City Alumni Network

The Eye Protector

Alumni Stories.

Dhruvin Patel (Optometry, 2015) is City’s very own super hero. His power? Protecting your eyes from harmful blue light. But this isn’t a mission he’s embarking on alone. Enter fellow alumnus, serial entrepreneur and chief supporter Asad Hamir (Optometry, 2007). We spoke to Dhruvin and Asad about what brought them together, and their hopes of become the leader in digital eye health awareness’.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

Dhruvin: I studied Optometry and graduated in 2015 from the School of Health and Sciences. Although I had already been living in London, university at City was a big part of my life with so many great experiences and the chance to meet so many amazing people. I took a lot away from my time at City.

Asad: I did Optometry too and graduated in 2007. It was like a family, everyone knew each other. Everyone congregated in the same place. Secondly there was a lot you could get involved with. That’s how I learnt how to hustle, through the things I got involved with; societies etc.

Dhruvin: I’m happy I chose to stay in London rather than go away to another university. The support for researching and developing Ocushield was great! Ocushield wouldn’t have got off the ground without the help of the Optometry department and the CitySpark team.

How did you meet?

Dhruvin: Towards the end of 2017, a member of the CitySpark team advised me that someone called Asad Hamir was doing a talk at City. He said Asad was an entrepreneur but also did optometry and asked if I knew him. But I didn’t. I didn’t think there were many optometry students or alumni that ventured out of the [optometry] space. So, I went along to see what Asad was presenting. To my surprise, I was already aware of one of his ventures – Kite Eyewear, which at the time was located in Westfield, Stratford. They’ve now moved to Shoreditch.

How did the idea for Ocushield come about?

Dhruvin Patel (Optometry, 2015)

Dhruvin: I started the business while I was at university. In 2014 the idea came about when I was working in Vision Express on the weekends. They had just released blue light blocking lenses for people that wore glasses. The research showed the lens coatings would be used for people that wear glasses to reduce eye strain. So, Vision Express brought out that product and I was quite intrigued by it, but I didn’t wear glasses. At the time Cass Business School had a competition called CitySpark. You had to submit an idea and I thought the blue light blocking lenses were really cool but wondered how I could make it something that I and others can use. That planted the seed of the idea.

So, I got a brand together, called it iSleepEasii and I launched the concept at CitySpark. Having entered and won the first stage, I went through to the second stage. They invited 50 tech entrepreneurs and asked which business they believed in out of the 10 that were shortlisted, essentially based on whether they thought it was a feasible finished product and if the problem it addressed was big enough. Fortunately, I won and was given about £3,500 to start the business. It was a dream come true.

While completing my undergraduate degree and running the business on the side I’ve sold over 20,000 units, been featured on Forbes, The Telegraph, The Guardian and have both the Welsh Rugby team and West Ham United players are using our products.

What have been some of the challenges?

Dhruvin: Running the business whilst studying and working was a real challenge. Now it’s more about finding new areas for growth and scaling the business.

Asad: Reinvesting cash, thinking about cash flow. And managing Dhruvin to a certain extent. Dhruvin is very ambitious, so I help to make sure the brand is focused and delivering the right message. It’s important that we’re spreading the right message in a market that is just developing.

Dhruvin: Yes, talking to people about an innovative product in an immature market is an interesting challenge. But awareness is growing around blue light and the issues it poses in people’s lives. We’re also showing people that they don’t have to use colour-altering apps to protect their eyes from blue light – they can use Ocushield and see better results without having a clouded or discoloured screen.

What have been some of the rewards?

Dhruvin: Just the whole process of having an idea, researching it, developing it and bringing it to market. The opportunity to help people in their day to day lives is really special. When we receive positive reviews from happy customers it makes it all worthwhile.

Asad: The development of the brand. Making sure it has a warm message, the right art direction and tone of voice. It’s been exciting to see this brand develop into a company which has something fresh to offer, delivering an innovative product which resonates with people.

