Third day of MBA London Symposium celebrates customers at The Royal Institution

Cass MBA London Symposium hits third gear at the home of the electric generator.

Day three of the MBA London Symposium kicked off in the magnificent surrounds of The Royal Institution.

Dr Sionade Robinson, the Symposium’s Academic lead welcomed participants and the day’s speakers by celebrating the history and prestige associated with the venue.

“The Royal Institution represents one of the most important stages in London in the generation of new ideas,” Dr Robinson said.

“Albemarle Street was the first one way street in London, and it was made that way because of the level of traffic flowing through the street - much of which was because of the sheer number of visitors to this fantastic building and the magnificent ideas and subjects being discussed within.

“One can just imagine the traffic-jam of horse and carriages, with their occupants clambering to get in the doors to hear the next set of wondrous discussions. Thankfully, we, the Symposium participants, have had no such struggle today."

Gaining close relationships with customers

Mark Sherwin, Managing Director of Accenture Interactive, was the first speaker of the day, delivering his presentation ‘Connected Creativity - creating experiences for the digital consumer’.

Mr Sherwin told Symposium participants about the power that companies can harness when they create a remarkable customer experience.

“We’re facing a world where people’s expectations are liquid, customers’ expectations on positive experiences are based on the last one that they had,” Mr Sherwin said.

“And if you want to have a close relationship with your customers you better focus on experiences.”

Mr Sherwin said he hoped to see an increased focus combining humans and machines to build conversations between businesses and their consumers, particularly with the use of live messaging apps and software.

“If you start to interplay artificial intelligence, augmented reality and human interaction all together then what you end up with is a really great experience,” he said.

Be yourself to gain the professional advantage

The second speaker of the day was Cass Business School EMBA Alumna Davinia Tomlinson, co-founder and CEO of rainchq.

Ms Tomlinson delivered her presentation ‘How authenticity became a source of competitive advantage’, telling Symposium participants that as a self-made success she believed it was important for entrepreneurs and business leaders to be themselves.

She then explained the rationale she took in creating rainchq, a financial advisory service and digital investment platform made exclusively for women.

“I kept being told that women lacked confidence in their finances but from my conversations with women I discovered that it was more about knowledge than it was confidence,” Ms Tomlinson said.

Ms Tomlinson went on to explain why she and rainchq are putting humans at the forefront of the business, rather than relying on machine learning, AI or apps.

“From my perspective, knowing what I know about women, they want to have a conversation about their money and they want to do that with a real person,” she said.

Finally, Ms Tomlinson returned to her key message, once again urging Symposium participants to be true to themselves in business and in life.

“When I think about going to work ... I don’t need to think about fitting in anymore. I manage my situation around my personal life so that I’m authentic to myself," she said.

“I smashed through ‘work Davinia’ and ‘home Davinia’ and created one distinctive person. ‘Davinia 2.0’ I call her.”

Following tea and coffee served in the Library Rooms of the Royal Institution, Dr Robinson welcomed Peter McAllister to the plinth.

“In a month where the capital has seen a variety of protests centered around ethical concerns, who better to talk to you as future business leaders than this man,” Dr Robinson said.

The importance of business in the fight for human rights

Peter McAllister is the Executive Director of Ethical Trading Initiative and has a focus on promoting human rights and addressing labour issues in global sustainable business.

Mr McAllister’s presentation, entitled ‘The Ethics of the Supply Chain’ detailed the history of the human rights movement and the role of businesses in understanding and upholding human rights.

“It’s important to remember that when we talk about human rights we’re talking about the fundamental rights that everybody in this room takes for granted - the right to be paid at the end of the week, the right to be safe at work, to not be sexually harassed and so on,” Mr McAllister said.

“The pressure on business now are greater than they’ve ever been, the expectations on business are greater than they’ve ever been but that’s just the world we live in now.

“And the onus is on you to make sure we have more success stories and less catastrophes.”

Mr McAllister explained to Symposium participants that while government obviously have a role to play in protecting human rights, businesses and their leaders have a responsibility to both uphold protections and drive further change and improvement.

“You need to understand your business impacts on people, especially vulnerable people and be a champion for them,” Mr McAllister said.

“If someone in the room isn’t saying ‘this is a really great idea’ you need to find them, find the idea and explore it.

“Last but not least, have a go at something even if that’s just mapping the supply chain so that you understand it and you understand the people and humans within it.”

Putting customers at the forefront of everything in business

The final speaker to grace the stage of the Royal Institution’s magnificent auditorium was Martin Newman, founder of The Customer First Group, delivering his presentation ‘How Customer Centricity drives long-term business sustainability’.

“If you don’t put customers at the heart of what you do how can you expect to have a sustainable business?,” Mr Newman asked The Symposium participants.

Mr Newman explained that the nature of business is changing and emphasised that while this is nothing new the rate of change is increasing.

“Business now is not about digital transformation or unified retail or the omnichannel, business is about putting the customer first, being customer centric and looking at insights rather than just data,” he said.

“And a big part of that is looking after your staff - If you don’t look after your employees you can’t expect them to put your customers first.”

About the Symposium

The Symposium will continue at The National Gallery on Thursday.

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 take place 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.