Lighting up Paris With Talent

We recap the Wharton Global Forum in Paris, which brought together Wharton faculty and alumni with global business leaders for timely and energetic discourse.

By Karen Boedecker

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“Attracting talent, retaining talent, cultivating talent. There really is no more central asset in any company of any size, location or industry than that of human capital,” explained Lizann Rode, executive director of Wharton Alumni Relations, to Wharton Magazine.

Talent was the theme of the 44th Wharton Global Forum in Paris on Oct. 10–11, 2013, carefully planned using the results
of Lifelong Learning’s in-depth examination of what Wharton alumni are seeking, and how best to bring Lifelong Learning to the European community. Attendees responded with enthusiasm throughout the panel presentations and keynotes.

“Wharton Global Forums allow alumni to return to Wharton, allowing them to recreate or re-experience the intellectual
challenge and camaraderie,” Rode said.

The industry leaders who attended who were not alumni also wanted to benefit from “the Wharton conversation,” she added. Programming was developed specifically to bring the theme of talent to life. This careful approach resulted in a continuously enhanced dialogue as attendees built their knowledge session by session.

Nicolas Topiol, WG’91, CEO of Christian Lacroix, who co-chaired the Forum with Antoine Dréan, WG’92, founder and chairman of Triago, agreed that the idea that the School would bring the Wharton experience to Paris was critical to the resounding success of the event among alumni and non-affiliated business leaders.

“We replaced some of the traditional industry-focused panels with master classes led by an amazing roster of Wharton faculty,” Topiol said. “This certainly reconnected alumni to the School, but it also provided an opportunity to educate non-alumni participants to the diversity and quality of education that we stand for.”

Beginning with a Thursday morning panel that starred executives from LVMH, “Attracting, Cultivating and Managing Talent in the Luxury Sector,” the energy was palpable. Dean Thomas S. Robertson moderated the panel, which included Pauline Brown, WG’95, chairman of North America, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton; Chantal Gaemperle, executive vice president, human resources and synergies, LVMH Group; and Pierre-Yves Roussel, WG’93, chairman and CEO, LVMH Fashion Group.

“There was a sense of anticipation around what speakers were going to say that was felt before every presentation,”  recalled Rode. “Jeremy Siegel’s talk was standing room only. The room was packed for Alain Ducasse, who spoke entirely in French.”

Siegel, whose session was called “World Economy and Markets: Where Do We Go From Here?,” is the Russell E. Palmer Professor of Finance, and Ducasse, a world-renowned chef and restaurateur, delivered the Forum’s keynote address on Thursday.

Other faculty members in the “Wharton conversation” included Mauro Guillen, Lauder director and Dr. Felix Zandman Professor of International Management (on global risks); John Kimberly, executive director of the Wharton/INSEAD Alliance and Henry Bower Professor of Entrepreneurial Management (on education and innovation); Richard Marston, James R.F. Guy Professor of Finance (on the euro crisis); and Assistant Professor Laura Huang (on entrepreneurship).

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A conversation between restaurateur Alain Ducasse (left) and Antoine Dréan, WG’92, chairman, Triago, and Forum organizing committee
chairman (right).

Rode reiterates that the key ingredient for the Forum’s remarkable atmosphere was the alumni who attended and the  nergy they brought to the dialogue throughout.

Topiol shared the sentiment. “[Antoine and I] were very much rewarded by the positive reaction of the participants and their remarks.”

He uses the Friday night closing gala as a barometer for attendees’ engagement, noting that the 300+ participants at the dinner “showed tribute to the quality of the experience and kept the participants wanting more.”

“In troubled times, we need to rely on ourselves, our peers, our teams. Talent makes the difference. I would think that 100 percent of participants would say that the theme was on target and so relevant. The program was very diverse, and hopefully people took away valuable information and ideas. I certainly did, and I have already put them to use,” Topiol said, reflecting back on the theme and his overall experience as volunteer co-chairman.

Editor’s note: Watch our interviews with Pauline Brown, WG’95, Chairman of North America, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, during the Wharton Global Forum Paris:

And plan for the two upcoming Wharton Global Forums: Panama (March 13–14, 2014) and Beijing (June 12–14, 2014). For more information, visit www.whartonpanama14.com and www.whartonbeijing14.com.

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