Asad Hamir (Optometry, 2007)

Asad, why did you want to invest in Ocushield?

Asad: Whilst we are both alumni there are aligned interests. It’s telecoms, I know telecoms. It’s eye health, I know eye health. I’ve built businesses in both of these spaces. When you’re involving yourself with a new business, it’s important to look for ways to bring your expertise into play in the most impactful way possible. I see that opportunity in Ocushield.

Dhruvin: There wasn’t a need to grow the business because it was cash flow positive. Asad saw the vision and it was refreshing to have someone’s input who is in the area. Someone who can add value with their expertise. The investment is smart money because Asad knows the space. When seeking investment, go for smart money.

Asad: For the investor you’ve got to do your research. Immerse yourself. Be passionate. A lot of the entrepreneurs need someone to bounce off of. If you’re investing, think about the return. Don’t be afraid to challenge the person you’re investing in. Don’t throw in your investment and hope for the best.

Dhruvin: I think the person that is investing has to have a proven track record. You should be able to admire and respect what they’ve accomplished. Also, have open ears to feedback when collaborating.

Do you have any advice to someone looking to start their own business?

Dhruvin: As a bootstrapper, I’d say don’t think too long about executing. If an idea is stopping you from sleeping or you can’t get it out of your head for a few weeks, get started. Speak to people, see what they think. Then take it day by day, eventually you’ll be headed in the right direction.

Asad: Identify the problem and solve it. Think about how you are going to bring it to market.  Think about the content, the product, the packaging, the purpose and the margins – ultimately you need to make money.

What’s next for Ocushield?

Dhruvin: Turnover has doubled since I went full time on the business after qualifying as an Optometrist, and we’ve spent this year redefining the product, brand and vision. We’ve also developed a computer screen privacy filter which we’ll be targeting towards businesses and individuals who feel a need to maintain privacy in the workplace – especially with recent data protection laws coming into place.

It will be available when we relaunch the Ocushield brand during National Eye Health Week this month. We’ll also be showcasing the brand at Employee Benefits Live at the Excel Centre in early October.

Asad: The focus is now turning Ocushield into a national and then an international company – the leader in digital eye health awareness. No one is leading this conversation, and it’s something people need to be thinking about and addressing. We want to secure big player retailers and work with the medical sector. The aim is to get Ocushield into every household. We really want it to bang!

Ocushield are currently seeking to recruit a Sales & Operations manager. If you would like to find out more about the role, please email

For updates on new products and the upcoming exhibition, you can follow Ocushield on Twitter, IG and Facebook: @Getocushield

See their website for further information:



Student Support – Lesley

City Graduate School.

Our Student Hardship Fund is there to support students who find themselves in situations where there is a real danger that they will not be able to complete their studies. In the past year, your generosity has allowed us to award financially struggling students a record number of 155 hardship grants. Without this help, many of those students would not have been able to continue with their degrees.   

Students such as Lesley. Even undertaking a degree was a daunting decision for her.  Chronic illness and severe financial difficulties meant that Lesley did not follow a traditional route into Higher Education. Home-schooled and with no GCSEs or A Levels under her belt, Lesley nevertheless excelled when she eventually plucked up the courage to undertake an Access to HE course, achieving a Distinction.  This gave her the confidence to apply to City and pursue a BSc in Psychology.

However, without the award from Student Support which has provided the financial help that has allowed Lesley to pay her rent and get by, she would have had to drop out.  Her ongoing illness which led to the retaking of her first year had drastically slowed her down, but she is now ready to undertake her final year, with a real shot at achieving a First.

Lesley is now more optimistic about her future, with ambitions to continue her education when she graduates and eventually pursue a PhD in neuroscience.  “As well as chronic diabetes I also have Hypothyroidism and there is a significant lack of research regarding how different genetic variations effects thyroid treatment and its effect on brain activity. This means that there may be patients that are unknowingly prescribed the wrong medication, much like I once was. I want to explore and conduct research in this area, particularly brain activity in those with different genetic variations when on and off T3. I believe that if you become aware of something that needs to be changed, why wait for someone else to tackle them.  As for my degree, I just wouldn’t have been able to continue without the help of Student Support.  Thank you so much to those alumni who have supported this cause.”

