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  • Writer's pictureKatia Ciesielska

What I have learned (so far) at HEC Paris?

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

The beginning of the lockdown period in Luxembourg in March 2020 meant not only a home office for me, but also no commuting to work, no networking events, no parties and generally no going out.

On the positive side, I gained a few additional hours per day! After a few days of hesitation, I decided to enroll in the 10th edition of the International Certificate in Corporate Finance ICCF® @ HEC PARIS run by HEC Paris and FIRST FINANCE Institute in Paris.

On the HEC website, we read that the ICCF online training program aims to help to acquire the fundamentals of finance and learn at our own pace. The learning approach takes its inspiration from MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and is designed to meet the needs of a wide range of executives who are concerned by the financial decisions of their companies, from both an internal and external perspective.

I quickly settled the fee of EUR 2,650 and the registration link followed in a minute. Yippee! I am in!

So it looks like this:

ICCF provides a baseline set of knowledge for students, employees and employers in the three key areas of Corporate Finance: Financial Analysis, Valuation and Financial Decisions.

Each course includes 4 weeks of theoretical learning and a 2 to 3 weeks of major case study. However, the ICCF @ HEC certification is awarded only upon passing the 2-hour final exam. My ultimate deadline: January 6th, 2021.

Work-life compatible. Get certified in only 5 months, 3-5 hours a week

It is much harder than expected. Although I have a sound knowledge of finance and accounting, I am finding the program very challenging. It requires a follow up on weekly videos, multiple assignments, a lot of reading, real-life case studies, master classes, forum discussions and Zoom meetings. The weekly evaluation quiz questions are very tricky and quite often all my research does not lead to a clear answer. After two or three weeks I am seriously starting to worry whether I will make it.

Not giving up

OK, all my weekends and evenings center around margin analysis, capitalisation and discounting, hybrid securities and everything en français… Cela a l’air d’être compliqué… I purchased Pierre Vernimmen’s ‘Finance d’enterprise’ manual (1194 pages!) and multiplied my efforts in order to pass the real-life case study for Part 1.

We are being asked to write the financial analysis of a real company, Uniwax, and complete a quiz of 38 questions.

Benefit from permanent support

Continuous exchanges with the faculty, learning coaches, forum exchange, and weekly webinars with Pascal Quirry really help.

Additionally, HEC organises virtual meetings to prepare real-life case studies. All those detailed learning analytics help me to eventually recognize my progress.

My impression:

HEC ICCF is definitely one of the best courses I have ever attended. The virtual campus is extremely well organised, and I could participate in a real-time discussion via weekly master classes, forum discussions and Zoom meetings.

I must say it is a great value for the money. I gained a lot of practical, in-depth knowledge that will facilitate my daily ‘company director’ life.

The perspective of getting a prestigious certificate from one of the best business schools in the world and the possibility of joining the dynamic alumni community is another advantage of the program.

And finally, my ‘cerise sur le gâteau’: 81% grade for the Financial Analysis part, 100% for the Valuation part, and a personal ‘Bravo!’ email from Pascal Quirry.

The 3rd and final part will start in September of this year, and then I really hope to participate in the graduation ceremony that should take place in Paris in April 2021. I am convinced that this type of virtual, innovative training will be part of our future, but still, nothing can replace the old-school graduation celebration.

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