June 2021 | 

Paying Dividends: Finance Programs’ Unexpected Benefits

Paying Dividends: Finance Programs’ Unexpected Benefits

Keesa Schreane was juggling more than usual when she took a week to attend the Investment Strategies and Portfolio Management program. Her book Corporations Compassion Culture (Wiley) was about to be released, and the podcast she produces and hosts for the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG), Refinitiv Sustainability Perspectives, had just wrapped up its 55th episode. Then there’s her role as global partner director at LSEG, where she concentrates on risk; climate; and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data and analytics.

Schreane says that role, and the research she did for her book, gave her the opportunity to “look at things from a different perspective based on where we are as a global community. I began to do a lot more work in the ESG investing area, and although I knew about Wharton and its reputation for several years, I just recently wanted to look at expanding my knowledge around a certain area of the financial markets.”

Her choice for expanding that knowledge, and her network, was a Wharton LIVE program. “I knew it would support me intellectually because of the level of rigor. I also knew it would support me in terms of building my community to include people who had similar experiences or career trajectories. I looked forward to sharing information and exploring hypotheses and coming up with new concepts. Then I could distribute information, concepts, and hypotheses through my network, my writing, and my work.”

Actionable Theories

Schreane says Investment Strategies and Portfolio Management helped her to understand the financial theories that are the foundation of her work. “The professors focused on the foundations of principles that I action on a regular basis, whether I'm talking to institutional investors who are our clients, or talking to others who are part of the business ecosystem. That was a huge takeaway.”

“But when I say the theory was one of the takeaways, I don't mean theory was 90 percent of the class. My classmates and I are in the real world and we need actionable knowledge. Getting a grasp of the concepts, really understanding what undergirds what we do, was tremendous. In the past, it's been rare for me to really get that opportunity to spend a full week, several hours a day, to really understand the theory and then build from that theory into something that is actionable.”

Community Building

Schreane says another lasting benefit is a new group of colleagues to exchange ideas and advice with. She appreciates the effort made by Wharton faculty and staff to build a learning community over a virtual platform. “It was intentional through the design of the program. We had group assignments, and we broke out into small groups to discuss and debate things. Clearly that gave us an opportunity to get to know each other a little better during class and through emails during that week.”

But she also gives credit to fellow participants, who “expected a shared experience. We expected that we would be challenged by classmates and our professors and we expected to walk away with bonds. Because of the times that we are in, we recognize that our engagement and our community may look a bit different. But I think that actually served to make us even tighter knit than we would have been, because we had to make a special effort. When I get an email from a classmate, I know it's not just because we ran into each other or had a quick conversation in a restaurant. It’s because I made an impression on him, or she made an impression on me, over Zoom, which means a lot.

“It's been a few months since the program ended, and we still keep in touch. Someone saw a post that I made last week and they said, ‘This is great, keep me updated.’ And I reached out to another colleague of mine regarding a certification that I was interested in and they gave me feedback. It's an ongoing thing — not a one-off. That is the community I became a part of after the program was over.”

Continuing Dividends

Months later, Schreane says deeper benefits are being revealed. “The program gives you an opportunity to learn and then build on the knowledge afterward. I listened in class to people who thought differently from me, who had different takes on a similar topic, and really consumed it and allowed it to filter through and impact my thought process or my opinion. I think that's where the magic happens. The week in the classroom is great, but it's how the information comes to life in circumstances when dealing with clients or when dealing with others in the ecosystem. It’s how I allow myself and my thought process to evolve over and throughout my career, based on what I learned from that phenomenal program.”

She also had an opportunity to continue the conversation with faculty after the program ended. “I had such wonderful exchanges with the program director, Jules van Binsbergen, in a session on ESG and what type of expectations we should have around return as a society, especially concerning the intersection of inclusion and revenue generation. The subject was top-of-mind for me because of the work I’d just finished on my book. I became more articulate and more intentional with the messaging about it because of some of the concepts and theories that I got from Wharton.”

“Jules did a phenomenal job of explaining a theory in a very clear way while also being able to help us build on how it impacted our day-to-day,” Schreane continued. “I couldn’t monopolize the conversation, of course, since there were other people in the class. So I invited him on my show and got to interview him further.” [Interested in that conversation? You can listen here.]