Helping to Put Ross on the MAP
BY BRITTANY SMITH
PHOTO BY DAVID FISHER
John Jacobs, BA ’85/MBA ’93, is a global investment banker. He has been with Marks Baughan Securities, a growing corporate finance boutique, since April 2007. Jacobs manages Marks Baughan’s London office and is responsible for providing investment banking and advisory services to growth companies, primarily those in the legal, compliance, information management, and financial technology sectors, across Europe.
The company is based in Philadelphia and London, and Jacobs spends a good chunk of his time traveling to various European countries to build and sustain business for the firm. However, Jacobs doesn’t mind the fast-paced life, as he’s been doing this for more than 20 years. He has lived in New York City, Germany, Austria, and, since 1997, London.
Living abroad for most of his professional life has helped Jacobs see the business world from a unique perspective. But it wasn’t always that way.
The Kalamazoo, Mich. native graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in history and later earned a master’s from the University of Vienna in international studies. When he realized there would not be much growth professionally in that field, he decided to come back to U-M for business school.
“I knew Michigan, and the business school is top-ranked, so it was an easy decision. I had limited real-world business and no finance experience before coming to Ross in 1991. Ross gave me the opportunity to build my finance and accounting education and experience,” Jacobs says. After Ross, he moved to New York City, where he worked for Deutsche Bank. After his stint in New York, Jacobs worked in Frankfurt, Germany before moving to London with Deutsche Bank.
Even though he works outside the U.S., Jacobs continues to stay connected to his home state and his alma mater. One way he does this is through Ross’ annual Multidisciplinary Action Projects, where 450 MBAs are sent to various places across the globe to collaborate with companies and create solutions for a business challenge. Since 2007, he has helped to connect students with three companies, Sage Group, Shopcreator Services, and GCRYPT, for their respective projects.
Although Jacobs never participated in MAP as a student, since the program began the same year he graduated, this is his way of showing his support. “MAP is a great program. It gives students the opportunity to be part of something that integrates real-life experience while learning about business,” Jacobs says. “When Ross launched MAP, there weren’t really any other B-schools doing this, but now they’re all doing this. Ross was the thought leader for action-based learning.”
He says the key to working in another country is having an open mind to new things. He added that London is similar to New York, as they are both huge financial centers. However, moving to Frankfurt provided Jacobs with firsthand experience on how the business world can be vastly different.
“Culture plays a huge role in how well you work abroad. You have to be open to doing things differently and being flexible. For instance, as an investment-banking associate in New York it’s expected that you work on the weekends, but in Germany it was actually forbidden. But I think London is more similar to the U.S. in terms of work hours and overall culture,” he says.
Jacobs also emphasizes the need for those aspiring to work internationally to learn a foreign language. He is fluent in German and that helped him tremendously during his time at Deutsche: “It’s a big plus to have fluency in another language. Learning a foreign language is also helpful in understanding the culture and preparing yourself for the transition.”
Despite his busy schedule, Jacobs makes sure to come back home often. He holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and the UK, and with an elderly mother currently residing in Grand Rapids, airports have become Jacobs’ second home. Every now and then he makes sure to make a trip to Ann Arbor. “I’m a big believer in Michigan and Ross,” he says. “They’re doing a great job with outreach to alumni and with programs like MAP, I can always stay connected.”