As mentioned by Dr Sionade Robinson during her introductory speech, the Cass London Symposium is a “backstage pass” into the dynamic and culturally diverse city of London. It opens the door on the challenges business now face and how they strive to remain competitive, especially with the rise of new technologies and digital transformation.

The theme of this year was truly relevant, Network Effects. By definition [i], it is a phenomenon whereby a product or service gains additional value as more people use it. It also applies to us as individuals, as the more important and diverse our social network is, the more opportunities we can create and the more value we add to our career. The subject was illustrated throughout the week.

London, a city of diversity

Sir Andrew Parmley, late Lord Mayor presented ‘London and Its Wonders’, showcasing how London is the most complex and advanced financial city in the world with more than 250 foreign banks. He also introduced the topic of cybersecurity as a critical and new opportunity to export skills and expertise from London, globally.

London is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world with 300 languages spoken in it, the most in Europe. Conscious that this cultural diversity was a significant advantage, Julie Chapelle told us how London & Partners built an international brand for the city to attract tourists, students and investors so that international business and talent remained, despite Brexit.

For its eight million inhabitants, London has one of the biggest public transport systems in the world. Mike Brown from Transport for London took us through its new strategy: to provide more transport, more security and a comfortable and affordable journey.

During the symposium, we travelled around the city using the tube to attend presentations at some of London’s most prestigious sites: British Museum, Royal Institute and the National Gallery at Trafalgar square and we also enjoyed some fine cuisine 😉

Network Effects in the financial sector

Crypto currency or digital currency using cryptography for security is disrupting the financial sector. Olivier Von Ladsberg-Sadie, CEO and founder of BitcoinBro, talked about crypto currency contagion; how good (and bad ideas) spread fast and evolve faster in a decentralised digital economy. The number of users is constantly rising and continues to draw attention to the bitcoin phenomena, subsequently impacting its value.

With regards to equity funding, in order to build a good network of buyers and sellers it is key to develop the most optimal processes, taking into consideration which buyer missed an acquisition and why, which buyer refused a deal and which deal was not closed. Greg Fincke from Equiteq helped illustrate the Network Effect using mergers and acquisitions examples.

James Chew, Global Head, Regulatory Policy at HSBC and Director of BGF, talked about starting a new investment company from scratch which requires building a strong physical network with branches in strategic locations and connecting with a pool of talent.

How the consultancy sector is adapting to new technology trends

From EY to Accenture, giant consultancy firms are adapting their skill set and portfolio of services in order to be sustainable using new technologies. Tasks that used to require significant man power have seen resource reduced significantly since Block Chain, Augmented Reality, the Internet of Things and Big Data have developed. The focus of a consultancy firm has shifted to help businesses stay competitive in a digital world by making use of smart data.

Media and telecommunication transformation

The way people consume TV has changed. According to a recent survey in the UK, most people now watch in their bedrooms, on tablets and in alternative – albeit illegal – ways; apparently the most watched TV episodes are pirated downloads of Game of Thrones.

On our visit to Sky – a leading broadcaster and service provider in the UK – we were shown around by Director of Data Engineering, Oliver Tweedie. He emphasised that to stay relevant in the field, content is the new oil. It has to be innovative and in line with customers’ needs.

Top screening company Netflix understood the game and are developing their own content. They use big data to understand customer preferences and expectations in order to create new programming.

Partnerships are key.  For example, Sky teamed up with Google for their data analytics tools. Other than cyber security, this is an opportune way to learn more about consumer behaviour in order to make more proactive decisions.

Collaboration is key for great leadership

Business and Leadership speaker, Rene Carayol, summarised the essence of the week perfectly with his moving presentation on collaboration. Authentic leaders care about people as well as results and performance. A combination of both is what makes us stronger.

The Cass London Symposium was a magical week. It ended with a closing party at The Ivy Soho Brasserie. This elective is a rare occasion to meet with a number of your London professors and classmates but also to meet new people from MBA teams from partner business schools in Europe and South Africa. We built unforgettable connections and had a lot of fun. The Cass London Symposium is a “must-do” elective which I highly recommended as there is so much to learn and experience.

Joanne Ebata
Dubai Executive MBA (2018)

[i] Wikipedia