This is what the Student Hardship Fund is all about.  Not only making sure that students complete their degrees, but sending them out into the wider world to do amazing things.  Every single one of your donations is an investment in society. 

Aphasia CommuniCATE Project

City Future Fund.

One of the biggest successes of this year has been the CommuniCATE Project.  Your generous donations have enabled us to continue this vital initiative, helping stroke survivors overcome the loss of their ability to speak, read, write and understand language. 

Aphasia is an acquired language disorder affecting approximately a third of people who survive a stroke and is caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control language.  It can be life changing for those who experience it, impacting their relationships with family and friends, their ability to work, and to engage in social activities and hobbies. Over 400,000 people in the UK experience aphasia, putting many of them at severe risk of isolation and mental health issues.

The project brings together three strands:

  • Research to find out if using technology in therapy can improve language and communication in people with aphasia, and if there are wider benefits for social participation and quality of life;
  • An online conversation service for people with aphasia, using Skype to help reduce social isolation that is experienced by many stroke survivors;
  • Supporting skill development in NHS clinicians and our students.

Indeed, it’s not only benefiting those who experience aphasia …

City student Ellie Hatch, who is studying for a MSc in Speech and Language and Communication, is working on the CommuniCATE Project as part of an internship.  One of the strongest motivators that she has encountered in her role, is seeing the joy on people’s faces as they get to grips with the life enhancing technology that the project works with.  Clients who are sending their first emails to their family, and being present at that moment and getting to see the reactions on people’s faces, is incredibly inspiring.

Ellie told us why the project matters so much.  “We are very much living in a modern world and technology is heavily integrated into the lives of most people. And the impact of using technology to support communication is often effective immediately.  Unlike traditional therapy, clients may enter the clinic for their first therapy session and will have written a text to a loved one an hour later, something they may not have done since their stroke. Typically, adults that have strokes tend to be older and therefore may not feel confident or skilled enough to explore different technologies.”

Every day that Ellie spends on the project is a day that is spent looking forward to building strong and impactful relationships with the patients.  The sense of achievement that she gets from this, confident that she is making a massive difference and with the knowledge that everyone who comes through the door will leave happier, is enormous.  She really wants to see these tools and this software taken out into the wider community and will advocate for this in the roles that she undertakes after graduation.

As Ellie says “Those alumni and friends who are supporting the CommuniCATE Project are making such a positive impact on so many people.  For my own part, and what it means for my experience, I cannot thank them enough!” 

Student Support – Teodor

City Future Fund.

Our Student Hardship Fund is there to support students who find themselves in situations where there is a real danger that they will not be able to complete their degrees. In the past year, your generosity has allowed us to award financially struggling students a record number of 155 hardship grants.  Without this help, many of those students would not have been able to continue with their studies.   

Students such as Teodor. Coming to the UK to take up his hard-won place at Cass and undertake a BSc in Business Studies, he put in long hours both with study and the part-time job that allowed him to get by.  Money was always going to be incredibly tight, but his financial situation was thrown into jeopardy at the beginning of his final year, when he was struck down by severe tonsillitis which, following surgery, was exacerbated further by complications brought on by numerous infections.  Unable to leave the house to work or study, Teodor found himself in a desperate situation.

Cass’s Student Hardship Fund saved the day, and quite possibly Teodor’s degree. Allowing him a period of grace so that he could recover, and helping pay off the bills that were accumulating, Teodor returned to his studies refreshed and ready for the vital final year of his degree.

Teodor can now carry on with the next stages of his plan.  He wants to complement the financial and economics elements of his BSc with a postgraduate degree in Politics, which would allow him to seek out a position working for the EU, an organisation that he is passionate about.  Teodor told us: “My ten year plan probably lacked one thing, a financial safety net.  However, the Student Hardship Fund provided that safety net, allowing me to get through my illness and its complications, and then fully focus on the incredibly important final year of my Business Studies degree. Thank you so much to all the alumni who supported this.”

