Study of real-life corporate drama helps students prepare for the unexpected

Meet Şirvan Canıtez, co-author of an AkzoNobel-based INSEAD case study that business schools are using as a “masterclass” in hostile takeover defense and other corporate finance themes.

A very successful case study based on real-life events at AkzoNobel is giving business students and executives a whirlwind lesson in corporate finance.

That’s thanks to co-author Şirvan Canıtez, who’s now our Program Director for Integrated Supply Chain but at the time in question was surprised to find herself embroiled in a situation well beyond the vanilla corporate finance activities she expected.

“The reason this story is such a great teaching tool is it condenses many events a finance professional might encounter over the course of ten years into one 12-month journey triggered by a hostile takeover attempt,” she says. “It’s got takeover defense mechanisms, valuation scenarios, market reactions to sensitive announcements, activist shareholders, alternative payout mechanisms – it’s all there.”

Portrait of Sirvan Canitez

“I’m beyond proud that AkzoNobel’s journey – and my part in it – is inspiring business students all around the world.”

A story of action and intrigue

“In March 2017, when an American peer approached AkzoNobel with an unsolicited acquisition proposal, everything has changed for our company and also for me as a finance professional,” says Şirvan.

“My Treasury team was right in the middle of the action. We designed a strategy to keep our promise to return the vast majority of proceeds from the divestment of our specialty chemicals business to our shareholders, while in the meantime investing in a negative interest rate environment.

“Looking back at the dramatic events of five years ago, I’m still amazed and proud of what our company was able to achieve in just one year!”


Taught around the world

Şirvan says that since publication, she’s occasionally invited to elaborate on the details as a guest lecturer. But she still had no idea that it’d be one of the best-selling cases used by business schools across the world.

“It had been a dream of mine for a decade, to pursue an executive education degree at INSEAD,” she says. “Then to have the further opportunity to co-author this case study together with renowned Professor Theo Vermaelen – I’m truly honored. I hope it keeps inspiring business school students for years to come.”


Stepping outside the comfort zone

“Whenever I start feeling comfortable, it’s time for me to get into new projects. First, I come on board as a ‘sidekick’ to show what I’m capable of and the value I can bring. Once I’ve proven my additional value, it becomes only natural to get the ‘real job’. I feel very lucky that our top executives at AkzoNobel value potential, passion and willingness, together with experience and past performance. There are many opportunities to grow within the company, even cross-functionally.”

That philosophy explains Şirvan’s career moves over the intervening years: from Finance to the Transformation Office to the Integrated Supply Chain – where she’s now leading an essential part of our Grow & Deliver strategy.

Şirvan adds: “One of my favorite authors, Simon Sinek, says: ‘Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is passion.’ I definitely feel lucky to be called passionate when it comes to my job. I wake up every day thinking about how I can inspire and empower the people around me. In the end, that’s all that matters.”

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