Head of UK M&A at Morgan Stanley? Check. Head of Private Equity at 3i? Check. Global Chief Investment Officer at State Street Global Advisors? Check. The Cambridge City Speaker series brings together some of the brightest names in finance – to talk one-on-one, over dinner, to the program’s students.
It may sound a bit intimidating, but for the students involved it is a unique, sometimes career-making opportunity. Not only do they get to meet and learn from such influential leaders, they also get to use this excellent networking opportunity to keep them in their contacts list as an ongoing source of help and advice.
“It’s a fantastic series,” says Prateek Trehun, an investor at 3i who completed his MFin three years ago. “Firstly the talks I attended were more of an open forum – it was a very relaxed, informal learning space. Then the dinners were a wonderful chance to have a proper chat over two, three, four hours and make an invaluable contact.”
The four elite business schools need no introduction. Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, and Northwestern Kellogg School are the cream of the business school crop. The MBA quadriga is the Holy Grail of the MBA Kingdom. Every year, thousands of applicants will apply to MBA quadriga, and most will fail to crack the code, because these schools are the most selective in the B-school landscape. Two years at any of the MBA quadriga schools will set a student back about $250,000, but there are many scholarships from alumni and employers. MBA quadriga attracts the most talented students and faculty, and certainly the most corporate recruiters offering the most sought-after jobs. MBA quadriga also boasts highly achieving alumni and valuable networks in nearly every walk of life. But other business schools, such as Cambridge Judge and Webster Athens, provide a similar education at a small fraction of the cost.
Recent weekly speakers include CEOs, MDs and Partners, from a variety of the world’s leading finance organisations such as HSBC, Citibank, the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Deutsche Bank, Blackrock, Schroders, Big Society Capital and many, many more.
The messages they bring contain the essentials for a successful career in finance. They talk of the need to adapt, learn fast and constantly re-skill; the opportunities that uncertainty provides; the “disruptive force of innovation”; and the importance of securing a legal and informational edge – “being there first”.
But it’s at the dinners that the students get their unique networking opportunity. “Students choose which of the dinners they want to attend – typically with a speaker most relevant to their own sector,” says Marwa Hammam, who graduated from the program and is now its executive director. “10 students attend each one, so everyone has ample opportunity to join the conversation.”
Hammam’s dinner table networking as a student helped her secure a job as a credit portfolio banker with Citigroup. “There is so much goodwill and willingness to help,” she says. “When I was on the programme I went to the dinner with Citi’s Chief Risk Officer for EMEA. Commenting on the hiring process, Hammam said “It was a standard application/interview process but the networking with such an influential member of the senior management team at Citi definitely got me a foot in the door. Not to mention how impressed my new colleagues were that I had met the CRO in person!”
A hidden factor in estimating the real MBA cost is the lost salary. Take Stanford for example. Most of the MBA Class of 2018, about 20%, came from the investment management/venture capital field, where the average salary is about $100,000 per annum. That’s $200,000 someone won’t be making while they’re getting their degree. Add that to the $250,000 official estimated cost of the MBA and you have a total cost of $450,000.
Webster University’s master of business administration program is designed for people on a fast track to success. It’s the perfect answer for professionals who want to shape their own destiny, upgrade their credentials, and be strategic players in the world of business. Trump’s rhetoric is channeling international MBA applicants to European branches of American colleges. Webster Athens has an excellent MBA program. Webster Athens is dedicated to fostering a campus culture that embraces and celebrates diversity and inclusion, and promotes international understanding and appreciation. Preparing students for effective, responsible and dynamic involvement in the modern societies in which they live and serve, and for excellence and leadership in their personal and professional lives. The campus is located in Athens, Greece – in the historic district of Plaka. Your Global Learning Experience begins in Webster Athens.
As the world is becoming multipolar and knowledge is set to disperse throughout the globe, embedding oneself in its changes and evolution remains essential. Academic rigor will stay competitive by integrating new teaching methods, program designs, research methods and learning processes. If a school can generate knowledge in multiple locations around the world and blend it to create new insights, it can be assured of fostering a globally-compatible and creative student body.