This is what the Student Hardship Fund is all about. Not only making sure that students complete their degrees, but sending them out into the wider world to do amazing things. All of your donations are an investment in society. 

The Vicar’s Picnic – Kent’s Biggest Little Festival 

Cass Business School News.

Our alumni go on to do some pretty extraordinary things after they graduate from Cass Business School. Philip (Phil) Keeler (Executive MBA, 1993)  is no exception. Having “retired” from the City six years ago, Phil now co-organises the ‘biggest little festival’ in Kent. Here Phil tells us about his time at Cass and the upcoming Vicar’s Picnic. 

Can you tell me about your time at Cass?
The time at Cass was a challenge as I was working full-time as Head of IT at a major investment company, having two young children and still managing to complete the Evening MBA.  However, it was worthwhile as it allowed me to develop the business understanding and skills that I needed to further my career.

Phil Keeler

What happened after you graduated?
I was head-hunted by another investment company to manage the integration of a business that they had acquired, which then evolved into a business product management role for an outsourcing business.  The MBA allowed me to move out of a technical IT focus into business management which a specific focus on business stagey and business transformations.
What has been the most rewarding experience, in your career?

Taking responsibility for a complete business transformation working with the management to agree the business strategy, designing the operational and systems solutions and then managing the three-year transformation process, which was completed on time, close to budget and the program was also recognised by winning a national innovation award.

What are you involved with now?
I “retired” from the City six years ago and have undertaken a number of interesting part-time consultancy assignments, with a focus on helping small companies through supporting their management or providing coaching and mentoring to senior people.

About The Vicar’s Picnic:

The Vicar’s Picnic is back with an outstanding musical experience held in the picturesque setting in Yalding between Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells in Kent.  The Kent’s Biggest Little Festival in Kent takes place on the banks of the River Medway on Friday 20 and Saturday 21 July 2018, which will be the sixth year that the festival has been held.  The festival is run by a small group of volunteers with the aims of providing a true value for money experience.  We aim to provide a great weekend for first time and regular festival-goers from both the local community and from further afield catering for the needs of all ages so that everyone can experience a wide range of musical acts within a safe environment.  In 2016 the Vicar’s Picnic was short-listed as finalists for two national festival awards.  Last year we sold out of tickets prior to the event and had a total of more than 3,500 people for what was acclaimed to be the best Vicar’s Picnic yet.  This year the headline acts on the stages will be Fun Loving Criminals, Star Sailor, Cast, Nine Below Zero and in the dance tent we will have Norman Jay MBE, Mr Doris, Nightmares on Wax, Crazy P and many others.  As always all the profits from the festival will go to local charities, which this year are Dandelion Time, Kenward Trust and the Yalding Supper Club.


For more information about The Vicar’s Picnic, or to purchase tickets, please visit:

The Economy of Words

Alumni Stories.

In 2011 Peter Sainsbury (Economics, 2000) started writing a blog about economics and financial markets. Six years later he has published not one but two books. Here he tells us what inspired him to start writing. 

Can you tell me about your time at City?

I studied for an economics degree at City, graduating in 2000. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 18 years since I left!  I loved my time at City and the great thing about it is the people that I met. My best friends from my time at university remain my best friends now. We’ve moved to different parts of the world, have started families and gone in directions which we perhaps couldn’t have foreseen. We rarely get to see each other now but when we do it’s a good reminder of how far we’ve all come since meeting at university.

What happened after you graduated?

During my last summer holiday before leaving university I was lucky enough to find out about an opportunity to work on trading simulations for the nascent electricity commodity market. The consultant organising the 6 week event had posted adverts in London’s universities, including City asking for students to act as ‘traders’ trying to make money buying and selling electricity. It was great fun and sparked the idea for my final year dissertation. The experience also sparked a broader interest in commodity markets.

