I was recently asked the following question about higher business education: "Does an MBA breed authenticity and humility or arrogance in the name of leadership?" Well, if we can first transcend experience and degrees, and ask instead about skills (both hard and soft), then we begin to ask better questions, such as, "Who has the skills to get the job done?" Of course, skills can be acquired through both experience and higher education (or not). For this reason, I always ask management applicants about their skills, rather than their education or experience. "What skills do you bring to the table?" Responses such as, "I have years of experience," or "I have years of college," evade the question. My advice to everyone is make your experience and higher education translate into more and more skills, and do not assume that simply being "present" in experience or education is the same thing. As for where a person acquires their skills, who cares. If we can all focus on skills, rather than experience and education, then we can be best assured the right people are in leadership.
In some ways, the financial services industry is overdue for a good house-cleaning. And no doubt, the culture of the money management business will change accordingly. Whereas excesses in staffing have been common at many financial services firms in recent years, the reality is that only those who produce value will have a place in the reworked financial services industry. Creating value in financial services is not easy. Which leads to one of my favorite interview questions for job applicants, "Explain how one creates value through finance..." Those who can respond effectively to that question have a future in financial services.