Structure of the programme

The International Executive MBA in Finance and Control program is designed for individuals with significant professional work experience.

  • Goals for the programme

    Goals for the programme

    The International Executive MBA in Finance and Control program is tailored towards finance professionals gifted with the talent and drive to become CFO. It integrates general management capabilities with the specific requirements of the business partner role, reporting role and the fiduciary role of senior finance professionals.

    The program hosts an internationally diverse group of students, all coming from Multinational Corporations (MNCs) and providing an inspiring community with the potential for a ‘deep dive’ in several areas relevant for future CFO’s in MNCs. In addition to the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences in class, this group of students also provides a network for life.

    The program is delivered by a partnership of three leading institutions: Aalto University Executive Education, NHH Norwegian School of Economics, and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam School of Business Economics. All three institutions hold an impressive track record of highly evaluated and accredited executive programs. The Executive MBA programs of Helsinki-based Aalto University and Bergen-based NHH Norwegian School of Economics are amongst the highly evaluated programs, while the Executive Master of Finance and Control program of the Vrije University Amsterdam is the leading program for professionals aspiring a CFO position. Joining forces with other internationally renowned faculties, students have the opportunity to acquire and apply up-to-date knowledge in a MNC-setting enhancing their career towards an international CFO position.

    The intensive program is offered in three locations (Amsterdam, Bergen and Helsinki). All cities have well-established (airline) connections to the rest of the world and are known for their rich cultural heritage as well as their international orientation.

    The program is established to boost a career in finance. While many finance functions have become rather specialized, this program provides the opportunity to focus on both knowledge and skills to prepare for a role of a CFO in one of the operating companies of an MNC.

  • Learning outcomes

    Learning outcomes

    The program is designed to thoroughly prepare already highly educated and experienced professionals for a future CFO role. Upon completion of the program participants will be able to

    • Leverage from strategy in the context of financial leadership
    • Facilitate the transition from information provider to strategic business partner
    • Apply new methodologies, techniques and skills in finance, control, strategy and leadership
    • Evaluate and select current trends in strategic financial management
    • Integrate data analytics in performance measurement and evaluation
    • Negotiate, manage conflicts and communicate effectively to a variety of audiences
    • Develop and apply long-term vision and strategy frameworks
    • Assess and enhance personal leadership style
    • Drive innovation and lead cultural change

    Learning outcomes in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence are described in more detail for each module in the program and can be found in section “Detailed description of the modules” at the end of the document.

  • Programme organization

    Programme organization

    The program is organized as a two-year, part-time program worth 90 ECTS credits.

  • Assessment

    Assessment

    The program has a modular structure and follows a six-week learning cycle. Modules are typically run once every 2-3 months, with in-class sessions from Monday to Saturday. Each module contains a pre-assignment, and final module assignment.
    The 8 modules represent 80 ECTS, with each module representing 10 ECTS.

    Pre-module period of 2-3 weeks Six-day module Post-module period of 2-3 weeks
    Individual preparation Intensive face-to-face session with instructor and peers Final module assignment


    The program is designed to maximize interaction and participation in order to unleash the full potential of the multicultural, multinational group of experienced participants and lecturers. The approach focuses on integration of theory and practice and is adjusted to take differences in learning styles and preferences into account. A variety of methods facilitate learning, including presentations, group debates, casework, quizzes, role plays, lectures, real-life case studies, and encounters with business leaders. Activities draw upon the wide experience of participants, who represent different industries, functions, and educational backgrounds.  
    Each module includes assignments designed to help participants and faculty see whether they have achieved the learning objectives. Participants are assessed both individually and in groups during the program. Grades are given on a scale from A to F, based on pre-module assignments (apx. 25%), participation and presentations in the face-to-face sessions (apx. 25%) and final module assignments (apx. 50%). Each University has the responsibility to keep track of the ECTS and gradings for their respective modules.
    Canvas will be used as learning platform.

  • Module 1: CFO and Finance Function

    Module 1: CFO and Finance Function

    The first module of the program focuses on introducing the IEMBAFC-program to the students, and the new and emerging activities of the finance function and related organizational aspects.

