#SBSStudents: Finance for all? An insight into the world of money, power, and poverty

By Anna Hinds, BA Accounting and Financial Management Student

Last week was a real eye-opener into the true world of finance for both the first and second-year students at the University of Suffolk. The true identity of finance was revealed in the form of two field trips for the second-year students, one of which we were accompanied by the enthusiastic first-years, who rekindled our excitement for the subject that we are studying.

The week started off with the second-year students paying a visit to the Ipswich Citizen’s Advice Bureau, a UK charity specialising in advice and support for people in all kinds of difficulty, from debt to bills to unemployment and benefit support. A detailed and informative workshop was delivered to us by Nelleke, who quite clearly explained to us the role of the CAB; their aims as a business; and what they help their clients to achieve. It was also made explicitly clear that they are non-judgemental and confidential, which is of particular importance to their clients, so that they feel confident and have no shame in asking for help when it is needed. The CAB is a free advice service (a charity), which is indirectly funded by taxpayers to provide a free service to the user. The two main aims of the organisation are to: give help to people advice for any problems that they face; and to seek change and influence decision makers. In a modern society where we are continually fighting for equality, should a charity organisation have to beg those in government etc. to change the laws to make things fairer for those who are at the bottom of the social hierarchy? I wonder.

PHOTOS: Left to right: students at a CAB workshop; students at the ICAEW listening to Martin’s presentation; on the City of London tour, taking in the scenery and architecture.

We were also given a task on debt to complete, which highlighted serious consequences to us that we were unaware of – including the fact that a £1,000 fine is incurred for not paying a TV licence. Leaflets and budgeting programmes were also received which is used for clients to help maintain their money; this was particularly useful for us as well.

The second field trip, despite starting out on a dull, cold, and wet journey into Liverpool Street Station, was soon turned around with the awe-inspiring buildings and architecture of the City of London as we embarked on our tour of the square mile, giving us a brief, but informative overview of the City’s history and quirky facts too. The guide was the talented historian Marilyn Greene, who used to work for the Victoria & Albert Museum and is a professional historian. The huge sky scrapers and modern yet historic feel of the city oozed out the feelings of wealth, power, and knowledge, making us students feel somewhat medicore in comparison. Our trip to the City was further extended by a visit to the ICAEW, where they kindly provided us with lunch and refreshments, before delivering presentations to us, one of which by Dominic Sheehy explained what it entails to embark on our journey to becoming a fully-fledged ICAEW Chartered Accountant. This was followed by another presentation by Martin Martinoff, which even though it may have been less formal, definitely left food for thought, and much room for discussion and debate about the culture and ethics of modern day finance, including: what is our goal? Why do we want to be accountants? Is there room for accountants in the future?

The day ended with a brief but relaxing meditation session with Professor Atul Shah, the organiser of the whole experience, which enabled us to reflect on our journeys in life, ranging from our school memories, up to the present day. This exercise helped us to think about our futures after graduation, and what it is that we are striving to aim for.
Overall these two field trips have given us invaluable experiences, and have undoubtedly taught us a lot. On a personal level, it has struck a huge reality check for me; the stark contrast between organisations such as the CAB and big central banks in the City, where it is extremely clear that more than ever before, the contrast and gap between the rich and the poor in this country is huge – and what can we do about it? Will we ever see the time when a bank opens its doors to teach the financially illiterate how to understand mortgages, APR rates, and even the basics of finance, or will we have to keep relying on small charity organisations such as the CAB to pick up the pieces that these larger organisations have created and dumped onto society?

For more information on our Accounting and Finance degrees, please see our website.


Secrets of Jain Business Success Revealed

By Dr Atul Shah, Course Leader in Accounting and Financial Management at Suffolk Business School.

One of the world’s most successful business and finance cultures, the Jains, revealed their ethics and culture in a new research study completed by Dr. Atul Keshavji Shah and Dr. Aidan Rankin, based on thirty years of community work, engagement and dialogue. Titled ‘Jainism and Ethical Finance – A Timeless Business Model’, this 176 page book published by Routledge was launched globally at the University of Suffolk in Ipswich at a special event on Tuesday 25th April 2017. Speakers at the launch included Dr. Bharat Shah, the CEO of Sigma Pharmaceuticals, whose business history is featured in the book, and Jain Nuns Samani Pratibhapragya and Samani Unnatapragya from Jain Vishwa Bharti.

