When 41-year old Aimée Geerts was a student, the area around VU Amsterdam was a fairly quiet and remote part of Amsterdam. These days, that very same university is the…
When 41-year old Aimée Geerts was a student, the area around VU Amsterdam was a fairly quiet and remote part of Amsterdam. These days, that very same university is the academic epicentre of the thriving Zuidas business district and there is a lot of interaction between Zuidas companies and VU Amsterdam.
“One could say I have seen Zuidas grow from my office at Commerzbank” says Aimée, who has been working at Zuidas since 2006 and is Assistant to the Country CEO at the German Commerzbank. Initially, her office was located in the Atrium but three years ago her company moved to the Viñoly Tower, the building with the conspicuous staircase on the outside.
“After I completed my degree in International Business Administration at Maastricht University, I started working for Commerzbank. From the very first day I really felt at home there but I was missing a bit of focus as my degree was a fairly general one. That’s why I went looking for a course that was in line with my job but would delve a little deeper.”
“I was looking around for the right postdoctoral degree and then I found the Executive Master in Finance & Control (EMFC) at VU Amsterdam. This was the perfect place for me. During the introductory interview, the commitment and enthusiasm of one of the teachers really inspired me.”
“The Commerzbank fully supported my choice. Not surprisingly as the Executive Master in Finance & Control (Registercontroller in Dutch) at VU Amsterdam was the first programme of its kind in the Netherlands and VU delivers all the top professionals in the Dutch financial world. Moreover, VU Amsterdam is a leading institute when it comes to the development of this area of financial expertise.”
The fact that Aimée was working next to VU Amsterdam and the university’s leading role in finance and control, were the decisive factors in choosing this degree. From 2011 to 2013, Aimée spent every Friday studying and attending classes at VU Amsterdam.
“Back then, we were right in the middle of the financial crisis but my course was full. It was such an enriching experience. Getting feedback from others on your everyday work was so useful. You’re studying together with other people; every one of us was working in a different field so we could really learn from each other.”
“We were working on business cases in groups of four students. My group contained people from the aviation, banking, healthcare and insurance industries. Right from the kick-off weekend we were studying together. Every one of us had his or her own expertise and that gave me a lot of insight. And obviously the teachers challenged us big time.”
Variety of subjects
With the Executive Master in Finance & Control, Aimée has added another degree to her impressive resume. “That’s nice but what counts is what this degree has brought me. The variety of subjects, finance, reporting, strategy, corporate and tax law, has enabled me to cooperate more efficiently with the various departments within the bank. I’m really happy with my choice for this degree course.”
With her job and university close by, Aimée feels at home at Zuidas. She lives in Naarden with her husband and two children, but from her office she has seen the steady growth of ‘The Big Apple of Amsterdam’. In the old days, there was only De Blauwe Engel to go for drinks and a bite to eat, but these days people are spoilt for choice. “I consider Naarden Amsterdam’s backyard. I take my kids to school with my cargo bike and it only takes me 30 minutes by train to get to my Zuidas office. This way I still feel like an ‘Amsterdammer’.”
In Aimée’s field of work, regular training is a necessity. That’s why VU Amsterdam organizes activities for members of the alumni association throughout the year. There are usually two teachers present during these alumni evenings. “It’s very informative. You meet up with your former fellow-students and it’s also nice to see the teachers again. For example, I’m still in touch with Bert Steens, who has been a professor at VU Amsterdam since the year 2000. If there’s anything I need help with, I can always ask Bert for advice.”
Bert Steens adds: “We have a wonderful and active alumni community and we’re very proud of that. We regularly meet former students such as Aimée. I think that is due to the good relationship we’ve built during the course, as well as to our location at Zuidas, where many alumni are working in finance positions. There are a lot of things going on, a lot of traffic and accessibility is excellent, both with public transport and by car or bicycle. VU Amsterdam could not have chosen a better location. Students working at Zuidas can pop in during their lunch break to discuss something.”
Senior finance specialists also find their way to VU Amsterdam for training courses and master classes. “Apart from doing a Master in Finance and Control, professionals can keep abreast of developments in their field by participating in our Executive Education programme, for example following a course in Business Analytics.”
Early 2020, VU Amsterdam will start a new degree programme in cooperation with other universities abroad: an International Executive MBA in Finance & Control.
“This course is meant for experienced business professionals who are aiming for a financial role at senior management or board level, like a position as finance director or CFO. This is an executive MBA programme with a strong focus on general management and finance & control, tackling all the challenges that the combination of those two disciplines entails.”
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
School of Business and Economics
photo Aimée Geerts by Katja Mali