European Business Leaders Optimistic About Future

The European Club’s Second Annual European Business Conference whirled into full swing this past weekend attracting top business executives and luminary speakers from Europe to the HBS campus. After a late night of dancing at Harvard Ball’s “A Night in Vienna,” 450 students gathered early Saturday morning to hear Guillaume Hannezo, CFO of Vivendi-Universal, kick-off the Conference with his keynote speech. Mr. Hannezo was among 50 top European business executives that traveled to HBS to address the trends and challenges facing the European business landscape today.

The Conference provided HBS students interested in pursuing careers in Europe a great opportunity to expand their insights of the ever-changing European business markets. The two luminary keynote speakers highlighted the broad macroeconomic changes that they see on the horizon. Mr. Hannezo addressed the future of Europe from the perspective of a global company that strives to produce local content. The Conference’s closing keynote speaker, Bert W.M. Twaalfhoven (HBS 1954), an entrepreneur who has been involved in fifty European start-ups, discussed his hopes for European entrepreneurialism and his optimism of the power of the euro.
Mr. Hannezo’s morning address was complemented by a brief talk by Nick Gaynor, Managing Director at Goldman Sachs. Mr. Gaynor’s address highlighted the strong role that Goldman Sachs has taken as a primary supporter of the Conference. The Financial Times also was a primary sponsor of the event.

The Conference was organized around a panel format that allowed student interaction with the business professionals in an open, friendly environment. The panel discussions brought together the 50 panelists to debate cutting-edge business developments across Europe including consulting in a bear market, the challenges of marketing across cultural boundaries, rapidly evolving opportunities in Eastern Europe, the changing face of investment banking, and the prospects facing entrepreneurs in Europe.

An intimate feel prevailed throughout the conference, due to enthusiastic panelists making themselves available throughout the day to speak to students and answer student questions. Students benefited from various networking opportunities such as the small group lunches, which provided close and personal access to the panelists in an intimate setting. The closing reception, sponsored by Guinness, gave everyone a last chance to chat up and debate the nature of a proper pour. The European Club was very pleased with this year’s European Business Conference and hopes to build upon its success next year.