    The first module starts with introducing the curriculum and the organization of the program and the professors involved. During the first evening a social event will take place. This event will allow the students to get to know each other and the professors and the program staff. During the week of the first module several timeslots are planned for brief plenary individual introductions by the students (pitch format).

    From a contents perspective the first module covers the core requirements the finance function should meet to add value to the business.

    Adding value means an effective and efficient execution of the scorekeeper role, the analyst role, the fiduciary role and the business partner role. The role-specific requirements, challenges and trends are discussed first, after the introduction of the program. Requirements, challenges and trends relate to people (skills and competencies), IT (data and IT infrastructure and governance), processes (core and supporting activities of finance function and their outcomes for external and internal ‘customers’/users) and organization (structure, reporting lines, et cetera). Digitalization and datafication are addressed in this module as their influence is bound to increase over time. A comprehensive treatment will follow in modules 5 and 7. Here the influence on the finance function is discussed from the perspective of finance and business executives. Standard processes are executed by robots, more processes become standard while standardization is accelerating, and machine learning and AI will design and execute the processes smarter. The business partner role requires extensive use of small and big data analytics.

    Subsequently, the first module covers organizational design and finance function operating models. Rhineland, Anglo-Saxon models and combined (‘strong’) models and corresponding functional, hierarchical and horizontal reporting lines are elaborated on. One of the sessions is dedicated to designing and implementing finance function transformation programs. What are the merits and limitations of process benchmarking, what are typical building blocks of finance transformation programs and what are the ingredients of related business cases? Outsourcing and insourcing (‘make or buy’) and off-shoring, nearshoring and onshoring of finance processes are discussed from an economic, internal control, security, governance and technology perspective.

    Besides a company’s internal stakeholders, its external stakeholders are obviously key for the finance function: supporting the business is only relevant if there is a business, and there is no business without external stakeholders. External stakeholders determine the benchmarks for internal performance evaluation. But also the quality of external reporting has a major and still growing impact on a company’s license to operate. For that reason, key International Financial Reporting Standards are discussed as last topic of the first module. The main standards are covered, including those referring to business combinations (IFRS 3), operating segments (8), joint business arrangements (11), fair value (13), revenue accounting (15), lease accounting (16), and financial instruments (9). Main differences with US GAAP are discussed. The emerging development of externally reporting return on non-financial capitals is also addressed (integrated reporting (IR), corporate sustainability reporting (CSR), environment-society-governance (ESG) reporting).

    The Business Strategy Project (BSP) will be introduced to the participants in the first module. The participants will be encouraged to make proposals for relevant topics for BSPs from their own organizations, to be presented and voted for in the next module.

    Each module hosts a dinner speech by a CFO. For the first module the theme of the CFO speech is ‘CFO as finance leader and business professional’.  

  • Module 2: Strategic Management

    Module 2: Strategic Management

    This second module consist of three sections. The first deals with strategy, while the second focuses on the interface of accounting / finance and strategy, and the third on the strategy project / personal leadership.

    This module focuses first on Strategy. Corporate, business and operational strategies are discussed, but focus will be mainly on business strategy. Different schools of thought on business strategy and their implications of practice are discussed. The relation between strategy and business model is addressed and various contemporary ideas on how to come up with winning strategy and effective business model is evaluated. Focus in this first strategy section is on defining strategy and business model and the role CFOs could play in this.

    The second section discusses implementation of strategy and various management and control systems management may rely on in implementing strategy. The focus is on performance measurement systems, and how those could be designed to serve both strategy implementation and other uses. In addition to design issues, this section also has a strong focus on how performance measurement systems are used effectively, including issues in target setting and incentives.

    The third section covers the Business Strategy Project, which is done in teams, and self-development. The background and objectives of the Business Strategy Project are:

    • To construct an analytical tool or solution to a tangible and strategic business problem of a company or a business unit;
    • To exploit the knowledge accumulated during the EMBA program in constructing the solution;
    • To get familiar with the state of the art in academic research related to the topic chosen for investigation with the support of the tutor nominated for the team.
    • To organize, manage, and rehearse teamwork so that the competences of the participants in the team can be utilized at the maximum level; and
    • To rehearse and conduct communication assignments at various stages of the delivery process and for different types of audiences.

