#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.

Jainism and Ethical Finance

The world is reeling with the tsunami of finance – complex, confusing, overpowering and fraudulent. And now we have Trump to add to all this. There is a real shortage of different cultures and perspectives of finance – and nothing about the Jains. Finance is a core subject in thousands of business schools all over the world. Even The Economist recently noted that the Gujaratis and the Jains are the worlds most successful entrepreneurs. Given the unique philosophy of the Jains, and their wide and sustained success in finance, Aidan Rankin and I have written this new book by Routledge to help change the study of finance, and show students all over the world that different cultures of finance exist, are possible and above all, can bring a sustained spirit of contentment and success. It is published by Routledge and comes out in April 2017. It provides radical and timely new theoretical insights into the arid and turgid desert of finance which is highly transactional and exploitative. Here is the Routledge website where you can order it. If you wish to read a summary of the book, then click on this link here.

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The reason we wrote the book was because we are concerned to help the world and heal its wounds, like all of you. The book is nearly 200 pages long and contains Jain perspectives on typical finance subjects like profit, ownership, markets, investments, risk, return, debt, dividends and valuation. It also explains the basics of Jain philosophy and its relevance to the business world. There are stories and examples from true life stories of Jain businesses, current and historic. On this page, we would like to hear your comments and suggestions about how this book can be promoted widely. We are willing to speak about it at educational institutions and also our priority is to get it reviewed widely in blogs and media all over the world. There is a plan to do a UK launch event and one in India and perhaps also USA and Kenya if we can get partner interest. If you wish to review it for your own blogs or websites, or newsletters, then you are most welcome to do so.

 

TESTIMONIALS

This book provides a fascinating and detailed insight into a relatively unknown culture and code of ethics. I am sure it will help inform the corporate governance debate in the West.

Professor Janette Rutterford, Open University

Mere self interest and short termism has proven to be a catastrophic failure in finance. This books shows a very different and wise proven alternative – sustainable and ethical. –
Satish Kanabar, Former Director, Barclays
Jain teachings date back 5000 years to Northern India. Today, these teachings support a non-theistic religion, offer a practical living philosophy, and provide a set of values that inform the lives of some ten million Jains worldwide. Shah and Rankin explain how the Jain values of Anekant (respect for the views of others), Ahimsa (non-violence in action, speech, and thought), and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) can offer a useful guide to responsible business practices. The authors provide numerous examples drawn from the Jain business community. The examples are offered both as an anecdote to an overly arid and typically incomplete orthodox view of business activity and as a useful supplement to contemporary thought on sustainability and corporate social responsibly. The ideas are interdisciplinary and holistic and should appeal to a wide audience, including sociologists, business ethics scholars, accountants, bankers, economists, and business people generally.

Daniel T. Ostas, J.D., Ph.D., James G. Harlow, Jr. Chair in Business Ethics, Michael F. Price College of Business, University of Oklahoma, USA

Jainism and Ethical Finance represents a groundbreaking divining rod for the 21St century’s most pressing moral imperative: a guide to wise restraint and the simultaneous embrace of compassion in everything that human beings think, intend and do. Atul Shah and Aidan Rankin have written a treatise that clearly elucidates the underpinnings of a moral universe that is at once revolutionary –in the best sense- and crucial to the future of humanity and of all biodiversity on this precious earth.

Michael Charles Tobias, President, Dancing Star Foundation, USA

In the face of widespread public distrust of modern banking and financial services, Shah and Rankin examine the enduring business practices of the Jain community and find hope for the future. Eloquent, timely and packed with wisdom.

John Christensen, Director, Tax Justice Network.

 

Our vision is that in time, Jain Business and Financial Ethics become an important part of business education all over the world. This will help people understand that not all problems require new solutions – some of them have been there in our past, but we have forgotten them today. It will also showcase a practical role model of how business can be performed differently and still bring sustainable success. If anyone would like to help us realise this vision, through events or sponsorship, we would be glad to hear from you.

Please contact Dr. Atul K. Shah if you have any queries about speaker requests or how this book can be read and discussed all over the world by students and business owners and professionals. We are also available to speak about the book at Universities or public events. It would be great if you could post your suggestions below so that the whole world can see what you think about this perspective and its possibles. Perhaps you would like to add your own story about how you apply Jain ethics in your business and professional life?

Post-crash innovation in financial education – Suffolk leads the way

By Dr Atul K. Shah

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Suffolk Business School students with Dr Shah at Guildhall

At the Suffolk Business School, unlike so many British Universities, we take the real world seriously. Please read this piece we wrote in the Guardian which explains why and how we are so different. And the real world of finance has crashed and is continuing to crash with massive frauds, awful unethical leadership and an appalling culture. We therefore take our students onto the real world of finance, including its history, and the City of London is a great reservoir of global financial history. Many of the world’s financial innovations such as the stock market, central banking, Lloyds of London insurance, pensions, derivatives – took place here. Did you know that at one time there were also 102 churches in this square mile – showing that for a long time, faith and finance were closely entwined, although today, faith is very far from finance? Our expert tour guide Marilyn Greene, did an excellent job in talking students on a guided walk through the iconic buildings, stories and history of one of the oldest financial centres in the world.

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ICAEW experts Dominic Sheehy and Laura Barber explain the benefits of professional life

We were then really excited to be hosted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, our training and professional partner, who gave us a delicious lunch and then explained what professional work and training can do for students. This is one of the oldest professional bodies, with a global reputation, and Laura Barber and Dominic Sheehy gave an excellent presentation on the great opportunities that awaited our students – in terms of skills, training, professionalism and fair rewards for their work. Also from the ICAEW, Francesca Sharp, led a brilliant workshop on the UN Global Development Goals and Sustainability for our students.

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Suffolk Business School students learning about professional ethics

I then wrapped up the event by doing a reflection on what they had learnt in class about finance, and the huge importance of culture and ethics, including history, in understanding the discipline of finance. In our feedback survey, the students rated the trip as an outstanding experience overall, with a majority giving it a maximum 5 rating, something which will be very memorable for them for a long time. Student Roberta Kondraite said: ‘It was a truly beautiful and memorable experience, learning about this history, professions and institutions of finance.’ The trip also enhanced their motivation to learn, and made them familiar with the real world of finance. The high towers will not scare them anymore. Culture and ethics lie at the very heart of finance.

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Tour Guide Marilyn Greene sharing history with our students
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Inside Moorgate Place