By Stefan Grob, MSc Banking and Finance student
The official programme of this study trip commenced with a visit to the Ernst & Young building, located directly adjacent to fascinating Tower Bridge. Mark T. Flanagan (a director with Ernst & Young) provided an insight into his assessment of the future of financial services, followed by the presentation of the students’ seminar papers. Content-wise, this involved comparing the Swiss financial centre with the British one, digitalisation plus Brexit and its consequences - an omnipresent topic nowadays.
Led by Prof. Dr. Andreas Dietrich, a panel discussion for the purpose of evaluating the study course lessons followed. This provided students with an opportunity to impart their experiences and suggestions to the Head of Studies to help continuously develop lessons further.
On Tuesday afternoon, it was time for further student presentations. One group introduced London as a centre for FinTech companies and looked into the success factors of the London ecosystem. In concluding, some other groups introduced developments and perspectives in the crowd lending market and in digital asset management by banks in Great Britain.
To find out some more about the historic background of the City, this was then followed by a guided Financial History tour. In the knowledge that the volumes traded at the London Stock Exchange are gigantic, the participants were quite astonished to discover how modest in size the physical trade centre of this stock exchange is.
In the afternoon, there followed a guided tour through the new UBS building - an absolute highlight. This building was constructed in the summer of 2016 for an investment of some £1.35 million, and offers a host of technical innovations. Thanks to the enormous capacity of this new construction, it houses some 5.500 employees working in this building. With an in-house GP practice, gym and massage facilities, UBS are also looking after their employees’ wellbeing. The innovative desk sharing concept was another fascinating discovery. As a Formula 1 sponsor, the USB London branch had the honour of exhibiting Lewis Hamilton’s racing car, too - a photo opportunity nobody wanted to miss.
After this visit, a number of exciting talks by different speakers were next on the agenda. Vishank Patel (a Managing Director of UBS) hosted this afternoon, introducing the investment banker Jason Barron (Global Head of Equity Derivatives at UBS Investment Bank), who not only spoke of his impressive career, but also of USB’s strategies and challenges.
There is probably nobody better placed to discuss current developments in the UK FinTech scene than Stephan Küster (Head International Consulting) of TechCity UK. TechCity, providing the interface between the authorities and start-up companies, champions the causes of FinTech companies and runs negotiations for liberal regulations benefiting their interests. In his presentation, Küster described the opportunities and challenges encountered by FinTech companies. He demonstrated for instance that the scaling of further markets and regions were a cause of difficulties faced by many FinTech companies, and that they can then rely on support by TechCity UK. He also mentioned that the start-up scene in the FinTech sector currently offers more vacancies than those provided by the rest of the labour market.
In conclusion, Mr Ken Burell (Managing Director at UBS) and Richard Wiggs (Director at UBS) focused on process excellence as supported by information technologies. In their presentation, they demonstrated how it is possible to optimise processes and support organisational units with the help of robotics.
After an afternoon full of high-quality insights, findings and information about the British finance sector, we hungrily set out to enjoy our evening meal together at an Indian restaurant. The students then insisted on visiting some local pubs and clubs to celebrate the end of their semester together.
After a long night, the participants next met up for another highlight of this study trip. At the Julius Bär bank, we were greeted by David Durlacher, CEO of Julius Bär UK & Irland. Using concrete examples, he demonstrated how important psychological skills and empathy are in private banking.
The official study trip programme then ended with a visit to Metro Bank. Andrew Richards (Head of Regional Retail Banking) introduced this up-and-coming retail bank with their above-average growth rates to us. He explained how Metrobank knows just how to address retail customer needs and avoid just about all of those “stupid banking rules”. By this, he was alluding to such things as opening hours, bringing your pets along and free-of-charge coin counting services.
Full of impressions and inspirations for the studies and future career, we eventually set out on our individual journeys back home.
The Master of Science in Banking and Finance course offered by the Lucerne School of Business commences every September and is being run at the Institute of Financial Services Zug IFZ. Information on the master's programme can be found here.