    Typical themes in self-development are:

    • Exploration of personal leadership capabilities
    • Self-knowledge
    • Group and team dynamics
    • Understanding one’s behavior as a team member
    • Time management and personal well-being

    Workshop 1 will focus on increasing self-awareness and leading yourself.

  • Module 3. Organizing and Managing Innovation

    Module 3. Organizing and Managing Innovation

    In a world of permanent change and disruption, innovation is critical for business agility and growth. To stay ahead of their competitors, organizations need to continuously improve existing processes and products, create new products, services and technologies for changing markets, and design new business models for future success.

    That's why today's companies require a new type of financial leader — one who actively designs the organizational context in which people are able and willing to innovate and where new ideas get implemented efficiently for generating profitable products, services, and business models.

    This module provides financial leaders with the latest insights on corporate entrepreneurship, corporate venture capital activities, and new business development. The participants are equipped with up-to-date tools and techniques for driving innovation and for managing and controlling the innovation process, from the early stages of idea generation to the selecting of ideas and projects, and the successful implementation.

    Course content

    • Innovation: What it is and why it matters
    • Corporate Entrepreneurship: Corporate venturing activities, new business development, using external and internal sources of innovation
    • Designing an innovative organization: Challenges and (best) practices
    • Innovation systems and tools: Design thinking, prototyping and experimentation, user-driven innovation, open innovation and crowd sourcing
    • Controlling the innovation process from ideation to implementation
    • Devising and implementing an innovation strategy
    • Innovation performance management
    • Business model innovation: tools for formalizing and developing a business model, ecosystem perspective, new platform and network-based business models, digital business models
    • CFO roles for successful innovation
    • Using design thinking for innovating the finance function

    The dinner speech of the third module concerns the CFO as driver of innovation.

  • Module 4: Managing in a Dynamic Business Environment

    Module 4: Managing in a Dynamic Business Environment

    The fourth module is divided into four sections; dynamic management control systems, strategic profitability analysis, financial statement analysis, and business ethics.

    Dynamic management control systems
    The first section focuses on how to manage in dynamic business environments. Management control systems have gone through considerable change due to globalization, stronger shareholder focus, new information technology and an increasing number of knowledge workers. We look at changes in management control from traditional management control systems such as budgets to more dynamic management control systems such as beyond budgeting, forecasting and scenario planning. We also extend our discussion on how management control systems are designed and used to influence, motivate and empower human behavior in organizations.

    Strategic profitability analysis
    The second section addresses how strategic profitability analyses can explore the potential profit in a company by using management accounting information. The participants will learn techniques like activity-based costing, target costing, value creation model and benchmarking to investigate the relative profitability of products, product attributes and customers.

    Financial statement analysis
    The third section goes deeper into financial statement analysis focusing on how to use the financial reporting to assess the health of a company by using key indicators. Specifically, the participants will learn how to evaluate profitability, growth, liquidity and going concern issues by using the financial statements. The analyses are further used to estimate future profits, valuate firms and to evaluate management’s performance, as well as pitfalls in how to use and not use numbers from the financial statements.

    Business ethics and corporate social responsibility/sustainability
    The fourth section focuses on the increasing expectations companies face to improve their social and environmental footprint. The participants will learn how to identify companies’ sustainability concerns, design efforts to improve along social and/or environmental performance dimensions and integrate these into the business models. This relates both to the efforts of conducting business practices in an ethically manner, but also as a way to ensure that social and environmental risks related to the company’s business model do not undermine its business performance.

    The dinner speech in the fourth module will be on the CFO as actor in the macro-economic environment.

  • Module 5: Decision Making and Data Management

    Module 5: Decision Making and Data Management

    The fifth module focuses on the information required for performance evaluation and decision making and the systems, processes and control required for producing the information reliably and timely.

    The module starts with providing an overview of generic (financial and non-financial) information needs for strategic control (building on module 2) and for management control (building on module 4), including KPIs and other measures. Management accounting topics relevant for satisfying these needs and for supporting management and economic performance evaluation and performance management are addressed. Examples are strategy mapping, value driver trees, portfolio management, responsibility accounting, cost of ownership, learning curves and capacity costing are covered.

