Confident in his knowledge and 15 years of experience in the financial services industry, Edmund Reese, WG’14, vice president and CFO for Global Business Services at American Express, sees Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives as a launch pad to the next phase of his career at the company. “One of my leaders at work said to me, ‘If you look at most of the CFOs of Fortune 100 companies, each one of them has an MBA.’ That was one of the things that put me over the line,” he said.
Based on Edmund’s performance and aspirations to one day move into the CFO role, that leader encouraged him to pursue business school and coordinated with one of the finance leaders at American Express to have the company sponsor his participation in the program.
“The benefits aren’t just for the student — it’s also what students bring back to their organizations,” Edmund said. “Because of Wharton, I’ve come up with innovative ideas that have actually driven investments.” He’s always looking at how he can use his education to add value for the firm’s shareholders, customers, and employees.
“It goes beyond a benefit for me. If your company sponsors you, you need to demonstrate how your education benefits them,” he said. “Every day that I bring a new idea to work, my company sees the value of their investment in my Wharton education.”
Applying Classroom Knowledge in Real Time
For Edmund, applying the lessons he’s learning on class weekends at Wharton to his daily work at American Express during the week has been the most gratifying component of the program thus far.
“I found myself in Peggy Bishop Lane’s Financial Accounting class emailing my comptrollership team to review our capital leases vs. our operating lease structure. I give lessons to our junior population at American Express on books we discuss in class,” he said. “In the middle of a meeting at work, I talked about the stages of change management, which I learned in class. Because of that conversation, we invested in a change management team for a key project.”
Hearing other perspectives at Wharton has also opened Edmund to new ways of approaching problems. For instance, he emailed his managerial accounting professor about a problem at work, and during the next class weekend, they sat down at lunch to discuss the problem.
“That’s an amazing experience, to have a professor at Wharton give you their time and perspective on a work problem. I’ve engaged a number of other professors in this kind of conversation as well,” Edmund said. “I also enjoy the perspectives of my classmates who come from different industries and backgrounds. They have shown me different ways to think about issues.”
Finding the Balance to Make It Work
Edmund classifies his life during the program in three buckets: work, my family, and Wharton. “Without a doubt, the scale tips more to one of those three buckets from time to time,” he said. “There are times when I have to focus on Wharton, or I wouldn’t be successful there. Luckily I have a very understanding wife. I also have a team of people who work for me and for whom I work who understand my time commitment at Wharton.” And because they’re all in the same boat, his Wharton team members understand when he can give more or less effort depending upon his commitments elsewhere.
Without question, Edmund says the MBA Program for Executives is a serious time commitment.
“You have to ensure that the priorities in your life are aligned for you to succeed in the program. Still, my wife reminds me not to forget to enjoy and savor learning from these experts, being in class, and experiencing this network on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
“Taking a step back and realizing what you’re learning and who you’re learning with makes the program and time commitment worth it. It’s important to keep in mind why you have come to Wharton: to learn.”
Posted: January 11, 2014