Keep Cultivating Your Curiosity

Caixabank CEO Gortázar shares advice with EMBA graduates


Executive MBA

Gonzalo Gortázar, CEO of CaixaBank, during the graduation ceremony of the Executive MBA class of 2015 / Photo: Jordi Estruch

"You safeguard your own continuous improvement by cultivating your intellectual curiosity."

Gonzalo Gortázar, CEO of CaixaBank, drew on his own experience to offer this advice to the 2015 graduating class of the Executive MBA at their graduation ceremony this month.

Gortázar’s advice stems from the lessons he learned during his own MBA experience twenty years ago; an experience he described as "extraordinary," and one which he keeps alive through "constant inquiry and learning."

"Your training and education doesn’t end with the MBA conferred on you today. I learn something new every day at the office. Intellectual curiosity is something that must be consciously cultivated."

Management Training: Learning a New Way of Doing Things

Gortázar has been CEO of Caixabank since 2014 during which time, he says, the bank has emerged from economic uncertainty "stronger then ever."

"We’ve gained in determination and commitment through hard work, trust and anticipating problems."

The ability to step up to challenges is a key and valuable outcome of management training, he said.

"The most important thing you learn in your MBA is a new way of doing things; a way of facing obstacles."

Proactiveness and a Positive Attitude

Before joining CaixaBank, Gonzalo Gortázar spent 15 years at Morgan Stanley, where he led the Financial Institutions Group for Europe – an regulatory and solvency advisory unit. His experience has taught him that challenges care best overcome by a combination of "proactive attitudes, team work and the ability to contibute solutions."

"A good professional should go above and beyond. He or she should show initiave in searching for new solutions. I encourage today’s graduates to approach problems with a proactive, positive attitude that focuses on results."

It’s better to have a plan, he said, quoting former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy F. Geithner.

Inspiring People

Enthusiasm is key to involving a team in a professional project, said Gortázar. A manager should foster a sense of belonging, and encourage the development of team members’ individual talents.

"You have to inspire your team," he said. "And this involves sharing information, offering answers, clarifying objectives, encouraging participation, being clear and direct – and recognizing your own mistakes."

The "most dangerous pitfalls" in business are arrogance, bureaucracy and complacency, he said, citing Warren Buffet.

Arrogance has "no possible justification," he said. While the the antidote to bureaucracy is a focus on results; and complacency can be overcome by a commitment to continuous improvement.

Speaking for himself, Gortázar has enjoyed "the ride of his career trajectory. It seems long, but it goes fast."

"Invest in hobbies, family and friends; a good professional needs balance," he said. And never forget the importance of humor in fostering commitment and dedication. "A little humor at work is a plus."

Stay Close to "the Essentials"

Perseverance, determination and enthusiasm were also key elements in the address to the graduating Executive MBA class of 2015 made by IESE Dean, Jordi Canals.

"In the long term, success only comes through struggle. That’s why we should focus on essentials."

These essentials, he said, are part of a common mission; one that he urged the new graduates to hold to: "Yours is renewing and invigorating the fantastic world of business."