    Subsequently, the relevance of economic value creation is substantiated also from an external accountability perspective (discussed on module 1). Related concepts and related techniques for measuring and managing economic value are discussed. Discounted Cashflow valuation concepts (including Free cashflow to firm (FCFF), Adjusted Present Value (APV), and Net Cashflow to Equity) and Economic Profit valuation concepts (Residual Income, EVA, Abnormal Earnings Model), relevant metrics (NPV, IRR, DPB, ROCE/ROIC, CFROI, spread, risk, et cetera), flexibility valuation concepts (Real Options, Decision Tree Analysis) and simulation concepts (e.g., Monte Carlo simulation) are discussed and practiced on case studies. These case studies concern mergers and acquisitions (valuing acquisition targets from hunter and target perspective, stand alone and taking synergies into account), (strategic) business development projects (e.g., new products, markets, technologies) and performance improvement projects (improving efficiency and effectiveness of existing business).

    Then, marketing management and the use of relevant management accounting concepts are discussed. The focus is on the interaction between marketing and finance. Consequently, the key topics are pricing, customer profitability, customer lifetime value and related drivers (retention/churn, segment characteristics, NPS, et cetera), brand valuation concepts (income-based, cost-based, market-based) and revenue management.

    After having explored the information needs for strategic and management control, the fifth module continues with accounting information systems and (small and big) data governance and key IT and data infrastructure-related topics. Information systems (AIS) is concerned with the collection, recording, and processing of data in order to provide relevant and reliable information for decision making and (strategic and management) control. AIS is discussed in conjunction with various aspects of data management, internal controls, IT controls and cyber security controls. Data management is the development, execution and supervision of plans, policies, programs and practices that control, protect, deliver and enhance the value of data and information assets. Internal controls refer to a process for assuring the achievement of an organization's objectives in operational effectiveness and efficiency, reliable financial reporting, and compliance with laws, regulations and policies. IT controls refer to the technology components in AIS and IC. Finally, cyber security controls are those (internal) controls that are administered to safeguard data, information and the IT infrastructure of the company from cyber-attacks. A managerial approach (not a technical approach) is followed, indicating that the treatment focuses on the contributions to the achievement of the organization’s objectives. These contributions are better understood after exploring key technical building blocks of the IT and data infrastructure (like robotics, AI, distributed ledgers/blockchain technology, continuous accounting, traditional relational database management systems, datalakes, SQL, NOSQL). For that reason, the contributions and impacts of these building blocks are covered in the program of module 5. Contributions of these building blocks to data analytics and business intelligence are discussed in module 7.

    The dinner speech in the fifth module will be on the CFO as right hand of the marketing manager.

  • Module 6: Corporate Finance

    Module 6: Corporate Finance

    The following three topics will be covered in module 6. First, we focus on corporate finance. The second section deals with investor relations. Third, we focus on legal issues relevant for CFO/finance function. We will also continue self-development during this module with workshop 2.

    Corporate finance section focuses both on how to structure the finances of the firm as well as how financial markets work. Alternative sources of funds are discussed, including new forms such as crowdfunding. Dividend policies and share buy-back strategies are covered. We also deal with latest developments in behavioral finance. This section takes a look on personal biases as well as analyst behavior. We discuss how Fintech is changing the workings of financial markets and what implications this has for financing large firms. Issues related to Mergers and Acquisitions are also covered, focusing on making the deal and post-merger integration issues, as valuation related topics are covered in other modules.

    The second section focus on Investor Relations (IR). We take a strategic perspective to IR starting from the corporate governance framework where IR plays an important role. Within this framework, we get familiar with the recent trends in financial market and financial disclosure regulation. We provide novel views on how to perceive IR function as an active player within the field of information, power and norms both inside and outside the company. We discuss the major challenge of communicating your business and company strategy to the financial community. We talk about best practices of IR, including the life cycle of Investor Relations, crisis management, M&A, strategic management of IR, organizing IR, measuring IR success and IR benchmarking.

    In the legal section, the focus is first on risks in taxation, including issues relating to transfer-pricing, financial structuring and IPR related topics. This is followed by a discussion of competition law and legal risks related to M&A activities. This section ends up with financial compliance and stock-market related topics.

    Self-development workshop 2 will focus on leading others. We will discuss how to create and maintain high-performing teams, especially how to build trust. We will get also familiar with group dynamics and innovation in teams.