I graduated in 2000 and went to work for a start-up company trying to revolutionise the world of energy procurement. My knowledge of electricity trading was starting to become useful. It may sound quite simple now but at the time the industry was dominated by quote by fax machines which then had to be individually entered into a computer. While working in a small start-up isn’t for everyone, you do get to do almost everything and (hopefully) see how a company goes about growing.

I then went onto to work for an energy market consultancy specialising in oil, gas and petrochemicals. Again it was a very small business, only about 10 of us, each with responsibility to cover one part of the industry. It was there that I focused on the supply side of the oil market; everything from understanding the motivations of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), to what factors affect the long term decisions of oil production companies.

Since then I’ve gone on to the world of recovered materials (think scrap metal and recycled plastics). Another commodity market!

How did the idea for your book come about?

I always enjoyed writing but never really thought about the opportunity that it would present by taking it seriously. In 2011 I started a blog about economics and financial markets with the idea that I would help investors think better about the decisions they made. My website Materials Risk focuses on commodity markets and tries to highlight opportunities for investors in areas that other research has neglected. Although the motivation has been to help other people, the very act of writing has helped me to better understand my own investment process too.

And then in 2014 I noticed that a number of the other bloggers that I followed had written and published their own books on topics relating to investment. So I thought, well I could do that. What’s stopping me?

In late 2015 I published my first book, “Commodities: 50 Things You Really Need To Know”. It’s really an introduction to commodities and commodity markets to help beginners and people with an intermediate level of knowledge. I’ve had some great feedback from private investors and investment banks that have used the book to help them and their colleagues get up to speed on commodity markets.

My next book was called “Crude Forecasts: Predictions, Pundits & Profits in the Commodity Casino” and was published in late 2017. When I was researching for topics to write about one theme kept coming back to me that was gnawing at me. Individual investors and indeed whole economies had been taken in by the prospect of rising commodity prices and part of what kept that narrative alive was the forecasts from investment banks and other pundits in the financial media. I decided to do something about it, to try and bring those forecasters to account, and at the very least make it clear to individual investors what incentives were at play.

What has been the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge is probably that moment half-way through writing a book when you sit down to write and start to question whether it’s really worth carrying on. Is anyone actually going to read this? Is it even any good?

Recently I found a quote by the nature writer Rachel Carson who said, “If you write what you yourself sincerely think and feel and are interested in… you will interest other people.” To have put in the hours day after day to write a book you must have found the subject very interesting. You, as I, are unique but we also have common interests that aren’t all that unique. If you write for yourself you will certainly find other people who will also find it interesting. And that knowledge can sometimes help to motivate you to carry on.

Now more than ever it’s possible to find readers with interests just like you. Not so long ago authors had to go through traditional publishers and chances are they would not be interested in what you had to offer. Now it’s much easier to capture those longer tail readers who the traditional publishers neglect.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

Other than the day that my books are published, or I see them in paperback for the first time probably the most rewarding experience is talking about my work and getting positive, constructive feedback. Of course whenever you get that feedback it’s important to use it to promote your work even further.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Go for it, experiment, start small and just work from there. Whatever you do in life is a process, and if you don’t enjoy that process or get a kick from it then maybe try something else instead. But you definitely need to know that focusing on the long term requires practice every day. And writing is no different to any other pursuit.

You can follow Peter on Twitter: @PeterSainsbury7

Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2018


Congratulations to the following alumni and staff who have all been named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2018

Mr Huw Thomas
Auditor General For Wales, Wales Audit Office
Administrative Sciences MBA, 1971
Commanders of the Order of the British Empire
For services to Public Audit and Accountability in Wales.

Mr James Law
Professor of Speech & Language Sciences, Newcastle University
PhD Clinical Communication Studies, 1993
Order of the British Empire
For services to Speech and Language Therapy.

Professor Jane Marshall
Divisional Lead – LCS, City, University of London
PhD Speech and Language Science
Order of the British Empire
For services to Education in Health Sciences.

