PhD student stories
Recently completed research students give their view on their experience as a PhD student at Cass.
Zana Beqiri - Banking and Finance
Reflecting back on my PhD journey at Cass I can say that it has been an invaluable and a very rewarding experience both personally and professionally. It has given me exposure to an outstanding research environment. I have greatly benefited from interactions with Cass faculty members – all prominent scholars in various fields of business and economics – allowing me to sharpen my research skills and evolve as a confident and independent researcher.
Being at the heart of London, Cass allows for many networking opportunities leading to job placements, internships or scientific collaborations. I was very fortunate to land an internship at the research department of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
As my PhD investigates banking in developing countries this position complemented very well my on-going research both in terms of establishing relevant contacts in the field as well as getting access to proprietary data sources which became part of my PhD thesis.
The PhD program itself is supportive yet challenging. In the first year it offers rigorous training laying the foundations for theoretical and empirical research in the subsequent years. Students are encouraged to present their work both internally and externally honing their presentation skills and receiving valuable feedback on their work in progress. I strongly believe the program has helped us achieve our full potential and I hope we will go on to be competent Cass ambassadors in whatever career we pursue.
I am a Lecturer in Marketing at Goldsmiths, University of London. I graduated from Cass in February 2015. In the 4 years of the PhD, I greatly enjoyed my experience at Cass and it helped me to grow a lot as an academic.
First, the program itself has provided me with all the tools to learn how to do research. The first year was were useful in order to have a thorough training in research applied to management. The second and the third year, I have learnt what means to conduct research in practices and at excellence level. The fourth year, I have been engaged with concluding the dissertation and finding a position as a researcher in the word outside Cass.
Second, the excellent research tradition and the faculty of Cass have helped me tremendously during my Phd years. Knowing about the research conducted by the faculty of Marketing and Management, engaging in research and brown-bag seminars, discussing about my research with the different members of the faculty and with top researchers visiting the business school, interacting constantly with my supervisors (Caroline Wiertz and Stephanie Feiereisen), and being encouraged to engage with the academic world outside Cass (i.e. conference and the resources), helped me to build my profile as a research and helped me in the job market as well.
Third, engaging with teaching and other activities of the life of the university helped me to understand better my role as academic. During this 4 years i have i have been trained and involved in teaching a variety of courses. While the research is the main focus of the Phd, the teaching experience I was able to have helped me to understand the type of lecturer i wanted to be. Furthermore, the engagement with City Unrulyversity, a collaboration between City University London and Unruly, with the Enterprise activity of Cass, and being a PhD rep in the Research Committee, helped to develop my academic skills outside the research core.
Finally, it was great meeting so many other enthusiastic PhD candidates at Cass and so many nice people. With the PhD fellow students, we shared lectures and many stages of the PhD process. It was great to have the support of the other fellow students and sharing the difficulties of the PhD process. In conclusion, without the help of the PhD office, the process would have been much more complex. The entire PhD community at Cass is great, and I feel lucky of having conducted my PhD there.
Imogen Cleaver - Change Management
A PhD programme should give you strong training in research and teaching to prepare you for an academic career - and Cass delivers. I did the MRes route with formal training in quantitative techniques as well as the qualitative methods I was using in my own research. I also took the opportunity to complete an Introductory Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education. The cost of PhD training can look daunting but Cass found funding for me. My ESRC Studentship covered not only the fees but also contributed to living costs and had a further allowance for expenses such as conference travel.
Beyond these basics, the Cass PhD had many benefits. Malla and Abdul in the PhD office and John in the ESRC section were unfailingly encouraging, helpful and supportive, as were all the staff in the libraries and IT. I liked the dual supervisor system. If one supervisor is unexpectedly away for an extended period, you have a second one already familiar with your work. Having a desk on the PhD floor gave me a base in the heart of the City, the perfect location for my research on large professional service firm partnerships. The weekly programme of seminars in the management faculty saved me from the potential loneliness of a solitary research project and provided frequent fresh inspiration. Being welcomed into the CPSF research centre gave me regular contact with practitioners as well as academics. Immediately after graduating I worked on a research project looking at transformational change programmes for the School of Management, University of Bath and the CIPD.
Finally, to get a job, you generally need publications and Cass has a highly active research community. I had a 4 star publication with my main supervisor, Professor Laura Empson, on a separate piece of research before even writing up my PhD. That experience will be invaluable in publishing from the PhD. I am delighted to say I continue to have a strong relationship with Cass.
Andrew Hunt - Mortality Modelling and Risk Management
I applied to Cass because it is one of the leading institutions in the field of longevity risk, with researchers who have made genuine contributions to both theory and practice. During my time here, this has only increased, with the PhD programme becoming ever more professional, through the MRes courses and my relationship with my supervisor, in its approach to developing students into expert researchers. Especially beneficial to me were the opportunities to do a couple of projects working with people outside academia, which has both helped me gain practical new ideas from my research and helped transmit the theoretical work being done to industry. In addition, it has been great to work alongside so many people in a variety of different fields and from across the world.
Jonathan Jona - Corporate Governance
Following a PhD program in Finance at Cass had been a dominant experience in shaping my professional and personal identity. The challenging and demanding academic environment, together with the exposure to London’s exciting business dynamics, triggered my interest and widened my knowledge on many important economic issues. Throughout my time at Cass, the school has been going under major changes to position itself as a leading global business school.
