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Cass MBA students hear London Calling

Students discover capital's growth sectors at first MBA London Symposium.

"Two Sirs, a Lord, a Lord Mayor, a Dame and a CBE. Not bad for four days' worth of speakers." That was how one Cass student summed up the MBA London Symposium staged for the first time last week.

MBA Associate Dean and originator of the elective, Dr Sionade Robinson, said: "Our new four-day Cass MBA London Symposium is a powerful addition to the MBA curriculum. It demonstrates how Cass connects its students with thought leadership inside the most vibrant sectors of the London economy. London is a world city, and we want our students to understand the economic forces that drive its current and future prosperity, as well as how these factors create opportunity."

Chaired by Visiting Professor and Financial Times columnist, Stefan Stern, the Symposium combined a series of lectures from London's power brokers with visits to the capital's best known business, political, cultural and sporting institutions. We also welcomed guests from Waseda Business School in Tokyo and MBA students from Singapore Management University.

Sir Richard Broadbent, chairman of the FTSE 100 retailer Tesco, and Sir William Sargent, CEO of the Oscar-winning visual effects firm Framestore, were among the executives who shared their insights on business transformation and leadership with students.

Other speakers included Helena Morrissey CBE, CEO of Newton Investment Management and founder of the 30% Club, The Times political columnist Lord Daniel Finkelstein and former Olympics Minister, The Right Honourable Dame Tessa Jowell. 

The elective led students across London from the Square Mile to Tech City, Westminster to Wimbledon and Savile Row to Soho. Here, they met with senior executives at organisations including the Bank of England, the Treasury, BlackRock, Transport for London, Wembley Stadium, the All England Lawn Tennis Club, HSBC and Framestore. Find out how the week unfolded below.

Student photo 

Day 1

Where is the best place to buy property in London? Smart investors are heading for South Bank, according to the CBRE's Dr Neil Blake, who was among the speakers on the symposium's opening day. Neil, Head of Research for UK and EMEA at CBRE, a global commercial property adviser, gave a lecture titled 'London's building boom yet to come: trends and predictions'. He described how South Bank's proximity to the centre of London and its transport links make it one to watch for investors. Read City AM's take on the lecture. Other speakers on the day were Chris Gottlieb, Director of Strategy, Brand and Communications at London and Partners, and Graeme Craig, Commercial Development Director for Transport for London.


The corridors of power beckoned in the afternoon as students visited the Treasury, the nerve centre of the British government's public finance and economic policy, where they heard about the "problem of London and its impact on the rest of the UK". There were also visits to Transport for London, the Royal Exchange, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and Level 39, an incubator for start-up ventures. Evening drinks were hosted at the Madison, overlooking St. Paul's Cathedral.

St Paul's Sunset **

Day 2

Tesco chairman, Sir Richard Broadbent, spelled out the future of retail in a fascinating lecture on the symposium's second day. He described how the British supermarket giant is repositioning itself as a "multi-channel retailer" to enable customers to engage however, wherever and whenever is most convenient for them. Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment Management and founder of the 30% Club, shared her insights on board diversity, telling how all but one of the UK's FTSE 100 boards now have female executives on them. Read how efinancialcareers reported the lecture here. Alumnus James Chew, HSBC's Group Head of Regulatory Policy and Development, gave students an insight into the importance of London's role in the global regulatory environment.

Richard Broadbent

Students headed to the home of English football in the afternoon, receiving a tour of Wembley Stadium by the Head of Broadcast for the Football Association. Others visited HSBC, entrepreneurs in Savile Row tailors The Cad and the Dandy, were briefed on London's newest retail development One New Change or joined a workshop in London's bastion of art and design (thinking) Central Saint Martins.


Day 3

Day three focused on the creative industries which have been a fast growing sector in London. COO of the Royal Opera House, Sally O'Neill, talked the through the business challenges of managing a performance-led organisation full of diverse talent. Sir William Sargent, the CEO of Oscar-winning firm, Framestore, gave a compelling lecture on creativity as day three of the symposium got underway. The visual effects firm he co-founded won Hollywood's top film honour for its work on Gravity. His secret to creativity? "Permission", he says. "It's about saying it's okay to waste two hours trying a new idea." Ahead of Sir William was a journalist with his finger on the pulse of the British political establishment. The Times columnist Lord Daniel Finkelstein gave a witty and insightful talk on the rules of politics. Politics, he told students, is like football: keep it simple, remember form is temporary and don't create narratives out of randomness. James Ralley, Marketing Manager at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, also shared insights with students on how tennis in an "English garden" drives the global brand of the first and still the greatest tennis tournament in the world.

William Sargent 

Strawberries and cream were on the menu for students in the afternoon as they paid a visit to the grass courts of the All England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon. Here they received a behind the scenes tour of the world-famous club, which hosts the third Grand Slam of the tennis calendar. Other business briefings took place in Metro Bank, BlackRock, the National Audit Office and innovative start up the Makers Academy. Later that evening, alumni, corporate guests and friends met to hear Sir David Wootton offering his personal reflections of the role of Lord Mayor at the historic Haberdashers Hall.


Day 4

Our last day opened with an engaging presentation on thought leadership at top City law firm, Linklaters, and its role as the global TMT sector develops from the Head of Global Campaigns, Alessandra Almeida Jones, and Partner, Julian Cunningham-Day. Our final speaker, Labour MP and former Olympics Minister, Dame Tessa Jowell, closed the plenary sessions with a speech on the Making of a Modern City. Dame Tessa outlined the benefits brought about by the London 2012 games and shared her leadership lessons. Her vision of London as it was in the Games - vibrant, multicultural, welcoming and engaged - was inspiring, and her call to attract the talent needed to maintain London's global status was well received by the international MBA audience.

Tessa Jowell 

Students got a glimpse of an Oscar in the afternoon as they met with some of the creative talent behind the success of Framestore. Others travelled to Threadneedle Street to meet with senior leaders at the Bank of England or joined a workshop with media entrepreneur Zach Falconer-Barfield aka The Perfect Gentleman. The Symposium came to a close on a balmy spring evening with a walking tour of Cass's historic neighbourhood and a well-earned refreshment in the 1667 pub, rebuilt promptly after the Great Fire of London, The Cheshire Cheese. Plans for the 2015 Cass MBA Symposium are already underway.


**Photo courtesy of Gauri Gupta

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