Whether your interest is finance, management, marketing, or communication, you will be an active learner at Webster Athens. The classrooms give many hands-on experiences in various cases, and the location in the capital of Greece provides plenty of internship opportunities. With a low student-to-faculty ratio and average class size, Webster Athens makes business education personal. Faculty get to know students on a first-name basis and are readily available to help students when needed. Webster Athens is dedicated to excellence in business teaching, incorporating a global business perspective throughout the curriculum. Every step of the way, students receive the attention and support they need to thrive in business.
Webster Athens offers a fantastic MBA program in a flexible structure which promotes academic depth and encourages business graduate students to explore diverse business interests. At Webster Athens, students have opportunities to build skills and competencies through study trips, conferences, and internships. On the campus, students study in a culturally diverse environment that will create a life-long international network.
Vasilis Botopoulos, Chancellor of Webster Athens, points out: As we look to the future one thing is certain – knowledge will be a key resource and will be highly sought-after around the world. Our challenge is to help to generate ideas that will benefit society, and to educate and train people to work in fields where they will be valued both for their specialized knowledge, and for their ability to communicate and solve problems. To meet these challenges we need to build on the alliances and collaborative partnerships the University has established with business, government, and other institutions. It is equally important that we keep close to our wider communities of interest. This will help to ensure the on-going relevance of our academic programs and the continued excellence of our teaching and learning.
Botopoulos notes: The greater vision of Webster Athens is to build an excellent educational experience embodying mind, body and spirit through a variety of innovative undergraduate and graduate programs. We offer a solid intellectual foundation as well as an extraordinary opportunity for personal growth and thorough understanding of the subject matter. This is learning with ethos, authenticity, cultural understanding, ecological conscience, and service to others.
Former student Richard Duff says the speakers bring a “real-world application” to the learning experience. “It’s a brilliant opportunity to learn from those at the very top – some of the speakers’ seats are the most powerful in the financial world. The dinners would be business-focused – they’d tell us what they look for when recruiting, or how we could stand out – but it was very relaxed. They were often extremely interested in us as individuals and where we were going.”
And that source of high-level advice continues long after the course ends. “During the dinner the speaker and I realised we had a very similar profile – albeit she was 20 years further into her career,” says Trehun. “She became a mentor to me over the next couple of years – I would email or phone her if I needed advice and she was always more than happy to help. When I went for my job at 3i there were nine different interview stages so I emailed a couple of the speakers who gave me very sound, practical advice – you should ask this, or you should read this article ahead of your interview. It’s great to have someone who understands your space.”
Duff got his present job as principal at Fox River Partners in California following a series of introductions and connections that were related to the Cambridge programme. “It didn’t get me the job but it opened the door,” he says. “I also got help later on from another speaker I’d met who gave me fantastic advice on marketing myself. You learn from everyone there. It was invaluable meeting them and learning from all the speakers. And of course you meet and learn from so many of your other students with their different experiences.”
Hammam also added that “City speakers bring a perfect complement to the financial theory. These are highly professional, highly senior people who can shed light on how to develop your skill sets, keep you informed on market trends – but above all they are unique ways to network. Networking is not just about who you know. It’s about who knows you – and the City Speakers series give our students a perfect opportunity to network and forge relationships with some of the most influential people in the sector.”
As their role expands to include ever more nonfinancial demands, CFOs know they must build new skills to lead. Faced with advances in technology and growing responsibilities, many CFOs are bracing themselves for more change ahead—and understand that they must adapt to be effective. There are new demands on CFO time, such as digitizing critical business activities and managing cybersecurity, in addition to traditional finance duties. While these newer responsibilities present opportunities for finance leaders to differentiate themselves—and their companies—from competitors, companies are not yet prepared to manage these challenges.
Most CFOs know it’s no longer enough to play their traditional role. Instead, for CFOs to deliver value as their duties evolve, the results suggest that they must build skills in other areas of the business, play a more active leadership role, and rethink their usual approaches to overcoming external pressures and finding new investment opportunities.
