George Politis has maintained a close relationship with Bayes Business School (formerly Cass) ever since graduating from MSc Shipping, Trade and Finance in 1997. In 2017 he became an Alumni Ambassador for Greece, the following year he joined the Professional Mentorship scheme and in 2019 he joined Bayes as a lecturer for his own elective course – Fintech and Shipping. George has recently funded the Captain Tasos Politis Prize, a prize for the best coursework in the module FinTech in Shipping and Energy Trade & Finance, in honour of his late father. We spoke to George about his career and his ongoing relationship with his alma mater.
Could you tell me a bit about your time at Bayes?
I think probably one of the most memorable things that happened during the programme was a bunch of us, probably half the class, going to a live music restaurant off Tottenham Court Road every other night. We’d spend the night there and come five o’clock in the morning we would retreat to the Smithfield market for breakfast. Sometimes, immediately after, we would just throw in some water in our face and go take exams. And that’s the most memorable thing I can remember – maybe not very inspiring but still, truthful!
How has your career developed since you left Bayes?
Funny, unpredictable, I’d say. The course I did at Bayes was called Shipping, Trade and Finance – three different elements. And it turned out in my career, I did all three of them! I started off with ocean shipping, beginning in the London office before moving back and working in the parent company for a few years. Then I went to the Navy and did my service for 21 months. Following that, I took on the second core of the programme: trading. I did seafood wholesale and distribution, which was interesting, I learned a lot about supply chain. I also worked in and, ultimately, ran a fish farm in western Greece. And then I turned to the last element which was finance, which is what I’m still doing and have been for the past 12-13 years. I am running a global markets securities brokerage and asset management firm. Now, I am in my fourth career which is teaching. It’s my favourite and it’s the one I never expected. I am super, super excited about doing this, both teaching and researching, I never thought I had it in me but I do! Let’s see what the future brings, maybe I will make it a full-time career.
How did you come to teach at Bayes?
I have my own course called FinTech and Shipping, it’s an elective course. It’s a funny story. The idea for this course began a few years ago. I was at a conference and started talking to an American Venture Capitalist about FinTech – he told me “George, AI is going to take over Wall Street”. I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, but he told me “Look it up”. From that point on I started attending conferences and eventually completed a course in FinTech at Oxford Said Business School. Then I started applying FinTech to my work, and at the same time I kept bugging Professor Grammenos and Professor Marianne Lewis, the Dean at the time, to include FinTech in our courses. I told them we are one of the best business schools in the world but if you look at our 23 MSc programmes the word Fintech is absent – we need to do something. And then one day they advised me to put my money where my mouth is and teach a course myself! It all went very fast from there, I spent around three months preparing. Which was an amazing experience. I never thought I’d like it, but I loved it. And I keep doing it every year and updating it as I go – so that’s how I happened to run this course. That’s my fourth career and that’s my favourite career.
You recently funded the Captain Tasos Politis Prize, could you explain a bit about the prize?
My late father was always close to Bayes, way before I enrolled, and was very good friends with some of the professors. He would also frequently recommend Bayes to prospective students, and many times he would fund them as well. He left us suddenly. So, after I started teaching the course, it felt only natural to fund a prize in his memory. As the name of the prize suggests he was a shipping man – he was a captain and a shipowner, and shipping was his life – and that’s one core of the Shipping, Trade and Finance programme. On top of that, of course it provides some motivation for students who are completing their coursework.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps or any general advice to anyone looking to advance their career?
First of all, I wouldn’t advise anyone to follow my footsteps, they will find their own. I always tell my students that your career might not always go the way you expect. Don’t necessarily do what your parents might tell you to do or what other people expect of you. For example – finding the best company and the best internship or the best salary. There’s more to it than that. To answer your question, my career was mostly what other people expected of me. I did well, and I don’t feel that I failed. I did well, but most of it wasn’t me. I was living up to other people’s expectations. It’s a cliché but my advice is to follow your passion.