Uncovering Executive Faculty: Meet Ioanid Rosu, the Witty Academic Director with a Passion for Football
When it comes to teaching high-level finance to executives, Ioanid Rosu knows that being both clear and memorable is key. But this academic director of the Executive MSc in Finance program at HEC Paris Executive Education is not just about numbers and strategies – he’s also an avid football enthusiast and a connoisseur of late-night comedy shows. In our exclusive interview series, "Uncovering Executive Faculty," Ioanid shares his journey of passion for finance, teaching, football, and the fascinating cultures that have shaped his life and unique personality.
Precise & fuzzy – that's the kind of intelligence that fuels Ioanid's love for finance and literature, two seemingly different realms that deeply captivate him. In the inaugural interview of our 'Uncovering Executive Faculty' series, Ioanid shares his profound passions – finance, teaching, and football – taking us on a captivating journey through the diverse foreign cultures that have shaped his life and personality.
Not a secret billionaire
When humorously questioned about being a secret billionaire given his financial genius, Ioanid playfully responds, "The saying 'those who cannot do, teach' does apply to me. The world of finance is divided into active participants, who prefer to make money even when they do not understand, and contemplative participants, who prefer to understand even when they do not make money. I am solidly in the second category."
A cool uncool kid
A Romanian native, Ioanid reflects on his childhood as a math nerd and soccer prodigy. "My passion for football has stayed with me to this day – for 13 years, I have been the organizer of soccer games among faculty and staff at HEC." As a math freshman at the University of Bucharest, the fall of the communist regime and its leader, Nicolae Ceaușescu, marked an early eye-opener. "The societal upheaval in Romania, with its rearrangement of values, was hard to ignore, even for a nerd like me. I got involved early on in student politics and ended up spending most of my time on various student committees and associations. However, mathematics was also a passion, and I was thrilled to be accepted into a top PhD program in mathematics at MIT."
MIT, a fertile environment for intellectual curiosity
During his time at MIT, Ioanid found himself surrounded by "smart, motivated, and hardworking people, usually happy to talk about any and all scientific topics." With a hint of humor, he recalls his roommate, a physics Ph.D. student with a disregard for time and politeness, often seeking help from him when faced with math problems.
Saying NO was not an option for Ioanid, as he felt part of a "culture of volunteering and helping that was pervasive at MIT."
For instance, the Athena helpline, "run solely by volunteers, where you could call late at night to figure out an obscure issue regarding the customization of Linux." He also reminisces about the "IAP - Independent Activities Period," a time when something as unexpected as philosophy – for a math lover – burst into the academic scene, bringing up impossible questions like "whether numbers should necessarily exist in any intelligent (alien) civilization."
A melting pot of brilliant international students provided Ioanid with the unique opportunity to learn from a myriad of 'fascinating foreign cultures.' And in this vibrant academic mosaic, Ioanid's journey took a few delightful detours through the world of finance and academia.
A few shades of finance
As he wrapped up his math PhD, Ioanid knew the path of a professional mathematician wasn't his calling. After briefly dipping his toes into the realm of money management and hedge funds, his academic soul beckoned him back. Embarking on a second Ph.D. degree at MIT, this time in Financial Economics, he continued to delve into the world of research. Ioanid reflects, 'Teaching started in earnest only after I moved as an Assistant Professor to the University of Chicago’s business school. There, I had the opportunity to teach both in the MBA and EMBA programs, gaining invaluable experience in the classroom.'
Who knew that the Finance teacher was (that) funny?
Being clear and memorable is the magic formula for an outstanding teacher, according to Ioanid. It's not the smoothest combo in the game, though.
'Clarity can be achieved with hard work and good communication skills, but being memorable is more elusive and depends on the personality of the teacher.'
Ioanid's favorite language in the classroom? 'Energetic and funny,' although he confesses he's not always certain which bits of his humor hit the mark.
One amusing lesson from Ioanid's early teaching days unfolded during his third year at Chicago, where he taught an Investments course to MBAs in both the Winter and Spring quarters. Contrary to his initial plan of delaying the introduction of humor until the Spring quarter, he pleasantly discovered that the students found his spontaneous wit amusing during the Investments course in the winter.
This unexpectedly amusing turn of events prompted Ioanid to reflect, 'As corny as it may sound, “being yourself” turned out to work for me, although it probably helped that I had watched late-night comedy on TV almost every day since 1993.'
Personal interests & activities. An assorted roster
Who is Ioanid, really? We decided to spice things up with a lightning round of questions, hoping to uncover unexpected answers. Brace yourself for Ioanid's quickfire responses.
- Teaching or research? Ioanid quips, 'Research for intellectual stimulation, and teaching for social interactions.'
- US or France? 'France, by revealed preferences, to use economic lingo.'
- Sarmale or tartiflette? 'Sarmale, but only if the meat is wrapped with grape leaves instead of cabbage.'
- When he’s not teaching, researching, or jet-setting for academic purposes, Ioanid enjoys playing football (soccer), tennis, and spending time with his family, which includes three boys under 15.
- Latest book read? Machiavelli's "Discourses on Titus Livius."
From literary historian father to researcher son
One person who influenced his life trajectory was his father. “He was a poet and literary historian and, as I grew up, he often tested his theories on me. Intellectually, I had to grow up fast to keep up. But he was always passionate about doing research, and some of that passion rubbed on me as well. This illustrates an observation of mine as a parent: passions are likely to be passed on to the children, ambitions much less so.”
Playing with words and numbers is not that far off
What’s the difference between mathematics and literature, two familiar worlds to Ioanid? It’s all about the type of intelligence that comes into play when juggling with words and/or numbers. '
Precise intelligence deals with formulas, symbols, and reasoning, while fuzzy intelligence deals with intuition, analogy, and imagination. Both forms of intelligence are important, even in fields where one type is dominant.'
'A mathematician, for example, may be very skilled in proving a theorem once a sketch of the proof is ready, but coming up with the sketch usually requires intuition and imagination. Economics and finance are noisy sciences, so purely mathematical modeling without good intuition and qualitative understanding cannot be convincing, as the model may not survive the economic noise by itself.'
An AHA moment that would last forever
When asked about his dream as an Executive Professor, Ioanid answered without hesitation: 'My dream is to mesmerize the executives to the point where they will effortlessly absorb the material and remember it forever. I would like to think that that dream becomes a reality every now and then.
A message for all the Execs out there
'To paraphrase Napoleon, who said that every soldier carries the baton of a marshal in his knapsack, I believe that every executive carries the CEO card in their folder. To that end, however, executives need a good understanding of the world of finance, especially in its strategic and global aspects. This is where the Executive Master in Finance at HEC Paris comes in. As the academic director of this program, it is my goal to provide executives with a panoramic view of finance and to help them on the road to acquiring excellence in understanding finance at the CEO level.'
Curious about how the art of teaching executive finance can mesmerize ambitious candidates? Learn about how the magic works.