At the age of 47, Mathieu Quéré now presides over the destiny of ESSEC Alumni. Married to an ESSEC graduate and father of three small girls, the ESSEC alumnus (98) - whose career has alternated between large corporations and entrepreneurship - reveals today his ambitions for the future of an association in transition.
Connection with the School
EA: How would you define your connection to ESSEC?
Mathieu Queré: It’s a really strong bond. ESSEC is first and foremost a school with freedom. Each student creates their own path, and their own course. It’s a spirit of freedom that corresponds to my values, but also to my own career path. When I arrived at Cergy I was 25, and had already started my career. One of the school’s strengths is awarding the same degree to very different profiles, encouraging them to venture off the beaten track. It’s that frame of mind that explains why there are so many entrepreneurs among us. Plus everyone loved their time at ESSEC. It’s a community that inspires a really strong affection.
EA: Do you have any lasting memories of faculty?
M. Quéré: Two teachers in particular made an impression on me. The first, whose name I’ve forgotten, almost traumatized me by making me re-take micro-economics three times. The second one, Philippe Hayat (E90), was the only teacher who managed to explain finance to me. I have a feeling I wasn’t the only one to like Philippe’s classes… I seem to remember he had a lot of groupies among the female students…
EA: How do you see the school today?
M. Quéré: The school has changed radically over the past 20 years, but I’m not sure who really knows that. ESSEC today comprises 6,500 students and several programs (Global BBA, the Grande École program, Masters degrees and Executive Education). Its students are present in 3 countries: France, Singapore and Morocco. More than a third of the student community now comes from outside France – that’s a huge change.
Do the alumni know that the chamber of commerce is going to cancel its subsidy within three years? Most of them probably don’t, but that means 8 million euros disappearing from the school’s budget. It’s a considerable amount, and we need to address the challenge of financing and development.
At the same time, the school has launched an extensive plan to transform the Cergy campus – the Campus 2020 plan. It’s much more than a simple facelift, it’s a radical transformation of the school designed to create a campus for the 21st century - a major project for the years to come.
The mission of Vincenzo Esposito Vinzi, the ESSEC Group’s Dean and President, is to implement these major changes. It’s up to us at ESSEC Alumni to communicate his strategy (which he’ll soon be presenting in ESSEC Alumni’s print magazine Reflets). The school is changing, and the alumni must support it through this change.
The Association Today
EA: When you took over the presidency of ESSEC Alumni, what was your first impression?
M. Quéré: In my initial audit, I referred to the huge gap between the work achieved by the teams, and the knowledge the alumni generally have of it. There’s no doubt we are loyal to the cause, but we don’t act collectively. Rather than remain within our personal networks, we need to come together behind ESSEC as an institution.
With more than 57,000 alumni, 18% of whom are international (a figure that is growing), the ESSEC network represents a colossal force – with a model that is radically changing thanks to lifetime membership. We’ll have more financial resources, and therefore more obligations vis-à-vis the students and graduates.
EA: What are your key priorities during your mandate for ESSEC Alumni?
M. Quéré: I have three. The first is to make the association truly international, taking into account the changing profiles of students (and therefore alumni). The second is to make the association more efficient, and reinforce and promote our service offering. And the third is to continue to embrace and foster entrepreneurship. The school’s motto, after all, is « The pioneering spirit ». The ESSEC community cannot not take a leading role here!
EA: The ESSEC Group, under the impetus of Jean-Michel Blanquer and now Vincenzo Esposito Vinzi, very clearly has an international focus. Is pursuing this strategy therefore a priority for you?
M. Quéré: Yes. We’re the leading French business school in terms of international students, with a third of students now coming from outside France. In practical terms, we have to look at how we manage an international community. To meet this priority we need to allocate resources, and recruit. We also need to learn to speak several languages and remember that around the globe, we have to be ESSEC together. We need to boost our existing 73 chapters and open more, to reflect as closely as possible the composition of the student body. The challenge now is to move from a national alumni association to a highly international one.
EA: Your second priority is to act, and report on those actions. What does that involve?
M. Quéré: It means making the association more efficient, and more visible. How many alumni really know what the association does for them? The gap is too wide between what is actually done, and what is seen by the community. We need to be obsessed by the idea of energizing the clubs, promoting the Careers Service, introducing performance indicators, identifying what works and what doesn’t, and taking measures to correct.
Lifetime membership of ESSEC Alumni was introduced in September 2017 for students, and at the beginning of this year for graduates. It has been a huge success – a strong sign of loyalty and commitment. It’s now up to us to use this new bond to enrich our service offering over the long-term.
EA: What does lifetime membership fundamentally change?
M. Quéré: More resources don’t give us more rights, but more obligations vis-à-vis our alumni. Everyone must reap the benefits in their everyday lives. Students need the support of the association to help them make use of the network and have easier access to graduates. Alumni, on the other hand, need to know they can access a range of resources at every stage of their career.
From now on we have to recognize that our alumni are our clients. What do we do for them? How do we let them know about it? How can we increase our visibility? How do we boost certain clubs? These are the questions we need to answer.
EA: You referred earlier to the entrepreneurial dimension…
M. Quéré: Yes, promoting and fostering entrepreneurship is my third objective. Look at the examples of Rodolphe Carle (E99) (Babilou) or Jonathan Benassaya (E06) (Deezer) or the extraordinary success of Jean-Luc Petithuguenin (E79) (Paprec), Franck Annese (E00) (So Press), Omar Benmoussa (M08) (Chauffeur privé) or Marion Carrette (E96) (OuiCar). These ESSEC graduates are great examples of our community of entrepreneurs. With all the talk of a “start-up nation”, when so many ESSEC students want to create their own business as soon as they graduate (or even during their degree), it’s up to us to help them via our networks, with financing or our own experience. I also think it’s our role as an association to develop a vision, and a reflection, on what entrepreneurship is today – e.g. on intrapreneurship, or social entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is in ESSEC’s very DNA, so it makes sense for the association to be a pioneer in this subject.
EA: Will this require a new organization and new resources?
M. Quéré: On the subject of resources, first of all we need to switch to digital and use it more effectively to manage our community, including remotely. This means providing volunteers with new tools, and investing therefore in CRM technology.
At the same time, we’re going to revisit our real estate model and reflect on how to develop the Maison des ESSEC - or even look for premises more suited to what our association needs to be today.
Finally, for a more efficient organization to serve the community, we need to reinforce the team. The resources will be used to meet two goals: to raise the ESSEC flag as high as possible, then carry that flag everywhere we go.
EA: Do you have a timetable in mind?
M. Quéré: Symbolically, my first trip was a regional one to a particularly active club - the Regional Club of Lyon, which I was delighted to meet. In the coming months, together with the board, the executive committee, the volunteers and the association team, we will be developing the ESSEC Alumni action plan for pursuing these goals.
Links with the School
EA: How do you intend to fulfil these ambitions?
M. Quéré: The three pillars for extending ESSEC’s influence – which is our common final objective – are the School, the Foundation and the Association. Our alumni need to be aware of the challenges and the incredible changes currently taking place for our school, as they have huge impact on the value of our common asset: the ESSEC brand.
All alumni can and must help to meet these challenges, in whatever way possible. By giving their time to the association, by financing the school through the Foundation, or by helping and meeting students. It’s our degree of joint commitment that will allow us to take our Group even further.