A World of Data at Your Fingertips

As recently as five years ago, finance students at Wharton who were asked to analyze the performance of a particular company over a 40-year period would have needed weeks just to collect the basic research data.

Since then, the creation of a Web-based interface called the Wharton Research Data System (WRDS) allows users to glean this kind of information in a matter of minutes. Using a simple point-and-click system, faculty and students have direct access to 12 gigabytes of data, from stock quotes to company cash flow to worldwide investment patterns.

So successful has the WRDS initiative been, says Gerry McCartney, Wharton’s chief information officer and head of Wharton Computing and Information Technology (WCIT), that 24 business schools, including Stanford, University of Chicago, Northwestern and Columbia, have signed up in the last 18 months to license the program from Wharton. “They are in effect buying access to a corner of the rich research environment at the Wharton school,” McCartney says. He expects another 15 to 18 schools to license the system over the next year.

WRDS, notes Paul Ratnaraj, the system’s chief architect, plugs into vast repositories of data, some owned by the school but many of them licensed from outside vendors. The sets most widely used include price and return data (such as CRSP), corporate data (such as Compustat), and banking and insurance data (such as Best and FDIC). “We have successfully leveraged intranet technology so that anyone with a browser has instant access to our research data,” McCartney says.

WRDS includes stock prices and returns for more than 6,500 companies, S&P data on 7,000 publicly-held companies and macroeconomic data back to the 1920s.

For many faculty, it’s a dream come true. “WRDS frees us from research issues related to accessing data and matching different databases,” says Robert W. Holthausen, Nomura Securities Co. Professor of Accounting and Finance. “It takes the chore out of analysis and places added emphasis directly on critical thinking, which is what students should be doing. It is transforming how courses are taught.”

Because Wharton’s networked classroom teaching stations access the Internet through the School’s highly respected SPIKE student intranet, WRDS allows faculty to use data sets “live” in the classroom.

In the pre-WRDS past, notes Ratnaraj, data sets were stored on unwieldy central server systems and users had to run Fortran programs to analyze or extract the relevant information. Now, he says, Wharton’s online data repository eliminates the need to access bulky mainframe tapes to perform data analysis and greatly diminishes the risk of time-consuming programming errors. The data access component of faculty research has become virtually invisible.

The goal of WRDS, McCartney states, has always been to provide Wharton faculty with the best research environment possible. And the fact that Wharton has been asked to license its expertise to other business schools is significant. “It means that when people think of quantitative research,” he says, “they are thinking first and foremost of Wharton.”

M&T Undergrads Offer A-Z Guide to Investing on the Internet

When Adam Leitzes’ uncle told his friend, David Bellet, chairman of investment company Crown Advisors, about Adam’s interest in investing and the Internet, Bellet’s response was, “I don’t think a teenager can help us.” But Bellet invited Leitzes in for the day anyway.

“We hit it off,” says Leitzes, W’02. “I ended up becoming his Internet consultant.”

Since that time four years ago, Leitzes has completed several projects for Crown, from building web sites to attending analyst meetings to offering investment advice.

“I have basically joined the dialogue. I sit in on the meetings where Internet companies are presenting their programs to Crown and I just give them another angle,” he says. “I’ve been looking into what the Internet can do for longer than they have.”

Leitzes also spent time working at the brokerage house Herzog Heine Geduld during the summer of 1998. He realized, after a few weeks of helping the pros tap the Internet’s power, “that everyone could benefit from the same information.”

During his first day at Wharton, where Leitzes is in the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology, he met a kindred spirit, Josh Solan, W’02, another M&T student who had also been interested in investing and the Internet in high school. Together during their freshman year they wrote a guide for the average investor, “The Trader’s Internet Handbook: Separating the Bull from the BS!”

Looking for a publisher, Leitzes and Solan sent their 63-page guide out to magazines. Editors at Forbes last spring saw the publication and invited the two to help research and write the Forbes Interactive Money Guide, a special fall issue of the magazine. Meanwhile, the two sophomores are working on an expanded form of the original handbook in an effort to target a broader audience of investors who are new to the Internet and “want an A-Z guide to where the best financial resources are and how to invest online …

“People want to find out what the next amazon.com or Microsoft is going to be. You aren’t going to read about that in the newspaper or find it out merely talking to a broker,” said Leitzes, who lives in Yardley, Pa. “But with the Internet, with chat rooms and web sites and the like, there has never been a time when there is more information out there for the average investor.”