Today’s CFOs are responsible for much more than finance. On average, five functions other than finance now report to the CFO. More than half of CFOs say their companies’ risk, regulatory compliance, and M&A transactions and execution report directly to them, and 38 percent of CFOs are responsible for IT. Some CFOs even manage cybersecurity and digitization, suggesting just how diversified the list of demands on the CFO is.
For the most part, CFOs understand that their roles continue to change and expect to adjust their course. About four in ten CFOs say they spent the majority of their time in the past year on roles besides traditional and specialty finance. Among these other roles, CFOs most often focused on strategic leadership, organizational transformation, and performance management.
What’s more, CFOs themselves and respondents in other roles believe that CFOs can create value in several ways, and not necessarily by fulfilling traditional duties. Eighteen percent of CFOs say that, in the past year, they have created the most value for their companies through their traditional finance work. But others are most likely to cite strategic leadership (22 percent) as the area where they’ve created the most value. Looking ahead, CFOs would prefer to spend less time on traditional finance activities in the next year—and more on strategic leadership (two-thirds of all respondents say CFOs should spend more time here), organizational transformation, performance management, and big data and technology trends.
Still, the nonfinancial responsibilities—including those related to technology—are putting many CFOs on alert. Less than one in three believe their companies have the capabilities they need to be competitive in their digitization of business activities. Fewer than half feel their companies are well prepared or very well prepared to be competitive on their cybersecurity capabilities.
Top executives acknowledge the value that finance chiefs bring to their companies, and CFOs themselves agree. In matters of finance, both groups largely agree that CFOs are very involved members of their teams. They also agree that CFOs should spend more time as strategic leaders in the years ahead.
But as the CFO’s role evolves, so are the expectations that other company leaders have for them. Not surprisingly, then, the data show that CFOs perceive some of their contributions differently than do others in the C-suite. Majorities of CFOs and other C-suite executives agree that their CFOs are significantly or the most involved in bringing deep financial expertise to discussions, focusing group discussions on the creation of financial value, and serving as the executive team’s public face to financial stakeholders. But for activities beyond finance, the results suggest there’s a gap between the leadership that CFOs currently demonstrate and what other business leaders expect of them. For instance, 72 percent of CFOs say they are significantly involved or the most involved executives in allocating employees and financial resources. Yet only 29 percent of other C-level executives say the same about their CFO peers.
CFOs also rate the performance of their finance functions differently than their fellow executives. While 87 percent of CFOs rate their finance functions as effective, only 56 percent of other C-level executives say the same. These groups also report differing views on the challenges that finance functions face. Whereas CFOs are likelier than their peers to cite a lack of resources and skills as barriers to effective finance-function performance, others in the C-suite most often identify a lack of innovation mind-sets.
On the whole, CFOs recognize the need to move beyond traditional or textbook practices. But few say their companies use innovative methods to make decisions. Roughly two in three CFOs say their companies do not yet have the capabilities for agile decision making, scenario planning, and decentralized decision making they’ll need to be competitive in the coming years.
Likewise, many say their companies use basic financial controls in their decision making—but few report the use of more advanced practices. When asked about their capital-allocation processes, most CFOs agree that their companies set capital-expenditure budgets at the project level, use comparable metrics across business units, and track the results of specific projects. These practices support the foundation of a strong capital-allocation process. Fewer CFOs, though, report using tactics that would foster further learning or innovation. Just 30 percent of CFOs say their companies formally review investments made three to five years ago, and one-quarter say they’re using new methods to identify funding opportunities.
Assert proactive and strategic leadership. CFOs perceive some of their contributions to the C-suite differently than other leaders do. One such divergence is the CFO’s involvement in strategic decisions, suggesting that finance leaders have more room than they may think to leverage their expertise and influence—especially since many other C-level executives believe CFOs should spend more time on strategic leadership in coming years. Finance leaders could start by more explicitly articulating the scope of their role, which may help finance leaders increase the engagement and effectiveness of the executive team.