Dame Janet Vitmayer
Former Chief Executive Officer, Horniman Museum & Gardens
MA Museums and Gallery Administration, 1990
Dames Commander of the Order of the British Empire
For services to Museums and diversity.

Professor Jennifer Temkin
Professor, The City Law School, City, University of London
Commanders of the Order of the British Empire
For services to Criminal Justice.

Dr Kathryn Adie
Presenter (former chief correspondent for BBC News), BBC Radio 4
Honorary Doctor of Letters, 1989
Commanders of the Order of the British Empire
For services to Media.

Professor Kenneth Grattan
Dean of Graduate School, City, University of London
Order of the British Empire
For services to the Science.

Ms Mary Morley
Director of Therapies, South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust
MHM Health Management, 1998
Order of the British Empire
For services to Occupational Therapy.

Dr Ruth Caleb
Chair, Mental Wellbeing in Higher Education
MA Psychotherapy and Counselling, 1996
Member of the British Empire
For services to Higher Education.

Mr Thomas Ilube
CEO/Founder, Crossword Cybersecurity
Finance MBA, 1988
Commanders of the Order of the British Empire
For services to Technology and Philanthropy.

Professor Tong Sun
Senior Lecturer, SEMS, City, University of London
BEng Electrical & Electronic Engineering, 1999
Order of the British Empire
For services to Engineering.

Image credit:

When Bernd met Sarakshi…

Alumni Stories.

When Bernd Debusmann Jr. and Sarakshi Rai (MA International Journalism 2014) enrolled at City in 2013, they had no idea that within a week they would meet the person they were going to marry! Here they tell us how they went from City students to lifelong lovebirds. 

At what point did you meet first?

Bernd: We first met about a week into the MA course – I was actually organising and collecting money for a massive class get-together to celebrate Oktoberfest at a nearby German pub near Old Street. It was a very short and rather terse initial encounter with Sarakshi walking away thinking I was quite cold and unfriendly – she later realised that I was just being shy at the time.

Where was your first official date?

Bernd: While we had a couple of ‘unofficial’ dates walking around Islington, Angel and Shoreditch on the weekends, our first proper date was spent sitting by Regent’s Canal with wine after a classmate’s party, just talking for several hours without realising how late it had gotten. A few months later I surprised her with a trip to the Shard at sunset with champagne, which I suppose would be when we were ‘officially’ together.

Did you do coursework together?

Sarakshi: We worked together on some class assignments, and then together as two of four class representatives for our MA programme. It was at City that we first realised that we had quite a good working team and we’ve collaborated on several published works since. We actually still work at the same company in Dubai, the second job in a row where that has been the case.

How many fellow City people were at your wedding?

Sarakshi: We had 11 classmates at our wedding, coming from all over the world. They travelled from the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Venezuela, the US and Cyprus.

Did your families meet at Graduation and how awkward was that?

Sarakshi: No – we both had new international jobs at the time so we weren’t able to fly back to London for graduation. But, funnily enough, one of our closest friends from the MA course FaceTimed us throughout the ceremony so that we would feel like we were a part of it. Our parents met for the first time without us in Washington DC, and had a great time. They clearly didn’t need us to make formal introductions. They’d also already been chatting and planning the wedding through social media for months before they met.

How have your lives changed since graduating?

Bernd: We’re married! And have a lovely apartment in Dubai, and we get to travel quite a bit through our jobs, which is always exciting. We’ve also expanded our understanding of different cultures and make it a point to see as much of the real Middle East as we can to understand the geopolitical situation in the region better.

Tell us about the proposal

Bernd: It was six months after Sarakshi arrived in Dubai (I came a year earlier than her while she was working in India). I had made a secret trip to the US to buy the ring, unknown to Sarakshi, and while she was spending the day at the beach with her friends, I decided to cook dinner (only the second time I’ve cooked since we’ve been together).