Leitzes and Solan are particularly interested in the interactivity of the Internet and how it can help investors. A large part of “The Trader’s Internet Handbook” describes how and where to hook up with like-minded investors and traders to exchange information.

“Ideas for investing used to come from the neighbor down the street or in a conversation with a broker,” said Solan, who went to Penncrest High School in Media, Pa. “But now the most powerful thing is that the Internet can bring investors together to give them the tools that put them on the same playing field as the professionals. I think the professionals are a bit afraid of that, but it can be good for everyone, because all investors will be more knowledgeable.”

Despite already carving their niche in the business world, Leitzes and Solan fully intend to continue on with their education. Leitzes is interested in music and theater; Solan intends to learn more about programming.

“And, let’s face it, yes, we can be like everyone else,” said Leitzes, with a slight halt in his voice. “I have to admit that our dream, too, is to have an Internet start-up.”

For Class WG’99, It’s a Global, High-Tech and Entrepreneurial Job Market

A strong economy continues to draw MBA graduates of the class of 1999 into consulting and investment banking, at the same time that employment increases in technology and venture capital reflect the rising popularity of high-growth industries.

The class of 1999 also saw more graduates than ever taking the entrepreneurial plunge: a record 22 students chose to start their own businesses upon graduation.

“It is an exciting time to be graduating from Wharton,” says Robert F. Bonner, director of MBA Career Management. “Career opportunities have increased as the result of a greater diversity of opportunities available on-campus as well as through strong partnerships with student and alumni clubs.”

While consulting, investment banking and high-tech industries attracted the largest number of students from the classes of 1999 and 2000, the number of graduates who opted for positions in venture capital more than doubled since 1998, and the number of students entering the high-tech industry rose to more than 12 percent of the class (compared to 5.9 percent last year).

“The increasing interest in technology has not only affected the high-tech sector, but every other industry as well,” says Bonner, pointing to the number of students accepting traditional positions with high-tech responsibility:

  • 35 percent of students in corporate/strategic planning
  • 34 percent of the students in marketing
  • 32 percent of the students in venture capital.

“The diversity of student choices is evident when you look at the top hirers of the class of 1999,” Bonner adds. “There are companies like McKinsey, Goldman Sachs and Colgate in addition to technology companies like Siebel Systems, which hired 14 students, and dot.com companies like Priceline.com, which hired four students.”

On the international front, Wharton MBAs continue to welcome global opportunities. Seventy-two percent of the non-U.S. students who came to Wharton accepted positions outside of their home country. Almost 62 percent of the non-U.S. students from the class of 1999 accepted positions in the U.S., a trend which has increased over the last four years. The number of U.S. students accepting positions outside of the U.S. rose slightly. “In the past we have always measured how ‘global’ MBAs career choices were by how many students went to work outside of the U.S.,” said Bonner. “What is happening in the global market is occurring right here in our own backyard as more and more non-U.S. students choose international careers here in the U.S.”

Graduates accepted positions in 28 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and 39 countries encompassing 50 industries and 32 functional areas.

Huntsman Named Chair of Board of Overseers

Jon M. Huntsman, W’59, chairman and CEO of Huntsman Corp., has been named as the new chair of Wharton’s Board of Overseers. He succeeds classmate Saul P. Steinberg, W’59, who had held that position since 1987. Steinberg is now chairman emeritus and continues as an overseer. Huntsman, an overseer since 1985, was confirmed as chair by University Trustees earlier this summer.

MBA Admissions: Record Outreach, Record Applicants

The date is December 11, 1998. I am in Kimpo Airport in Seoul while seven of my colleagues are communicating the message of the Wharton school and recruiting MBA students in six different countries on four continents. In our absence, a skeleton crew back in Philadelphia juggles on-campus interviews and runs the office. This year alone, our admissions officers’ itineraries included first-ever recruitment trips to Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Russia, as well as expanded outreach to Mainland China and India.

In all, we expanded our outreach with receptions and staff-member interviews in 25 countries and 15 domestic cities. These efforts have paid off handsomely: The Wharton MBA Class of 2001 that arrived on campus in August hailed from nearly 60 countries around the globe and represents the most selective admissions season in Wharton’s history. We received more than 8,400 applications, itself a record, and admitted just over 12 percent of the applicants, cutting the percentage of admitted students in half over the past six years. The average age of our entering class is 28, with an average GMAT of 692 — an increase of more than 40 points over the past five years.

