First day of MBA London Symposium welcomes renowned industry leaders to Cass

Students gather at popular flagship elective held at the heart of the City

The sixth Cass MBA London Symposium kicked off its four-day run on Monday at the business school on Bunhill Row.  The theme of the week is ‘New Directions’.

Building on five very successful events, high-profile business and industry leaders have again stepped up to offer students a glimpse behind the scenes of businesses in the capital.

After a morning of lectures, students will spend the afternoons getting an inside track on London’s range of diverse organisations including Starling Bank, London First, EY, Lloyds of London, BlackRock, Landsec, TfL and Crystal Palace Football Club.

The first day opened with welcomes from Dr Sionade Robinson, Faculty Lead for the Symposium, and Professor Marianne Lewis, Dean of Cass Business School.

Symposium studies the sectors that underpin our City

Dr Robinson, who has masterminded all six symposiums, said the objective of the Symposium is to study the sectors which underpin London’s profile as a leading global city as well as its thought leadership, extraordinary heritage, its original brands and, of course, its talented people.

“We’re thrilled to welcome many speakers, MBAs from all Cass Programmes, alumni and MBA guests from partner schools to discuss ‘New Directions’ today.   We shall be hearing about innovation, agility, increasing ethical responsibilities and how leading organisations respond strategically to change - all topics which empower our students to perform at the top of their game.  I’d like to particularly thank all of the speakers and our hosts who have taken time out of their busy schedules to speak to our students and we’re looking forward to a very special Symposium.”

Professor Marianne Lewis said:

“This is one of my favourite weeks at Cass.  It is Cass at our best – spanning excellent thought leadership, programme innovation and strong international partnerships.  Sionade has devised a wonderful agenda this week which includes speakers including our valued Cass alumni and leaders of this great city.  Students will really benefit from this wonderful opportunity – so do make the most of it!”

Addressing the challenges posed by Brexit

Dr Robinson and Professor Lewis were followed by Alderman Charles Bowman, the late Lord Mayor of the City of London, who was the 690th Lord Mayor of London.

Alderman Bowman spoke about his role as Lord Mayor and how it related to the Symposium theme of New Directions, particularly around the challenges posed by Brexit.  He said while Brexit was not something that the City would have chosen, it respected democracy and was determined to get on with business.

“We have been adamant that we would fight for a deal on behalf of the global organisations that rely on London’s unique environment to do business - an environment grown from deep rooted foundations including rule of law, culture, access to talent, diversity, education, innovation, regulation, security, infrastructure, language and a great place to live and work,” he said.

The importance of the social value of the insurance market

Clare Lebecq, CEO, London Market Group (LMG) and Cass alumna (MBA 2014), who also hosted an afternoon session for students at LMG, spoke next about ‘New directions for the London insurance market.’

Ms Lebecq spoke about the challenges and opportunities posed by a competitive insurance market but also discussed the importance of the social value of the market and how its impact supports social stability and economic growth.

“The insurance market is not just about just car or house insurance,” she said.  “Insurance has a huge social value and is the lifeblood of economic activity.  It mitigates against effects over which we have no control by limiting the financial burden that individuals and organisations have following illness or a disaster to help them rebuild their lives and businesses.”

Building ‘Fans not Customers’ with Vernon Hill

Vernon Hill, Honorary Visiting Professor of Retail Banking at Cass and Founder of Metrobank returned to the Symposium to talk to students about how he founded Metrobank and how businesses can build ‘Fans Not Customers’.

According to Mr Hill, businesses must have a value differentiating business model, foster a unique culture and demonstrate “fanatical execution” by believing in your model, overinvesting in facilities and people, and delivering the very best service.

“Everyone in this auditorium can be a leader”

Rene Carayol, Chief Executive of Carayol and Visiting Professor of Leadership at Cass, spoke on the subject of ‘Adapt or Die’.  He addressed the students directly and told them: “Everyone in this auditorium – you can all be a leader.  There is no ‘one size fits all’ model of leadership.”

Mr Carayol said since 2007, due to the financial crisis, we have lived in a “world of uncertainty” – and because we are not necessarily going back to certainty, so it is important that businesses have the right leaders in place.

“The old methods of working - hierarchy, command control, the idea that a boss will solve everything - are long gone.  How do we now lead an organisation and ensure it flourishes when the idea of a hierarchy is nearly defunct?  Today, the leader works for the people. You are not the cleverest person in the room anymore.  In a world of certainty, management is enough.  But in a world of uncertainty, where leaders may not know all the answers or the direction that the world is going in, we need different leadership.”

About the Symposium

The Symposium will continue at Tate Modern on Tuesday.

The Symposium is an elective element of the MBA course which brings together over 150 students from all Cass MBA cohorts, as well as MBA teams from partner schools in South Africa and Europe. Plenary lectures continue this week at three of the capital’s iconic cultural institutions; Tate Modern, the Royal Institution and the National Gallery.

The first Symposium was held in 2014 to celebrate Cass’s unique network inside the heart of one of the world’s best global cities.  The Symposium mixes thought leadership in plenary sessions with a ‘backstage pass’ to some of London’s most iconic locations, brands and organisations which drive the city’s prosperity.

It is now the flagship MBA elective, providing students with excellent networking opportunities and access to some of London’s most prominent and respected business figures.

You can tweet about or from the Symposium using #NewDirections2019.