Interview with John Gilligan: The New Director of the Oxford Saïd Finance Lab

Oxford Saïd Finance Lab

Are you looking to dive deep into finance during your MBA program with the opportunity to interact with banking firms, funds, and industry leaders? That’s the theory behind the Finance Lab at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.

Inside the Oxford Saïd Finance Lab

The Oxford Saïd Finance Lab is a joint venture between multiple areas of the university including the Private Equity Institute, the finance faculty, the program office, and the Careers Center. It was designed to provide financial graduate training—particularly for MBA students—that includes practical workshops, financial modeling, and real-life case studies. Also, each workshop also includes a networking opportunity for students to interact with industry professionals.

For MBA students looking to enter a career in investment banking and/or private equity, the Finance Lab is an invaluable resource that helps them gain the necessary skills to succeed. Not only do students gain a practical training advantage but they also gain access to a network for financial services recruiters and senior finance professionals, which will be essential in their future careers.

Introducing the New Finance Lab Director

And for MBA students interested in the Finance Lab, there’s another development: John Gilligan, a private equity and venture capital industry expert, has been appointed the new director. Gilligan will build upon the work of his predecessor Andreas T. Angelopoulos—who founded the Finance Lab in 2013—to move the program forward.

Before his role with the Saïd Business School, Gilligan worked as an Equity Partner at BDO LLP where he advised, initiated, and arranged finance for growing private companies ranging from startups to mature PE-backed businesses. He has also spent quite a few years in academia as a Visiting Professor at Imperial College London and a Sloan Fellow at London Business School. Gilligan is also the co-author of a series of book on Private Equity and the non-executive director and investment committee member of Big Issue Invest, a significant social impact investor in the UK.

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To gain additional insight into Gilligan’s new role as the Director of the Finance Lab, we interviewed him about his placement. Here’s what he had to say. 

MetroMBA: Why are you most excited to join the University of Oxford as the Director of the Finance Lab?

John Gilligan: Who wouldn’t be excited about going to the University of Oxford and being asked to do something? It’s being invited to join one of the most successful institutions in the world, that’s growing rapidly. It’s exciting. If you’re not excited, you’re in the wrong business.

As for why I did this? I’ve spent the last 25-30 years in private practice. And, as a young man, I thought you should be retired at 50—then I became 50. The other thing I thought that you should always do at some point in your life is to stop trying to accumulate wealth and start to teach. So, those are the reasons I stopped being in practice. I’ve been associated with academia for years, and this is just the next step.

MM: What will your new role as Director entail?

JG: What the role entails is standing on the shoulders of my predecessor and taking what’s already been built to the next level of success.

My job is to build a bridge between the classroom and the workplace. We want graduates of Saïd Business School to be ready to enter the world. We already take in the brightest students, and from there, we want to produce graduates that know what the business world wants from them, which is different than the academic world. It’s my goal to get students to focus on the value that they can extract from us to use in the real world.

MM: What are your plans for the future of the Finance Lab?

JG: Anybody who takes over something successfully should take time to get to know the program before they start changing anything. So, we probably won’t make many changes in the short term. What’s been built here is something solid and respected—students value it.

Of course, I do have my own ideas for the future, but only a fool would come in and start changing things precipitously.

MM: What do you hope MBA students will gain from being part of the Finance Lab?

JG: We’re putting a significant amount of money and resources into a course that is not for credit. No one is coming here to pass a course. We’re investing our time, effort, and money to improve the marketability of our students.

From the students’ point of view, the reason they should join the Finance Lab is because this is where the University’s efforts are focused. We’re putting real money into this. Follow the money. We’re serious about doing this. What MBA students will get is a practitioner’s view of what an employer would want out of an MBA graduate.

My first slide that I show MBA students says, “Business is not an IQ test.” Our men and women are, by definition, selected for intelligence. They’re very bright. What can we do with bright people? We can teach them, we can teach them theory and academia, but we also need to teach them things that aren’t necessarily found in school.

To learn more about the Oxford Saïd Finance Lab and about Gilligan’s appointment as Director, check out the school’s press release.


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