I was taught, trained and supervised by scholars who are recognised for their world-class research. This, together with a supportive and encouraging administrative support, established a scope to peruse a great range of activities within and outside of the school. Importantly, going through this experience together with an eclectic group of classmates has been a gift to preserve for life.
Ruth Massie - Corporate Governance
Undertaking a PhD at Cass Business School enabled me to make the transition from industry to academia. I was fortunate to be awarded a SAMS/ESRC Fellowship at Cass to fund my studies in Corporate Governance. During my time at Cass I had a vast array of opportunities; this included gaining a Masters in Research (MRes) which enabled me to understand, in depth, all aspect of my PhD and future research.
Through the support of my supervisor, I also got involved in writing academic papers, reviewing papers and presenting at conferences. In addition, I also had the opportunity to gain teaching experience and, ultimately, a PgCert in Academic Practice. All of these opportunities enabled me to fast-track into a lecturing position at a top-tier university.
However, it was not all about the study, at Cass I met a number of inspiring people from both within the academic staff, the support staff and the students. In particular, undertaking the MRes/Training in year one of the PhD enabled the student group to bond and make friendships which, hopefully, will last a lifetime.
Joost Rietveld - Strategy
Prior to starting his PhD at Cass in 2010, Joost worked as a strategy manager for an independent video games developer in the Netherlands. Joost helped transitioning the firm from a traditional project-based work-for-hire business model to a self-sufficient digital publisher model, allowing the firm to produce and commercialize games based on internally created intellectual property. Successfully operationalising this transition entailed raising working capital with financiers, forging relationships with digital platform owners including Apple, and hiring marketing staff – all aspects Joost was involved in.
Upon moving to London to pursue his PhD in Strategic Management first with Professor Joseph Lampel and later with Professor Stefan Haefliger, Joost brought with him a network of industry contacts and a bag of fresh ideas that helped him kick-start his dissertation. Joost’s first empirical study, titled “New Horizons or a Strategic Mirage? Artist-led-distribution Versus Alliance Strategy in the Video Game Industry”, was published in Research Policy in 2013. Joost successfully managed to further expand his network of industry contacts granting him access to a large archival database comprising all video games released in the UK between 2001 and 2012. This asset allowed Joost to test ideas about the dynamics of platform-based markets and the competitive outcomes for the providers of complementary goods that operate within these markets. This is still Joost’s core area of academic inquiry today.
During his PhD at Cass, Joost did a research visit with Professor Melissa Schilling at the Leonard Stern School of Business of the New York University. At NYU, Joost worked on his analytical skills and methodological rigor by auditing several doctoral courses in the management and economics departments. Furthermore, Joost forged academic relationships that came to fruition in the form of external supervisory roles and several joint research projects and co-authored working papers. Joost also taught a semester-long course based on his doctoral research at NYU, and liaised with the video game’s trade association, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) on various accounts and topics.
Joost successfully defended his PhD dissertation in the spring of 2015. At this time, it had already become clear to Joost that he wanted to pursue a career in academia. Joost’s third study, “Demand Heterogeneity and the Adoption of Platform Complements” served as job market paper and landed him a job as assistant professor in the Strategic Management department at the Rotterdam School of Management of the Erasmus University in the Netherlands. At Erasmus, Joost continues his research on platform markets and video games. Joost teaches an undergraduate course in Industrial Organization (IO) and a graduate course in competitive dynamics in platforms and networked markets.
Andrés Villegas - Mortality Modelling and Socio-Economic Differentials
Prior to starting his PhD at Cass, Andrés worked for four-years as an actuarial analyst in the annuity business of the biggest Colombian insurance company. There, he worked on the development of risk management and pricing tools for life annuities and pension products, with particular focus on the modelling and analysis of the impact of longevity risk on pricing, reserving and solvency.
Andrés’s desire to pursue an academic career took him to Cass in 2010 to pursue a PhD in Actuarial Science under the supervision of Professor Steven Haberman. Andrés’s dissertation focused on the investigation of the trends in the socio-economic differences in mortality and their financial implications. Specifically, Andrés developed modelling techniques for the quantification of socio-economic mortality differentials in aggregate and cause-specific mortality and investigated the assessment of basis risk for longevity transactions.
Beyond the academic experience in actuarial science gained during his years at Cass, Andrés was able to develop close links with academics from other disciplines and with practitioners interested in longevity risk.
Andres’s work on socio-economic differences in mortality was developed in collaboration with epidemiologists at University College London, Moreover, his work on longevity basis risk assessment was carried out within the framework of a joint research project between Cass Business School and the actuarial consultants Hymans Robertson, and which was commissioned by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries and the Life and Longevity Markets Association (LLMA). These experiences showed Andrés that collaborations across disciplines and between industry and academia can be very powerful in developing compelling solutions to real life problems.
In June 2015, Andrés successfully defended his PhD dissertation. Andrés’s industry and academic on longevity risk modelling landed him a three-year postdoctoral position at the Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) at Univeristy of New South Wales in Sydney.
At CEPAR Andrés continues his research on mortality modelling and longevity risk management while looking to expand his expertise on the wider implications of population ageing.