Interview with John McFarlane (MBA 1975) | May 2007

This is the transcript of an interview with John McFarlane (MBA 1975) in 2007, just before the end of his 10-year term as CEO of ANZ.

I’m John McFarlane; I’m currently the CEO of ANZ. I’ve been the CEO here for 10 years. ANZ is the 6th largest company in Australia and the largest company in New Zealand. I studied at Cranfield in 1974 and I left in 1975.

Cranfield’s MBA Program focuses on personal development, in what ways did you develop?

In those days the MBA wasn’t as prevalent as it is to today’s times; in fact, if anything, there are far too many business schools today. I needed to go to broaden really my basic understanding of business, but also specifically to change careers.

I was with Ford Motor Company, in manufacturing and I really wanted to get into something related to marketing and finance, and so I studied finance and marketing as a large part of the program, and that allowed me to move to Citibank, which I eventually ran in the UK which was the marketing of Financial Services, which was perfect.

Unlike the British business schools of the time, which were quite academic, it’s not that Cranfield was short on that, it was more that it was much more about experience, and the Harvard Method was adopted, which was a case study method, where in essence you learnt from the situations, and also learnt from your co-workers on the program, as well as the faculty. And so it was newish, for Britain…but that experiential learning…also built some skill, as well as the knowledge.

It was a very interesting group, some of which I have kept in contact with, but of course you’re living in Australia it’s quite difficult to do that.

Often classes at Cranfield are comprised of students from several different countries and continents, what does this provide the students with?

We were 120 people on the program, split into three groups. Most were Anglo-Saxon types; some were from Australia, of course.

Cranfield’s got some uniqueness about it; it’s actually a campus separate from the rest of the cities of Britain; it’s in a semi-rural environment, and that means it’s quite remote and that remoteness is actually an advantage, because you get very focused on the subject at hand… but it also means that how people behave on the campus and the experiences they have on this enclosed campus life, are also an equal part of their experience at Cranfield… that’s part of why Cranfield has been unique.

I’m sort of a dark horse, I sneak up on situations, as so I was the guy with the long hair and the beard at Cranfield who everyone ignored, and obviously thought the probability of my being successful in life was the closest thing to zero you’d ever come across. I just did my own thing… I was married of course at the time, and that meant I had other responsibilities and that also meant the amount of time you spent on academic studies was reduced.

You can read the full interview transcript here.

(the VIDEO to be available soon)