According to the annual study Faktencheck Vorstandsstrukturen [Board Structures Survey] performed by the management consultancy firm Horváth, alumni of WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management are strongly represented in the executive boardrooms of companies listed in the DAX, MDAX, and SDAX. Graduates of the Vallendar-based school make up the largest proportion of DAX board members under the age of 54—and that out of a total of more than 500 executives included in the study. This has revealed that the next generation of board members in Germany’s largest firms increasingly includes alumni of the private business school, which was only founded in 1984.
With 20 alumni, the University of Cologne has the highest number of representatives working as c-level executives or as boardroom members; in second place, with 18 alumni, is RWTH Aachen; and third place is shared between Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich and the University of Münster, each with 15 active alumni. From WHU, there are currently 11 alumni working in such roles. If we look at the ratio of the total number of enrolled students at these universities, WHU is ahead of the competition by a large margin: For every 171 students (out of a total of 1,180), there is one alumnus of WHU who enters the boardroom at a DAX-listed company.
The most DAX executive board members per students from WHU
At much larger, state-run universities, the ratios paint a different picture. For example, the University of Cologne has one board member per 2,575 students, and RWTH has one per 2,626 students. Dr. Oliver Greiner, Partner at Horváth in Strategy and Transformation made one point very clear: “As the ranking of the top 10 universities shows, it doesn’t matter where the university draws in its students or what city it is close to. What matters is the school’s academic quality and reputation.”
The report also comes to the conclusion that obtaining a university degree is one of the most important prerequisites for entering the boardroom at a DAX-listed company. In fact, of all the executives with German citizenship, more than 85% are university graduates, and over a third have earned their doctorate. Furthermore, Horváth’s work confirms that an internationally oriented study program is becoming increasingly important.
WHU alumni also leading in founding unicorns
WHU graduates are strongly represented not only on the executive boards of DAX companies. They are also often successful company founders in their own right. To date, WHU alumni have already started 15 unicorns, i.e., companies that have been valued at more than US$1B before their IPO or exiting the company. This means that, on average, there are 1.4 unicorn founders for every set of 1,000 WHU graduates (calculation based on LinkedIn data). The corresponding analysis performed by the venture capital firm Antler also determined that more than a quarter of all unicorn founders in the past 20 years in the entire DACH region come either from WHU or the Technical University of Munich (TUM). TUM has also calculated that WHU produces the most start-ups in Germany relative to the number of its students.
WHU graduates on DAX executive boards
- Dr. Thomas Töpfer (diploma 1996): Covestro
- Andreas Grandinger (diploma 1996): CTS Eventim
- Birgit Bohle (diploma 1998): Deutsche Telekom
- Dr. Mark Spieker (doctorate 2002): E.ON
- Dominik Richter (BSc 2009): HelloFresh (not represented in the study)
- Thomas Griesel (BSc 2009): HelloFresh (not represented in the study)
- Ingo Franklin Chu (diploma 1995): New Work
- Dr. Thomas Schroeter (doctorate 2007): Scout24
- Dr. Wilm Langenbach (diploma 1996): Talanx
- Dr. Arno Antlitz (doctorate 1999): Volkswagen
- Robert Gentz (BBA 2007): Zalando
- David Schneider (diploma 2007): Zalando
- David Schröder (diploma 2007): Zalando