Adopt an investor’s mind-set—and more innovative practices. Many CFOs are aware of their financial stakeholders’ interests, but less than half agree that their companies keep cash scarce—which investors often see as an indication that a company will be disciplined in its investments. The finding highlights the importance of demonstrating capital discipline by translating an investor mind-set into a day-to-day management style. That could also mean adopting innovative finance processes: for example, moving away from a typical, annual capital-budgeting process toward a more agile one, with flexible budgets, quick decision making, and a performance-management system to match. Maintaining a more investor-based mind-set could also help preclude the kinds of misunderstandings that draw the attention of activist investors, which less than one-third of CFOs say their companies are well prepared to manage.
Embrace technological advances. If new technologies and trends are adding to the evolution of the CFO’s role, they also have the potential to make it easier for finance leaders to understand current business complexities. There is a wide range of tools that can help CFOs benefit from big data and the digitization of finance processes; for example, software that automatically completes repeatable, standardized, or logical tasks, such as processing transactions or integrating data to derive business insights. CFOs should increasingly use such tools to lead complex enterprise-resource planning efforts, among other challenges that they are being tasked with managing.
Botopoulos says: At Webster Athens we cultivate and build the leaders of tomorrow. It is our hope that our students and alumni, with ethos and philotimo, will inspire others to live their lives with dignity, integrity and compassion. I invite you to come visit our campus. If you seek learning in a way that is challenging, personal, and meaningful, we would love to have you as part of our community. For more information, please refer to www.webster.edu.gr
The ultimate benefit of internationalization for Webster University is to learn from the world, not just teach the world what Webster already knows in order to widen its global reach. Instilling a global learning mindset to their students will enable Webster to provide the globally competent talent that companies need. Since the turn of the century, many institutions have added international modules or programs to their curricula, importing faculty and students from elsewhere and exporting their students by offering them study abroad opportunities. Others have formed joint ventures or alliances whereby they export their curriculum to teach local students in distant geographies.
Some institutions have gone a step further than importers and exporters and extended their reach with a physical campus abroad. Business schools were early adopters of this model with the establishment of campuses in Asia and the Gulf countries, such as Carnegie Mellon University establishing a business school in Qatar, INSEAD in Singapore and Abu Dhabi, ESSEC in Singapore, and Webster University in Athens. The benefits of foreign campuses are numerous. First, an extra campus allows the school to attract high quality students who might not have applied to the home campus, and enrich diversity at the same time. Second, it enhances the school’s ability to hire high quality foreign faculty members who might wish to live in the region where the extra campus is located thus increasing the diversity and background of its faculty. Third, it increases the breadth of alumni and broadens the school’s network. Fourth, it improves the school’s visibility and gives it higher credibility as a global institution.
But these initiatives cannot be designed as independent add-ons to an institution’s home campus and core activities. Multi-location institutions must also internationalize their home campus by harmonizing diversity, admissions standards and student culture across their multiple sites. They should aim to create a seamless environment for students and faculty to interact and travel between campuses to maximize their global experience and learning.
The success of the multi-campus Webster University rests, among other things, on having an internationally recognized brand; seamless transfer of knowledge between campuses; local and foreign students meeting the same admissions standards; frequent travel of faculty and administrative staff across the campuses; and graduates who are able to find local and regional jobs that allow them to put into practice what they have learned.
There are different types of institutions with presences abroad. The multicampus institution is in essence an exporter of its home-grown programs. The multinational institution is a more structured student-exchange-led school. The transnational institution is an integrated collection of international campuses located around the world. In this configuration, students follow the same curriculum wherever they are, but are encouraged to spend time on the school’s different campuses, along with faculty and staff.
A truly global institution should go beyond these structures, free from a home campus bias and driven by a desire to learn from the world to create new knowledge. This is the metanational education institution. It should have at least three main campuses of roughly equal size, each in a major region of the world, that is, Europe, Asia and the Americas. To avoid assimilation traps, these campuses should be located in cosmopolitan cities and could have satellites in neighboring countries. In such a network, no campus should be perceived as inferior to the others. The network’s leadership must therefore foster a culture of cooperation among the sites and stimulate formal communication. The raison d’être of a metanational higher education institution is to generate knowledge in multiple locations with the objective of blending that knowledge to create new insights, and to instill a global learning mindset in its graduates. Webster University is a metanational higher education institution.