Understanding the GFC

Well, here I am in Tasmania on a computer I've borrowed from one of my travel companions, so you, dear readers, can learn more about how business school really is. If you've been paying any attention to my previous posts over the past year or so, you know I'm actually on exchange from the UCLA Anderson School of Management (Anderson Full-Time MBA Profile) and I am currently studying abroad at Melbourne Business School (MBS) in Australia.

Consequently it's actually a little difficult to give you a typical perspective of what the first quarter of the second year of business school is like. What I hear from my pals back in Los Angeles, though, is that those who were lucky enough to get a job offer this summer after their internships are having a bit of trouble finding the motivation to do the surprising amount of work that second year heaps upon them. Anderson requires its students to participate in a thesis consulting project, if you will, called Applied Management Research (AMR). We form teams of four to six students and then work with a company over two quarters to solve a legitimate business problem it faces. It would appear this project requires more effort than desired and assumed; after a great summer and a quarter abroad, I can't say I'm exactly looking forward to returning to those pressures.

So, what can I do to avoid those pressures? I can leverage one of the main lessons I've learned at MBS, of course. The lesson: The GFC has not hit Australia nearly as hard as the U.S. Before I explain the GFC (I didn't know what this was at first, either), here is a little background:

The MBS Experience

I've been fairly satisfied with my educational experience at MBS. Like any institution, there are great professors, decent professors, and those professors who cause you to just scratch your head. I prefer to focus on the excellent brand management course I took that I imagine has to stack up against, if not surpass, the version offered at any other school, even Anderson (dare I admit?). It was worth the price of admission (or tuition) alone. On the other hand, the school closes at 8 p.m. on Sunday. What's with that? I needed the faster Internet on campus so I could stream American television via UCLA's VPN. O.K., small gripe, I know. Moving on. Course scheduling here is also great. For some reason, in addition to your standard weekly three-hour seminar, MBS offers either six-week seminars that meet for eight hours once a week or weekend classes that gather Friday night for three hours and Saturday and Sunday for eight hours over two weekends. This structure has allowed me to see The Pirates of Penzance at the Sydney Opera House, the Great Ocean Road, the Great Barrier Reef, the mighty Uluru, and Tasmania. (If the Tasmanian tourism board is looking for an MBA, or just a breathing human being, I'm in!)

But all this is slightly tangential. The point is, during all these well-timed classes, professors and full-time students kept mentioning the GFC. The North American exchange students, myself included, all looked at each other, confused. We'd never heard the term before. I toyed around with some of my own meanings. Melbourne has a huge Greek population, so Greek Food Café came to mind. There was also Great Fried Calamari. I'm pretty sure I was hungry the first time GFC was uttered. Anyway, after about a week or so, we finally learned what the acronym stood for: Global Financial Crisis. I was a bit disappointed it wasn't something more exotic. I just call it "the time when America blew up the world and I lost my job." Reading that sentence again, I guess GFC has a better ring to it. Each time it was mentioned, there seemed to be a distance to the GFC. And it makes some sense. Australia is doing incredibly well selling its minerals to China. Interest rates are high. I've had a few discussions with classmates trying to figure out some arbitrage opportunity with our respective bank accounts; they probably don't exist, but it was worth the mental effort. People seem flush with cash. And they have to be to pay for $8 pints. The exchange rate is killing me, by the way. The Australian dollar has been stronger than the American at some points during my stay here.

Long story short, as said brand management professor lectured, the next decade in Australia is going to be a good one. Even many of the poorly managed companies here can't mess it up. And there are definitely some atrociously run companies. For instance, I need to put my luggage in storage for about two weeks before I return to Los Angeles. I've found a facility that is in a good location for my purposes. I've called them three times over the past week. Each time, a "service specialist" says she will pass on my inquiry and I will be contacted shortly. I've yet to receive that call back. My last conversation with a service specialist went something like this:

Me: Can I speak to someone now about a quote?

Specialist: No. But I will pass it along, and you will receive a return call with a quote.

Me: But you've told that to me twice now. What good is passing along my request if no one calls me back?

Specialist: All I can do is pass along the request.

Me: You do realize I want to give your company money, right?


So, it's going to be a great decade, and Australia may have less than adept management, based on my professor's conjecture and my anecdotal evidence. How to leverage this information then? It's time for Jonathan Stern to find a nice Australian girl. That way, I can move here permanently and open my pizza/burrito shop in Melbourne. This city desperately needs a decent by-the-slice option late at night, and I don't think I've even seen a burrito anywhere. I'm convinced I can bring happiness to hungry late-night denizens given a woman with an open mind (and heart). Sadly, most of the women at MBS are not natives, so I've taken to making random proposals on campus. Those don't seem to be working well. So, if you're reading this and are an available Australian woman who is looking for a strapping American man with great earning potential who loves your home country, I assume you know how to find me. Perhaps we can work something out. In the meantime, I'll see you all back at Anderson.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.