Sarakshi: At this time his apartment overlooked Dubai Marina and the Dubai skyline, where he set out candles and a bottle of wine. After a lovely dinner, he got down on one knee and asked.

Where was your honeymoon?

Sarakshi: We went on a ‘mini-moon’ to the Maldives right after the wedding in India. But we’re planning a more extended honeymoon in Mexico and Cuba later this year. Bernd’s German-Mexican and has lived in Mexico for years, and I’ve never been there. So it seems apt.

What would you like to tell yourselves as freshers?

Sarakshi: If we’d known we would be in the Middle East, we’d have started learning Arabic a long time ago. Also, don’t worry about finding a job.

Did you have a City ring as your engagement ring?


Anything else from your story that you would like to share?

Bernd: We’ve made some great friends along the way at City who we sometimes meet once a year and who we love very much, and who we wish we got to see more of! Luckily for us there are a lot of City weddings coming up around the corner.

Sarakshi: Even before we started dating, we’d explore secret corners of London on foot and discover a new spot every weekend. That set the tone of the rest of our relationship and now we spend our free time exploring different corners of the world albeit by planes now!

Scholar Spotlight: Pearce Watson (MBA, 2014)

Scholar Spotlight.

Pearce and his wife Kate

Pearce Watson is a recipient of the Pettman Scholarship. Here he talks about the impact the scholarship has had:

My name is Pearce Watson and I completed my full-time MBA at Cass in 2013/14. I chose the course because I’ve always wanted to complete an MBA and, having had seven years experience as a rural banker back home in New Zealand, it seemed a good way to prepare for the next step in my career.

Completing the Cass MBA gave me the added nuance of doing it with over forty different nationalities in my cohort – and no other Kiwis (or Aussies)! This has given me a network all over the world and lifelong friends that I otherwise would never have crossed paths with.

My time at Cass was pretty intriguing. It had all the interesting aspects of any other MBA, but the central London location and diverse range of cultural and occupational backgrounds made it pretty unique. For me, the easy access to continental Europe was also an advantage as it allowed me to also enjoy overseas experiences during my time in the UK.

The scholarship I received from Barrie and Maureen Pettman was the difference between doing the MBA in London or in New Zealand. It allowed me to justify living unemployed in London while studying an MBA, whereas without it I would have chosen to do the course back home. So really, the scholarship allowed me to complete a course ranked in the top 40 in the world instead of one back in NZ which would’ve been outside the top 100.

Since completing my MBA I spent two years trading dairy futures on the NZX, as well as working with the exchange to launch a new futures contract to help the NZ dairy industry manage price risk. I’ve recently moved to a new role as Head of Assets for a $500m farming group. This gives me oversight of all development, sustainability, value add projects and new acquisitions. The business has a direct connection to our key consumers in China through our ‘Theland‘ consumer products, selling over 50m litres of milk and other products there each year.

Future-Proofing Finance

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

weiyenWeiyen Hung (MSc Finance 2010) has been appointed as Chair of the T level Financial Panel in the Legal, Financial and Accounting route, as part of the Department for Education’s commitment to reforming post-16 technical education. We spoke about how it happened, and why you should get involved too.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

I really enjoyed my time at Cass, it was a wonderful experience. I was only there for a year which was short, but it was a really transformational year for me. I joined straight after my undergraduate degree in Taipei, Taiwan where I did my BBA and then I wanted to specialise in Finance. Cass was a really eye-opening place as I finally had the opportunity to get a taste of the heart of the financial centre. It’s not just about the facilities though but also about the quality of the course and the students, as well as the support from the staff. I had a fantastic year.

What did you do next?

I graduated in 2010, and the market then was not the best. I’d been hearing lots of horror stories in the few years before so I was luckier than them. I had been trying to get a job since I arrived in London the August before my course started. Finally in July, which was my last month in the country, I was about to give up. Thankfully, finally they came to fruition and I had four job offers. I started work at Fitch Ratings where I worked for nearly four years as a Securities Analyst. Then after that I moved to my current employment at the Bank of England.