Book display

The book elaborates on the Jain theory of business, showing that the focus is on good and sincere efforts and service, with conduct which is not selfish or greedy and founded on building good long-term relationships with customers and suppliers. In his speech, Dr. Atul Shah, who has a PhD from the London School of Economics and is a Senior Lecturer at Suffolk Business School, explained how modern accounting and finance education is divorced from faith and culture, and as  a result is the cause of untold damage and inequality in the world. Given the huge urgency of sustainable business, the world needs to learn from ancient wisdom traditions who have a multi-generational track record of success. The Jain Nuns explained how Acharya Tulsi and Acharya Mahapragya constantly emphasised ‘anuvrat’ the need for clear vows and discipline in business conduct. Dr. Hedley Swain, Director of the Arts Council, chaired the event and explained how critical it was that Britain learnt from diverse cultures, and allowed them to speak in their own voice. Dr Bharat Shah explained how Sigma’s business growth was organic, and respect for customers and suppliers is critical to their culture. Key strategic decisions were taken after a dialogue with the inner soul, which is different from rational calculation and logical analysis.

The book has already received outstanding testimonials from academics from all over the world including Professor Prem Sikka, Professor Dan Ostas, Professor Janette Rutterford and Professor Al Bhimani of the London School of Economics. Mr Dhiraj Shah, General Secretary of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh explained that this book makes a profound contribution to the western crises in business ethics, opening a new dawn of research drawing from the vast ocean of knowledge that is India. Prof David Collins, Head of Suffolk Business School explained, ‘Dr Shah’s account of finance and ethics is both, unique and interesting because it builds upon an appreciation of the knowledge and experience of the Jain community. The book, therefore, offers a fascinating account of the Jains and builds upon this in-depth appreciation to demonstrate the ways in which this practical philosophy secures an holistic appreciation of the ecology of business and finance’.

The book is available as hardback or an e-book from Routledge or Amazon.

#SBSStudents: Suffolk Business School Helping to Improve Financial Literacy

By Dr Atul K. Shah

Finance today is a complex arena, and sadly there have been far too many experiences of fraud and deception such that a majority of ordinary people are fearful and have lost trust in experts like bankers, lawyers and accountants. Here at the Suffolk Business School, we have been very concerned about the ethics of finance education, and have always tried to help our student experience by organising field trips and inviting visiting speakers. Here are some examples:

We took the initiative to contact Ipswich Citizens Advice Bureau to help our students to understand the kinds of finance challenges people faced, and how the CAB tries to advise and support. We were welcomed by their Deputy Manager, Nelleke van Helfteren. They ran a workshop for the students explaining the services they provide, how they help people with a range of problems, debt being the most common, and she also ran some interactive quizzes for them. The whole visit was a huge eye-opener, as modern finance textbooks used in business schools say nothing about personal finance and the huge problems of financial fraud and financial illiteracy. By default, they prove that the lives of the ordinary and the marginal are irrelevant for the study of ‘high finance’ – the highly technical, complex and fraudulent variety which sadly prevails today.

Two of our students, Kameliya Yankov and Teodor Georgiev were so impressed that they have applied to be volunteers at the CAB. We are following up the visit by setting a class assignment for them to reflect on the experience and what they learnt from it.

Here is what Nelleke van Helfteren, Deputy Manager of the Ipswich CAB said to me:

“It was such a delight to meet your students and I found it very stimulating to look at our service through the eyes of Finance and Accounting students and to paint a picture of what money means to many of our clients. It is so important for people working in the financial sector to understand how our personal finances feed into so many aspects of our lives – health, relationships, housing, employment to name but a few. The evidence that we gather in the course of our advice work demonstrates this very clearly.

It would be great to meet you and talk about how we can work together in the future to ensure your students at many levels are well-educated in the impact of finance on individuals going about their everyday lives.”

We were very impressed by the service the Ipswich CAB provides free of charge, and the quality of their training and management. They also seemed very cost-efficient, proving that businesses are not the only efficient organisations on the planet – in fact charities can be even more efficient. Above all, we found their ‘holistic’ approach, which tries to engage with the whole person, very synonymous with our approach to finance education here. Like them, we too respect the students as whole beings.