#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.


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

By Dr Atul K. Shah

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.

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.

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.

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

What does Graduate+ mean for employers?

The Suffolk Business School at UCS has developed a new extra-curricular award for our students: Graduate+. Graduate+ is our Graduate Management Development Programme, designed to help students enhance their employability. Here at the Suffolk Business School, we are dedicated to creating Business Ready Graduates – business professionals who are able to contribute to their organisation and community from the moment they start their course.

The Suffolk Business School offers a unique student experience, blending academic study with practical experience with the industry. Graduate+ supports that learning experience, by helping to develop self-efficacy, self-confidence, and self-esteem (Darce Pool & Sewell, 2007) among its students.


What do the students do for Graduate+?

When recruiting new staff, there are a set of core skills that employers usually look for: communication, organisation, teamwork, flexibility, commercial awareness, critical thinking, motivation, drive, and confidence (among others).

Graduate+ helps students become more aware of these skills, and helps them develop and communicate them to others. Students are encouraged to get involved in extra-curricular activities, such as academic and employability workshops, business networking and employer events, internships and work experience. These are documented on a Professional Development Record (PDR), and students are encouraged to reflect upon how these have helped in their personal and professional development.

At the end of the year, students submit the PDR alongside a Professional Development Plan (PDP) for the following year, a CV, and a short reflective statement discussing how they feel they have engaged with their chosen career and industry throughout the year.

The Graduate+ award will then appear on a students HEAR: Higher Education Achievement Report:

The Higher Education Achievement Report Introduction from Higher Education Academy.

What does this mean for employers?

The recruitment process can be long, and differentiating between good candidates difficult. The purpose of our Graduate+ award (and the HEAR) is to help make it easier for businesses to find the right person for the job. You will have a clear and concise record of a graduates abilities beyond the academic – their communication, motivation, initiative, and organisation.

Graduate+ helps students to demonstrate their skills and strengths. It offers them a chance to document their achievements, making them easier to talk about in applications and interviews, while also building their self-confidence – making them more likely to be motivated to succeed in your organisation.

The 'CareerEDGE Model' (Darce Pool & Sewell, 2007)
Graduate+ can help businesses differentiate between graduates to help them choose the best employees for their organisation.

How to get involved

There are a number of ways that employers can get involved with Graduate+.

  • Sponsor a Graduate+ Award: Recognition for exceptional achievements is an important part of building the self-confidence of our graduates, and we already offer a number of awards at Undergraduate level, including ‘Best Dissertation’ and ‘Best Overall Degree’. We are always looking for businesses to help us recognise talent, and would greatly appreciate offers of sponsored awards for Graduate+
  • Offer work-placements, internships, and shadowing experience: Graduate+ requires students to engage in industry relevant work experience, and we are always happy to help facilitate paid work-placements and internships, and shadowing experience
  • Seminars, workshops, and talks: Part of the development programme involves students networking with businesses, learning more about the industry, and gaining commercial awareness. UCS hosts a number of employer events throughout the year. If you would like to become involved, or run your own event, please get in touch.

Contact: Suzanne Nolan, Lecturer in Employment Development at s.nolan@ucs.ac.uk or call on 01473 883 507.