    The dinner speech of the sixth module concerns the CFO as custodian of stakeholders.

  • Module 7: Data Analytics and Business Intelligence

    Module 7: Data Analytics and Business Intelligence

    The seventh module of the program focuses on Data Analytics and Business Intelligence, i.e. on the practices for investigating small and big data to explain and better understand the drivers of past performance, forecasting developments and gain insights for decision-making and business planning.

    In its first part, participants learn how to model the business intelligence aimed for, e.g., by drafting systems of cause-and-effect relations between the business variables involved and corresponding hypotheses. Participants learn techniques for collecting and analyzing complex and dynamic data sets, covering these variables. They learn how to identify patterns in large data sets for supporting performance evaluation and decision making and how to apply descriptive analytics (‘registering’), explanatory analytics (‘understanding’), predictive analytics (‘forecasting’), and prescriptive analytics (‘optimizing’).

    Subsequently, they apply the learnings of the first part on selected cases concerning cost management, revenue management, profitability management, customer behavior and employee behavior (building on the learnings of some of the previous modules). Related statistical analyses are executed using widely used software (e.g., Stata, E-Views, R and/or SPSS) and the case data in order to arrive at explanatory and predictive models that are tested for their explanatory or predictive power and their robustness.

    After the case studies the module continues with telling the story behind the data and behind the technical data analysis. Participants use up to date software to support pattern recognition and the visualization and communication of data.

    Based on the learnings, participants work in teams to develop and present an explanatory or predictive model for solving a real-life problem of one of their companies. Participants need to cover the business problem to be solved, the required insights for solving the problem, the model and its variables and relationships to be quantified/tested, the data sources, the descriptive and explanatory/predictive analyses executed, the presentation of outcomes, their interpretation, and recommendations and expected benefits (in terms of contributing to solving the problem). The cases are selected such that the cover

    • Marketing Analytics (Pricing Analytics, Retail Sales Analytics, Customer Dynamics)
    • Financial Analytics
    • Risk Analytics
    • Supply Chain Analytics
    • Business Process Analytics

    The subsequent sessions of module 7 cover prescriptive analytics by discussing a case that requires the application of theory of constraints (optimization under restrictions determined by external and internal factors), the influence of artificial Intelligence, robotics, machine learning and block chain for data analytics, and the contributions of small and big data labs to improving effectiveness and efficiency of finance function and other business functions.

    The dinner speech in the seventh module will be on the CFO as the business analyst.

  • Module 8: Governcance, Leadership and Change Management

    Module 8: Governcance, Leadership and Change Management

    The eight module is divided into four sections; corporate governance, risk management and internal control, change management, personal leadership styles and project presentations by the participants.

    Governance, risk and control
    The first section addresses how organizations use sound corporate governance principles to govern the company. We further focus on enterprise risk management and internal control as enablers for management to deal with uncertainty and the associated risk and opportunity.

    However, solid internal control and risk mitigation systems cannot guarantee that corporate misconduct, including illegal practices like corruption, will never happen. This part addresses the relationship between risk mitigation and the risk of individual and/or corporate liability, with an emphasis on the international market place /business risks abroad. Participants will learn about regulatory patterns internationally as well as recent regulatory developments. We will also discuss measures necessary when operating in particularly challenging business climates. 

    Managing strategic change
    The second section concerns change management and how to implement radical and disruptive change. Organizational change is ubiquitous and at the same time widely recognized as one of the most challenging tasks facing leaders in modern organizations. In this section we discuss different types of organizational change, why implementation of organizational change frequently fails, and how to develop capacity for multiple change processes in an organization.

    Personal preferences and leadership styles
    The third section focus on leadership styles and participants’ personal preferences.
    Effective leadership is closely linked to how you interact with significant others. Understanding how your communication and behaviors affect others is thus essential to develop your leadership. Before the module, participants are invited to assess their personal preferences. The results form a basis for general discussions, and for developing insight into personal leadership styles. In the course, we discuss how personal preferences and leadership styles interact, how different leadership styles play out and how leadership styles need to be adapted to the cultural context to have intended effects.

    Project presentations and graduation ceremony
    Finally, on the last day of the course, the participants will present their projects, with comments from their supervisors, the other students and representatives from the studied companies, before the final graduation ceremony takes place.