Excellent Student Award

“An excellent placement score”

Just a few months after graduation, Cornelia, Tobias and Konstantin are already working for large financial firms in Frankfurt.

“It all went so smoothly,” said Cornelia. “I sent out six application letters and received a lot of positive feedback. People are really interested in the programme because they’re not familiar with it. They don’t know anyone who has studied Marketing and Finance at the same time.”

Things went even faster for Tobias. His first application landed him his current job with Fidelity, a pension funds and asset management company: “I was lucky. I had to go through five selection rounds and 14 single interviews, but then I was hired.”

Pennings, Hoffmann and Kalogeras launched the master programme in Marketing-Finance in September 2008 as a first in Europe and in the world.

“A lot of literature has been produced on the topic over the past 10 years and it’s a no-brainer in terms of that it was missing as an academic study but someone had to take the initiative,” said Pennings.

Hoffmann explained that by integrating the two usually separate fields of Marketing and Finance, the Marketing-Finance programme aims to provide students with a toolbox to help them solve practical problems in the industry.

Carlo Funk, a Marketing-Finance alumnus who now works for the private bank J.P. Morgan in Frankfurt, was immediately attracted by the concept when he first heard of it at his university in Germany.

“From the beginning I found the idea of connecting the fields of marketing and finance very appealing because I have always believed that industries need to consider the specific character traits of their target group, including the financial industry,” Carlo wrote in an email testimonial.

Marketing-Finance master students working on a case study for Vodafone

Practical approach

One of the strengths of the Marketing-Finance master programme, according not only to its founders but also to its students, lies in its hands-on, practical approach.

“We want our students to acquire knowledge that they can apply,” explained Hoffmann. “Our programme allows them not only to study the academic theory but also to learn in what way the theory can be relevant in a business context.”

Konstantin, who graduated in September 2012 and now works for an investment bank in Frankfurt, said that this approach has proven useful to him: “All the case studies that we did during the course and our close contact with the industry gave us a good idea of what it’s like to work in a business, and the insight into Marketing and Finance prepared me better for the job I want to do now.”

Konstantin seems to perfectly fit the Marketing-Finance student profile: “Neither Marketing or Finance is very attractive to me by itself, but it is the combination of the two disciplines that I find attractive. In my new job, I need certain financial skills but I also need marketing skills. I need to analyze financial statements and balance sheets and identify weaknesses in KPIs [key performance indicators, Ed.]. But I also need to identify strengths in the marketing strategy and establish how marketing activities can be somehow be translated into numbers, how output can be expressed in financial terms. That’s why I find it useful to have an insight into both disciplines.”

Tobias said he also benefits from the communication skills he acquired in Maastricht in his everyday work: “We learned how to make presentations and interact with clients. The soft skills you learn here are very important for your later career.”

The Marketing-Finance Research Lab

Besides running the Marketing-Finance master programme, Pennings, Hoffmann and Kalogeras have also established a Marketing-Finance Research Lab, which functions as a platform where students, faculty members, and the business community, can meet each other to discuss new academic developments, exchange research papers, and interact on current questions shaping the industry.

Prof. Jennings to his students: “The industry is waiting for you!”

They officially formalized the Marketing-Finance Research Lab with the launch of the web interface in September 2012.

“The aim of the Lab is to pool all the research capacity in the domain of marketing and finance, and to allow the business community to profit from the research we are doing here through lectures, workshops and conferences,” said Pennings.

The Marketing-Finance Research Lab also attracts and welcomes foreign academics and business developers – from the US, UK, Germany, France – who wish to keep updated on this new field of study. “It’s all about being part of the network and staying in the loop,” said Hoffmann.

An immediate advantage of hosting the Lab in Maastricht, according to Hoffman, is that master students in Marketing-Finance are given a chance to directly benefit from the research activities conducted at the Lab. “We are at the forefront of research and can immediately disseminate that knowledge to our students.”

Prof. Joost Pennings explains the Marketing-Finance approach to a prospective student

The Lab reaches out to the industry through the Marketing-Finance Company Circle, which gives companies and recruiters the possibility to take part in the Lab’s activities but more importantly, to establish their first contact with Marketing-Finance students.

“We notice a strong interest among companies in the marketing-finance approach, and we see that our students end up in very different industries,” said Hoffmann. “These can be consultancy firms but also the big financial exchanges in Amsterdam, London, Paris or Frankfurt, who are very enthusiastic about graduates with multidisciplinary skills who can use the marketing-finance outlook to develop new financial products.”

“Nothing works without the correct marketing strategy!” wrote Carlo from his office at J.P. Morgan. “No single Private Equity, Hedge Fund or Mutual Fund would be sold without a good knowledge of exactly which persons should be approached and how. The Marketing-Finance approach sharpens one’s mind into thinking in the right direction.”

Keeping in touch

Carlo said he enjoyed the close contact he established in Maastricht with the Marketing-Finance team. “Especially the interaction with the tutors and developers of the Marketing-Finance master was very truthful. I always had the feeling that they really cared and in hindsight I can say that they did/do.”

“I am in constant contact with the Marketing-Finance team. I travelled to Maastricht in June 2012 to give a short presentation and feedback on the final projects of the last master course. And I actively seek to help building the relationship of the team with the industry even further.”

All Marketing-Finance graduates have the possibility to stay in touch with each other and the Marketing-Finance team in Maastricht via social groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Cornelia, Konstantin, and Tobias said they enjoy this contact. “We are all happy to give some insights into what we do,” Cornelia explained. “After all, that’s what we wanted when we were students as well and it’s not a big deal to help others and forward job offers for example.”

Their main advice to current and future students is to make use of the opportunities offered by the university and the Marketing-Finance Research Lab, because “they have outstanding contact with the industry.”

For his part, Carlo recommends students to “be open to new things and not to accept prevalent boundaries that often are in place just for the sake of it.”

Master students in Marketing-Finance at Maastricht University

Mark your agenda: The 2013 Marketing-Finance Conference 

Pennings, Hoffmann and Kalogeras closed the festive Christmas celebration by inviting all students and alumni present to meet again on the occasion of the Marketing-Finance Conference that they will be hosting on October 3, 2013.

“Our conference, now in its second edition, will bring together keynote speakers from the academic community and company CEOs and CFOs who are using our marketing and finance approach in the industry to tackle a whole series of questions and challenges,” announced Pennings. “Save the date in your agenda and see you there!”


By Sueli Brodin

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