Wharton Exec MBA Program Helps Alumnus Transition from Computer Products to Finance

Ian Lombard was director of the technology products group at his computer products company when he decided that it was time for a change.  He wanted to transition into a different industry, but his undergraduate degree was in molecular biology, which limited his options.  His path forward turned out to be Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives in San Francisco.

Lombard says, “I was already at a fairly senior role and while I wanted to shift industries, I didn’t want to take a step back.   And I wanted to develop my professional network with other more experienced professionals.  At the time, a friend who had recently graduated from a full-time MBA program pointed out that if I went to a full-time program then I would probably be everyone’s best networking partner, but there might be no one for me to network with.”

Wharton’s executive MBA program was a great fit, says Lombard. “Not only were the students further along in their careers, but it was very rigorous.  I really appreciated how Wharton’s program was so aggressively the same as the full-time MBA program, which in the long run would create a stronger alumni network knowing that we hadn’t taken any shortcuts and it wasn’t MBA-lite.”

He continued to work at the computer products company during school, but in his second year Lombard found the new professional opportunity he had been looking for.   A college friend had started a successful hedge fund focused on Asia and was about to spin out a technology platform for the hedge fund into a separate entity.  By early 2006, it was ready to be launched and Lombard became COO of Tora Trading Services in San Francisco.

“It was a night and day difference between my old job and the new one, but Wharton helped me quite a lot in that transition because of the school’s network.  The Wharton community is strong not only in finance, but also in Asia.  Knowing people would return my calls and emails or grab a coffee with me based on our shared Wharton connection was and still is very valuable,” says Lombard.

His classes also helped bring him up to speed in the world of finance.  He quickly felt comfortable sitting down with clients to discuss their concerns and goals.  “I could have learned that vocabulary on my own, but I probably cut that time in half because of my Wharton classes,” he says, noting that the firm grew from just six employees in early 2006 to nearly 200 today with offices around the world.  Its client base now accounts for more than 5% of traded volume on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and 1-2% of the traded volume in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Lombard adds that even though he graduated in 2007, Wharton’s executive MBA program is continuing to provide value through alumni events. “People tend to stay in the silos of their industries, but it’s great to find out who is innovating and transfer knowledge between different industries.  The speakers at Wharton’s alumni events are very broad-based.  You get an hour download from the speaker and then chat with people in all different areas – that is a huge ongoing benefit.”

Ian Lombard, WG’07, COO Tora Trading Services