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      Luxembourg School of Finance: Playing with the big boys

      Luxembourg School of Finance: Playing with the big boys

      Christian Wolff, Director of the Luxembourg School of Finance (LSF), has an ambitious aim: Within the next 8 to 10 years, he wants the LSF to rank amongst the best finance departments in the world. The Financial Times has already included the LSF “Master of Banking and Finance Programme” in its Business School Ranking: just one of several advantages that could attract foreign students to start their studies in Luxembourg.

      The LSF has a lot to offer. The School’s latest promising initiative was setting up a course on Islamic Finance, a field in which the Luxembourg financial centre has already made a mark. The eight-day intensive course will be taught in Luxembourg by professors of the Malaysian University INCEIF (, which specialises in Islamic Finance. To start with, a class of 30 students is targeted.  If the module prooves a success, a full masters programme in Islamic Finance will be considered seriously.

      Playing with the big boys

      Another course that will be taught in part at the LSF and which will be monitored worldwide is a module of the “Dual Degree Executive MBA in Asset and Wealth Management”, developed by the Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh and the Swiss Finance Institute. By undertaking to offer the module on investment funds and fund administration, the LSF acts as a junior partner alongside the two universities. “Once they get it to fly, it will be the leading programme in the world”, Wolff says, since no one else offers a similar programme. The Luxembourg module will start in 2012.

      These two programmes will increase the awareness of Luxembourg in the general world of asset management. “We put Luxembourg right under their noses”. As if this wasn’t enough, the LSF “Master of Banking and Finance” programme, which is offered both in a full time and part time versions, is also of world class quality. With a tuition fee of 17,500 € and an estimated market value of 38,000 – 40,000 €, Luxembourg offers a really competitive programme not only price-wise, but also on the qualitative side. During the next two years, Wolff aims to increase the student base from an average of 20 to to up 30 students per class. Having their programme in the Financial Times listing of finance master programmes and advertising in the respected Economist magazine are important steps in the right direction.

      In the medium term, Christian Wolff also hopes to split the classes of the full time programme into two, which would allow for more specialisation. Students will finish the programme with a regular masters title. The part time version, which attracts more people from the region, could then end up as an executive masters degree, providing more of an overview and focusing more on managerial aspects.

      Brain gain

      The effort is worth it. Part time students, who primarily come from the Greater Region, tend to stay on in Luxembourg anyway, but students of the full time programme also appreciate the advantages of the financial centre. Graduates from Brazil, Mongolia, the US and Singapore decide to begin their career here as a result of their studies in Luxembourg. “People like Luxembourg”, Wolff says. The attractiveness of the financial centre is complemented by the neutrality of the country (something that is particularly appreciated by potential Islamic finance clients), its flexible legal structures, its efficient organisation and its professional industry standards.

      These are important assets, from which the LSF also benefits, in particular the community ties in Luxembourg: “The ties between the financial world and the LSF are quite close without being too close”, Wolff remarks. Although the ambition of the LSF needs to remain an academic one “with the keen desire to be relevant”, Wolff appreciates the straightforwardness of the key financial players.

      To work and to contribute

      This was one of the virtues, which personally made it easier for him to start his position as the Director of the LSF in 2008: “I was on a first name basis with many key people from the financial sector a few weeks after arriving in Luxembourg”. 

      “I am the kind of person who likes to build things”, Wolff admits. He is convinced that the LSF has incredible potential. “In eight to ten years you will find something really worthwhile here in the sense of it being one of the better departments in Europe with a lot of relevance and a lot of links”. An aggressive recruitment strategy is pushing the LSF forward in the league of world class financial educational establishments.  Although the much higher salaries of US professors – compared to Europe - can make it difficult to convince academics to come to Luxembourg, Wolff is working ambitiously on this issue. “Good professors like to teach about stuff they think about and what they’re best at”. And they can do this at the LSF. A widely developed research activity is one of the assets the department has to offer. “If you try only to be on the teaching side, it is going to be an empty shell in the end”. With its unique programmes and its relevant research activities, this will certainly not be the case for the LSF. EK


      Luxembourg School of Finance:

      Financial Times Business School ranking:

      Dual Degree Executive MBA in Asset and Wealth Management