This growth in the size, quality and diversity of our applicant pool is a direct result of the support of the most dedicated alumni in the world. Your commitment has enabled the Wharton School to set the standard, among all graduate business schools, for the scope of our outreach. In every country and city, we depend on alumni to help us plan receptions and schedule evaluative interviews. This year, for example, one pioneering alumnus proposed and helped coordinate our first recruitment efforts in the Middle East. Meanwhile, an innovative group of dedicated Seoul alumni sponsored the first reception for admitted students in Korea this past April. As a result, the highest percentage of Korean students in recent memory accepted our offers of admission.

Most applicants we interview report that a primary allure of Wharton’s MBA program is the dynamism of Wharton alumni. Underscoring this point, we are happy to report that our alumni interviewing program has expanded even faster than our applicant pool. Five years ago, 30 alumni helped launch this program by conducting 300 interviews. Last year, in a remarkable increase, more than 600 alumni conducted nearly 2,500 interviews on our behalf.

The past several months of planning our fall recruitment have been very busy. Our itinerary calls for travel to 38 countries and 21 cities domestically. Internationally, we plan first-ever recruitment trips to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Budapest, Copenhagen, Manila, Singapore, Bogota, Beirut, Johannesburg, Kuwait City and Karachi.

Domestically, admissions officers will visit Austin, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Denver, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and St. Louis to conduct first-time interviews and/or receptions. In addition, this fall, with the support of Deloitte Consulting and Andersen Strategic Services, we will host 10 separate U.S. receptions specifically targeted to recruiting women for the MBA program. Throughout the fall, we will continually post updated information regarding our receptions and interviews, both domestic and international, at Wharton’s web site: http://www.wharton.upenn.edu.

I am concerned that the sheer scope of our travel and the rapid pace of our office make it difficult to stay in touch with our staunchest advocates, our alumni. Because we value your suggestions, we have set up an email account, specifically to communicate with you, at bob.alig.wg87@wharton.upenn.edu.

I hope this makes it easier for you to stay in touch, share your thoughts about the Admissions and Financial Aid Office and even recommend that we reach out to a particular student you think would be a great addition to the Wharton MBA community.

I want to thank you again for your support as we endeavor to recruit and select the very best students from around the world for the Wharton MBA program. The staff of the MBA Admissions and Financial Aid Office and I look forward to working with you to assure that the aforementioned records set by the Class of 2001 are short-lived.

Nine New Faculty Join Wharton

The Wharton faculty this fall welcomes two new full professors, one associate professor and six assistant professors. They include:

  • Management: Raphael Amit, Robert B. Goergen Professor for Entrepreneurial Management and academic director of entrepreneurial programs (PhD, Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern, formerly professor at the University of British Columbia, School of Commerce and Business Administration); Rosemarie Ham Ziedonis, assistant professor (PhD, Berkeley); Mark Zbaracki, assistant professor (PhD, Stanford, formerly assistant professor of behavioral science at the Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago)
  • Accounting: Richard A. Lambert, professor (PhD, Stanford, formerly professor of accounting at Stanford Business School)
  • Real Estate: Christopher Mayer, associate professor (PhD, MIT, formerly associate professor, Columbia University)
  • Finance: Leonid Kogan, assistant professor (ABD, MIT); Andrew Metrick, assistant professor (PhD, Harvard, formerly assistant professor of economics at Harvard)
  • Operations and Information Management: Ravi Aron, assistant professor (PhD, NYU)
  • Legal Studies: Dan Hunter, assistant professor (PhD, Cambridge, formerly at University of Melbourne).

For MBA Students and Their Host Companies, the Benefits are Mutual

Helping a small, suburban Philadelphia museum to better market itself and testing the viability of a new class of investments for Fidelity Investments are among the many hands-on projects MBA students tackle in Wharton’s Field Application Project (FAP), a required first-year course.

The Field Application Project is an eight-week program created to give second-semester MBA students real-world experience and the chance to apply what they have learned in the classroom. Students are required to spend 200-300 hours conducting intensive research and analysis for their host organizations. They then present their findings orally and in writing, a format that tends to encourage a lively interchange of ideas between the students and managers.

