Everything inside the main meeting room of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt manifests importance, from the immaculately polished round table to the contemporary ceiling stylized with a map of the continent—a constant reminder of the implications of the important conversations that have no doubt taken place here—in this very 41st floor of the South Tower.

I scouted the room and saw a dozen men, advanced in age, wearing sharp suits with their hair slathered with just enough pomade to suggest style and mature discretion. Everything seemed in its rightful place—that is, everything except myself.

As I walked towards the podium, I caught a quick glimpse of myself on one of the reflective panels. Not only was I wearing a burgundy suit jacket, but also sported long brown hair that fell just above my shoulders.

I heard one of the gentlemen ask, “Wer ist das Kind?” (Who is this kid?), just loud enough for everyone who spoke German to take notice of me and wait for me to respond.

Without missing a beat, and with the confidence so noticeably a legacy of my time in Wharton, I answered back: “Ich heise Mike Paranal, komme aus den USA und ich bin ein Absolvent der Wharton School of Business.” (I am Mike Paranal from the States and a graduate of the Wharton School.)

And with that simple declaration, I felt the room acknowledge me as their peer. This young, brightly dressed, California man has something to say—all because he is from Wharton. It was that kind of acknowledgment you get from being admitted into one of the city¹s most quirky speakeasies. Only in this case, the password was simply “Wharton.”

Breaking down stereotypes—that is the Wharton effect. Wharton allows you to be yourself, to not conform to people’s expectations. You don’t have to look a certain way to be a banker, a policymaker or a leader. What’s important is what you have in your head. If people know you come from Wharton, they will stop and listen. They know that what you have to say is definitely worth their time. And they are right.

Michael Paranal L13 WG13

As a Robert Bosch Fellow, Paranal works as counsel in the Finance Law Division of the European Central Bank. He advises in matters related to financial law (in particular, in the areas of banking and capital markets). His main tasks involve carrying out research on legal issues concerning any of the ECB’s fields of competence in the area of financial law. The Financial Law Division advises on legal questions related to market operations; monetary policy; the financial market infrastructure (including ESCB projects, such as TARGET2 and TARGET2-Securities); and the oversight of payment and settlement systems, statistics, financial services legislation, financial stability and supervision.


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