In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world and brought uncertainty over the global economy. Many business deals were placed on hold, and the future was bleak. Yet M&A (mergers and acquisitions) picked up quickly after May, with a very active fall for the Mergers and Acquisitions program at Aalto University Executive Education (Aalto EE).
"Coronavirus has not affected the world economy in the ways we feared," says Jonni Junkkari, Program Director of Mergers and Acquisitions program. "In fact, demand for the program has been higher than before the pandemic. We have had a record number of participants."
Certain industries, in particular, have peaked in M&A activity, reveals Tapio Koivumäki, Deloitte’s Leader of Operational M&A Advisory in Finland and one of the program’s speakers. "Private equity investors have been very active, and industries such as technology, infra and life sciences have been on the rise."
M&A goes virtual
When the pandemic hit, certain changes were implemented into the program. Due to the pandemic’s possible effects on the buy side of M&A, sections on divestment were added to the program to help management, should they have to sell less strategic businesses of their company. "Yet as we now know, the economy did not collapse and M&A has been active on both the sell and buy sides," Junkkari remarks.
The virtual aspect was also introduced in teaching sessions. Koivumäki’s session on integration was arranged as a hybrid session, with Koivumäki present physically together with some of the audience, while his co-host in Sweden and other participants attended virtually. "It worked well, and feedback has been very positive."
Koivumäki points out that companies have had to operate in a virtual environment, even in complex mergers and acquisitions. "We have carried out many projects virtually from start to finish, which might have been hard to believe before the pandemic."
The pandemic has also forced companies to re-evaluate their business portfolio and redefine the core of their business. "This has resulted in companies actively seeking both divestments and acquisitions," says Koivumäki.
While remote communication has not been an obstacle for the field of M&A, the future is not all virtual. Koivumäki highlights the importance of communicating face to face. "While remote connections have worked, I believe we will partly return to old ways in creating those first personal connections," Koivumäki says.
Evaluating management capabilities, for example, and building trust at the early stages of integrations are delicate issues. "These areas still often require that personal touch."
Collaborating for three years
Deloitte and Aalto EE have partnered on the program for three years now.
"Deloitte’s offering complements our program well – we have some of their finest experts complementing our program with very specific expertise," says Junkkari. "Our participants get the latest information from the markets, along with lessons that can be put to practice."
Koivumäki is also pleased as an instructor with the motivated participants, who often attend the program in professional capacity rather than for pleasure. "Especially integrations have been invested in much more over the last 10 years," he notes. "People are more aware in this area, and interest towards Aalto EE’s the program is one indication of this."
Taking part in mergers and acquisitions can truly make or break one’s career, Junkkari points out, and the stakes are always high. The program goes through the entire lifecycle of M&A and all that management needs to know. "We warmly welcome you here."
Aalto EE's Mergers and Acquisitions program gives you a structured understanding of the M&A process and equips you with the tools and skills you need for succeeding in each phase of the process. Read more about the program