by Shehzad Khan ’14
Our last day in Madrid was spent visiting Bankinter, a niche Spanish bank that managed to navigate the storms of the crisis through a disciplined, conservative strategy. It was an interesting visit and nice to get perspective on the financial crisis from them and compare it to that of the Bank of Spain. After a tour of the bank, we spent our final night in Madrid before the majority of us did one last day in Barcelona soaking in the sights and enjoying our final, authentic Spanish meal.
All in all, it was a great visit that was very enlightening with regards to the issues that plague Spain as well as Europe as a whole, while also providing great insight into the talent of a nation like Spain and the measures being taken to set it back on the right course. Companies like Inditex, Repsol, Telefonica, and Bankinter are successful, world class businesses with major international presence. They allowed us to see the more professional side of Spain beyond what the media might portray of the crisis here in the US. We also got to meet with very talented, young, government officials who were clearly up to the task of moving Spain past this tough time.
We learned a great deal about the culture and economy while we were there. Culturally, we saw the architecture of a brilliant mind in Gaudi. We visited art museums like the Reina Sophia, where we saw the works of Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro amongst others. We indulged in Spanish cuisine and learned of their fondness of jamon and croquettas. On the business front, we gained a much better understanding of how the financial crisis arose and what steps the government is taking to alleviate it. We learned of a high speed train being built entirely by Spanish companies between the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. We were also surprised to learn that much of the “Italian” olive oil we purchase in the United States is actually Spanish and is simply branded as Italian because of perceptions of the American consumer. We also learned that the future is definitely bright for the football clubs of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
I would highly recommend participating in a Chazen trip as part of your Columbia Business School experience because you will get an unprecedented look into the social, cultural, and business life of a nation by doing so. Additionally, you will get to witness firsthand the expansive reach and strength of the CBS network, as we met with CBS alums who were executives at many of the companies we visited.
As for Spain, I truly hope the future is bright and believe that they will find a way to right the course after having met the people I did during this trip.