Luxembourg: KPMG's Summer Reading List 2016

Last Updated: 23 August 2016
Article by Natacha Oskian

Most Read Contributor in Luxembourg, December 2017

Seeing as August is the hottest time for a holiday (in both the literal and figurative senses), we've seen fewer people round the office, fewer cars in Kirchberg, and more planes in the sky. Whether you find yourself among the holidaymakers or not, it's a great season to read, which is why we've compiled our first summer reading list. We asked our people for their recommendations, so have a breeze through the following reviews and see what strikes your fancy. The books, articles, and podcasts on the list all have a business twist and we'd love to hear your own reading list suggestions in the comments section below.


The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers (English), by Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz, successful web entrepreneur, shares his experience about running startup businesses in this book. While you will find many books that tell you how great it is to develop your own company, Horowitz describes the other side of the story. He explains, in a funny and very practical way, the daily issues he faced as a CEO as well as the way he solved them. His experience is extremely interesting as his company survived the ".com bubble" and was eventually sold to Hewlett-Packard for $1.6 billion in 2007.

But don't think this book is for technology entrepreneurs/geeks. The lessons drawn by Ben are easily translated into big corporation business life. The Hard Thing About Hard Things is a must read for any person willing to manage people.

—Romain Fourdin, Advisory

The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk-Taking, Gut Feelings and the Biology of Boom and Bust (English), by John Coates

Neuroscientist and former Wall Street trader John Coates investigates the biology of financial boom and bust. He combines experimental findings with his own experience to show how risk-taking transforms our body chemistry, driving extremes of euphoria or stressed-out depression. Coates’s conclusions shed light on all types of high-pressure decision-making, from the sports field to the battlefield, but in particular reveal how biochemistry has a lasting and significant impact on our economy. He suggests that understanding the biology behind bubbles and crashes may be the key to stabilising the markets.

—Yola Engler, Advisory

The Man from Zara: the Story of the Genius Behind the Inditex Group (English), by Covadonga O'Shea

This is the authorised biography of the co-founder of one of the most successful textile empires ever: the Inditex Group, which comprises not only Zara but well-known brands such as Massimo Dutti, Pull&Bear, Bershka, and Stradivarius, among others. Amancio Ortega has always kept his modesty, discretion, and passion to fulfil clients' needs and wishes—and these have become hallmarks of his business. Zara has made trendy and fashionable clothes available to the general public, something which previously was only accessible to the high-net-worth individuals. According to the author, Zara has democratised fashion.

Zara develops and distributes thousands of new designs annually and its stocks rotate several times per week. A very relevant part of the 150,000 employees work in an open space in La Coruña, Spain, where Zara was conceived as a small shirts studio before becoming the biggest textile empire in the world. The book tells the amazing story of how Amancio Ortega conceived and achieved this. Amancio Ortega is reported to have said: "self-satisfaction is a terrible trap if you want to achieve something important."

—Ester Mill Tena, Advisory

Big data: opportunity or threat for insurance? (French), by Patrick Thourot and Kossi Ametepe Folly

In Big Data : Opportunité ou menace pour l’assurance ? the authors explain the positive effects of big data on the insurance industry, exploring its impact at every level of the insurance value chain—but they also outline the revolutionary aspect of big data: it questions the whole insurance business, including its structure and organisation, notably in terms of risk assessment and management and therefore in terms of the pricing itself.

The authors also try to demonstrate the effects of big data on systems architecture, information systems, and insurance business models. Eventually, they put into perspective the challenges, as well as the necessity of making investments with potentially low returns on investments, in an increasingly restrictive regulatory environment where priority must be given to compliance with Solvency II or PRIIPs requirements, for example.

It's a good read for those in the insurance business, and even anyone interested in following the rise of big data across the finance industry generally.

—Thierry Morel, Advisory


The Bottom Line (English), BBC Radio 4

Finally, a business show that goes beyond management speak and takes you globe-trotting—just like a novel or travel documentary might. In this BBC gem, Evan Davis brings together a group of non-likeminded people who either happen to work in the same industry, or who have been through similar experiences – like turning round a failing company or trying out hare-brained management theories (to greater or lesser effect).

To ease yourself into the podcast series, get a cup of cocoa and snuggle down with the episode on chocolate. It features a perfect blend of guests including a cocoa producer in Africa, an organic chocolate manufacturer in the UK and a conglomerate that has been helping keep sweet shops stocked with brands whose histories stretch back over a hundred years.

For something more topical, why not try How to Build an Olympics.

—Sarah Brook, Communications

Manager Tools (English), by Mike Auzenne and Mark Horstman

As someone who spends far more time in my car than I would like, I very often listen to podcasts. One of my favourites is Manager Tools, a weekly business podcast focused on helping professionals become more effective managers and leaders. Each week, the hosts discuss specific actions for professionals to take to achieve their desired management and career objectives. With titles like The Foundations of Presenting Mastery and The Effective Manager Value Chain they tackle management practices piece by piece, providing good insights and tips that you can incorporate into your working life without being overwhelmed by huge books of advice or high-view theory.

All podcasts are available for free on your iPhone and on the webpage.

It's won the Best Business Podcast Award four times so I am not alone in recommending it!

—Audrey Jeanrond, Tax


Millennials Cite Impact as Critical Factor in Choosing Next Job (English), by Scott Scanlon

Cultural diversity but also generational differences are challenges faced by all of us every day in our workplaces. Some of these generational differences influence why we work, how we work, where we work, and what we expect from our work. Today Millennials (those born between 1981 and 2000) populate workplaces around the globe. Leaders who understand the work styles and preferences of this new generation of employees can uncover subconscious biases and foster greater collaboration and success.

In his short but very insightful article Scott Scanlon analyses the results of the recent survey “Millennials in the Workplace” to tell us what really matters to this new generation of executives. He comes up with a lot of interesting insights such as the fact that only 3% of Millennials said that income was most important when choosing a job.

This article will be of a great value for every manager working with Millennials to find out how to best motivate them but also to every Millennial who wants to better understand the values and the work style of his own generation.

—Vincent Ehx, Audit

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Events from this Firm
30 Jan 2018, Speaking Engagement, Luxembourg, Luxembourg

Laurence Vanhée knows what it takes to be happy at work, and she wants to share the secret—and soon: after her TEDxAlsace talk in France, she’s coming to Luxembourg.

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