How did you get involved in the Technical Education Reform Panels?

It was a long journey to join this panel as Chair, and I did many things beforehand. I have always been ambitious and as part of my job I have always looked for more training to gain more qualifications and improve myself. I worked towards becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst Charterholder because I really got into qualifications after doing my Masters at Cass, because of the way you learn there – it’s very structured and effective.

So from doing this I got into financial education and after I qualified I decided to volunteer as with the Chartered Financial Analyst Society of the UK (CFA UK). I first joined the panel for the Investment Management Certificate where we were tasked with looking at the pass rate, curriculum, and what we expect graduating students to know at level three and level four after being on these courses. Here I learnt how to maintain a high level of standards.

That was the starting point, and when I stepped down in early 2017 I asked myself what else can I do? This opportunity came up with the Department for Education to be on the panel for level three T qualifications. I applied to be a member, as this looked like great next level for me to develop my skills. So I applied and then I was awarded the Chair from the start! I think it was my prior experience that gave me that position on the panel.

I was not involved in the recruitment of the rest of the panel, which was all handled by the Department for Education. It’s a diverse panel comprising all the stakeholders, including professionals, working bodies, educational experts and trade. It’s a good mix and I’m very fortunate to lead them.

What is the panel for exactly?

Students in the UK at age 16 have three choices. The first is the academic route (A Levels), which is the route about 40-50% of students take. The next option is an apprenticeship, which is highly specialised on-the-job training. Here you spend 80% of your time on the job and 20% in the classroom. The third route are technical qualifications, where you learn a vocational qualification through training. This route is the least structured, with thousands of courses to choose from.

Just as an example, if you want to become a plumber there are 33 qualifications to choose from. That makes it very difficult to work out which course you should do, which is best for you, which has the best prospects. It’s clear to the Department for Education (DfE) that this sector is not in the best place and that it can perform much better. It’s not much benefit to a student if the course they are on doesn’t lead to a promising career. So, following recommendations from a review undertaken by an independent panel, chaired by Lord Sainsbury, the DfE has appointed these panels and we are trying to help advise the whole sector on what they need to do better to support this third option, the technical level.

What does the future of this project look like?

Each panel is made of around 10 members who will work together to outline what the minimum standard is that 16-18 years olds should be learning. The question to answer will be where can this Level 3 T level programme take you? We are looking at progression into the jobs market as well as towards other routes like academic qualifications or higher education. We want to help open up the future and keep doors open. We want to make sure that what the course covers doesn’t prevent students from either going into the job market or more study – by primarily ensuring that what they do will prepare them best for the sector.

For example, at Cass, you can do MSc Corporate Finance. Taking the course is not the same as doing the job but it is about learning the things that will help you get the job and to learn how to do the job when you have it. On a T-Level qualification 20% of the time is a work placement so you get a real taste of the job, but 80% is spent in the classroom so you get that excellent standard. For me it’s about that threshold for when you walk out the door, making sure you can go on any path in the future.

Why should other alumni get involved?

I would say pretty much all Cass alumni would have things to offer here. It’s a good way of making things happen, as well as to give back and get involved. If you work in a sector it’s great to think about all the routes people could take to get there, and how you could use your knowledge to help them do that. It matters because we’re talking about the future of all of our sectors. The urgent question is how do you get the next generation to learn the right things and gain the right skills? Answering that helps everyone. It’s all about attracting the next wave of talent to the City.

In this first phase the panels are established and producing the outline content for the T levels which will be delivered from 2020 and 2021. The next phase is to expand the sectors, for delivery from 2022, including into business administration, health and beauty; a whole range of areas. Many Cass alumni will have something to offer here, so please get involved!

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!
Favourite place in London: City of London
Favourite holiday destination: Beijing
Must-check every day website: FT
Dream travel destination: South America
Cheese or chocolate: Chocolate

Find out more about the reforms here and see the full list of panels here. Find out how you can get involved here.

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.

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