The program serves a variety of organizations, including major multinational companies, start-up businesses and non-profit organizations. Host companies work with faculty and student teams to design projects that are both challenging to students and useful to the company. A key goal is for students to integrate ideas from different business disciplines such as finance, accounting, operations, marketing, management and strategy.

A new, more intensive component of the program includes “Tiger Teams,” which match up a small number of select students and faculty experts to work on complex, multi-unit strategic issues facing host organizations. The program welcomes new projects from prospective hosts. For more information, contact:

Field Application Project
The Wharton School
3620 Locust Walk, Suite 2000
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104
215.573.8394 phone, 215.898.0401 fax

Alumni Magazine Announces Change in Leadership

Robbie Shell, editor of the Wharton Alumni Magazine, has stepped down after leading the magazine for 10 years.

“Robbie has raised the standard for a publication that has the important role of communicating with alumni about each other, reporting on current business issues, and keeping all of our constituents up to date on the progress of the school,” says Robert E. Mittelstaedt, vice dean, Executive Education, and interim associate dean, Communications and Business Development. “She has shown us how to do that with top-notch content about our alumni and faculty that is of general interest to all business professionals, whether they have a Wharton connection or not.”

Shell will remain with Wharton as a writer and editor for Knowledge@Wharton, the school’s new online publication that offers business research and analysis, and will continue to contribute to the magazine.

The magazine’s new editor, Nancy Moffitt, brings a combination of business journalism and higher education experience to the job. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, she wrote about the banking, retail and financial services industries for several newspapers, including The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, Ohio’s largest newspaper. More recently, Moffitt managed all aspects of communications for Penn State University’s three Philadelphia area campuses. Her work included developing, managing and editing a regional alumni magazine, as well as overseeing all national and regional media relations.

Editor’s Note:

It is with feelings of both relief and regret that I have decided to step down as editor of the Wharton Alumni Magazine, effective this issue. After 10 years on the job I began to realize that it was time for a change.

Starting this fall, I will be working part-time — those oft-cited “life balance” issues played a role in my decision — primarily for the school’s new online publication, Knowledge@Wharton. I will also be contributing articles to the magazine under the guidance of its new editor, Nancy Moffitt.

During my decade at Wharton, I published 42 issues. Each one was an opportunity for me, acting as a reporter as well as an editor, to learn more about business and management issues, but also to meet you, the school’s alumni. I have greatly enjoyed the interaction. Your insights, experiences and above all, willingness to accept new challenges are both noteworthy and inspiring. With such a bright universe to cover, I feel that I grew both professionally and personally on the job. My thanks for those many interviews, and for all your support.

I hope that through this magazine, you continue to keep in touch with each other and with Wharton.

Robbie Shell

Getting Down to Business at Regional Alumni Meetings

The Wharton Asian Forum 1999, held last summer in Seoul in conjunction with the 6th Asian Regional Alumni Meeting, addressed the theme, “Survival, Recovery and Prosperity.”

Guest speakers at the June 4-6 event included Nyum Jin, Minister of Planning and Budget, Republic of Korea; Tony Tan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, Republic of Singapore; and Jon M. Huntsman, W’59, chairman and CEO of Huntsman Corp.

Jwa-Jeen Choi, WG’80, president, STC Corp. and head of the Wharton Club of Korea, welcomed alumni, Wharton faculty, guest speakers and panelists to the event, which included a series of discussions on strategic alliances, investment banking, the role of governments and the role of entrepreneurs.

On June 24-25, the Wharton European Forum ’99 convened in London around the theme of “Preparing for Success in Europe 2000.)” Keynote speakers included Didier J. Delepine, president, Equant N.V., and Hilmar Kopper, chairman of the Supervisory Board, Deutsche Bank AG.

Panel discussions focused on “Monetary Union, Cross-Borders Mergers & Acquisitions, Privatizations: Their Implications for Financial Markets and European Business,” and “Leadership and People Management Across Borders: How to Make It Work in Europe.”

Already planned for next year are the 7th Asian Regional Alumni Meeting in Manila, June 9-10; the 1st Latin American Regional Alumni Meeting in Buenos Aires, June 22-23, and the Wharton European Forum in Paris (dates to be announced later).