We just dined in a palace.

True story. According to reliable sources (Wikipedia), the Adile Sultan Palace “was built for the Ottoman princess Adile Sultan.”* We walked through the palace on our way to Borsa Restaurant and stopped for a moment to take in the views. The palace is built on a hill and presents a breathtaking panorama of the Bosphorus Sea. Dinner was hosted by Koc Holdings**, one of the most recognized business institutions in Turkey. Koc Holdings generated 10% of Turkey’s total exports in 2010, and every household in the country owns at least one Koc-affiliated product.

Oh – and did I mention that the Chairman, Mr. Mustafa Koc, is a George Washington University alumnus? His Director of Corporate Communications and External Affairs, Ms. Oya Kizil, is also a GWSB grad. She came to Koc Holdings after working at World Bank for a few years. We were fortunate enough to meet both.

Our IRP with Mr. Mustafa Koc.

Our schedule this past week has been stacked, and it’s been worth every minute.

Monday

Capital Markets Board (CMB) – Speaker: Chairman, Mr. Vedat Akgiray. CMB is the regulatory body for financial institutions in Turkey.

Istanbul Stock Exchange (ISE) – Speaker: Chairman, Mr. Huseyin Erkan. ISE is the only exchange in Turkey and our client for this IRP.

Tuesday

Esas Holding – Speaker: CEO and GW Alumnus, Mr. Cagatay Ozdogru. Esas Holding is the largest private equity firm in Turkey, and is owned by the Sabanci family. The Sabanci family is the second wealthiest and largest industrial family, behind the Kocs.

Catered lunch in the Esas Holdings office.***

Group shot on Esas Holding's rooftop terrace.

Turkish Banks’ Association (TBB) – Speaker: Secretary General, Mr. Ekrem Keshkin. TBB represents Turkey’s banking industry and works to improve effectiveness and efficiency on the banking system. Since Turkey’s banking industry weathered the global financial crisis better than almost all other emerging markets, they must be onto something.

Panel discussion on NGOs, Women, and Media in Turkey

Wednesday

Is Yatirim, investment bank and brokerage firm. Is Yatirim is the largest brokerage firm in Turkey. The company also dabbles in private equity and M&A.

We then spent 5-6 hours working on our client projects.

Reception with alumni!****

The guys from our IRP at the alumni reception.

The visits have been educational, to say the least. Occasionally, the speaker will ask us to go around the room and introduce ourselves, why we came to business school, and why we chose Turkey. I enjoy watching facial expressions and reactions when I say, “Hello. I used to work in non-profits. I came back to business school to learn how to use a calculator and perform basic math functions. I chose Turkey because I thought I was ordering a lunch sandwich.”*****

*Quoted and referenced because I support academic integrity. I also support the legitimate use of Wikipedia as an academic source.

** Koc is pronounced “Coach”, like the handbag. That’s the explanation we received from fellow student Vijay, a resident of Baltimore a la The Wire.

*** It was delicious. Even the part where I took some of the decorative centerpiece to eat because I thought it was a salad.

**** Every single alumni knew Dean Murat. It was like a secret club and “Murat Tarimcilar” was the password for acceptance.

***** Dear GWSB administrators, who are probably reading this now and revoking my blogging privileges. I don’t actually say things like that, but I think it. Think it real hard.

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