Meet London Business School’s MBA Class Of 2021

MBA candidates in front of London’s Tower Bridge

“DIVERSITY IS IMMEDIATELY FELT”

The class is also “dynamic and diverse,” says Frederika Pardoe, with students coming from a wide range of industries and job functions. Prateek Gupta prefers “multifaceted” in describing his classmates. He notes that it is hard to stereotype anyone, with classmates who range from “a banker who is a cricketer to a family business owner who is also a musician.” To that list, Nicholas Rudder, an Australian investment banker, tacks on “an ex-Israeli Defense Force drone operator, a Japanese supply chain entrepreneur, and a retail specialist looking to launch a new shoe brand.”

“There are always a few interesting sides to everyone,” Gupta adds.

That’s exactly how LBS is set up to be, says admissions director David Simpson. “Our diversity is our lifeblood. It’s what we do and why students join LBS. It’s not about collecting nationality flags, but about how we make our diversity work. We recruit students who we believe will thrive in and contribute to a culturally and professionally diverse cohort within a globally-focused programme. As a result, we are looking for balanced, collaborative, driven students, who recognise that the most effective learning comes from working with each other, as well as our expert faculty.”

That diversity also extends to nationality, where 9-of-every-10 students have been raised outside the United Kingdom. LBS is a place, in the words of Jess Harcourt, where “diversity is immediately felt.” Indeed, you could label the London Business School as the United Nations of the MBA universe. Here, says Prateek Gupta, no nationality comprises a majority, meaning the class discussions are never skewed to a particular cultural perspective. In other words, diversity is as much a mindset as a demographic at LBS argues Allie Fleder, a 2019 P&Q Best & Brightest MBA.

DIVERSITY SPARKS INNOVATION

LBS students studying in the cafe

All of the top schools tout their widely diverse student bodies…but at LBS, that’s not just a claim: diversity is a way of life. No one at LBS thinks about business simply in terms of their home country’s domestic market; here, people think about business across borders – and the responsibility that we as business people have in making a positive impact on the world.”

That global approach is baked into both the structure and curriculum of LBS. Robbie Wiedenmann, a 2019 P&Q MBA To Watch, recalls his first week at LBS, where his study group featured students from Australia, India, United States, Ghana, Brazil, and Germany. Once the group got passed the awkward introductions, he explains, “the six of us have learned from each other, raised the bar on our academic achievements, and challenged our outlook on life.”

This sense of diversity becoming a force multiplier is exactly what Pierre Bize craved for his MBA experience. “I have traveled extensively and, since graduation, have worked and managed teams in eight countries over four continents. I learned that multicultural environments are the best places to develop your skills and open your mind to different approaches, expertise, and contexts. I see LBS as a place that creates diversity and brings innovation, while combining talents and cultures, and I am fully aligned with these values.”

FINANCE SCHOOL? NOT REALLY

Beyond the day-to-day, the Class of 2021 will gain additional international tools through the Global Business Experience, an LBS tradition where students spend a week outside the UK to engage with large and early-stage companies, business and political leaders, and LBS alumni. “[This] is so important to me,” says Dr. Chidi Amadi, “because I will have the opportunity to implement the frameworks of “the LBS way” in unfamiliar territory and different markets around the world (A choice of seven: South Africa, Israel, India, China, Peru, Myanmar or Brazil) whilst learning from different cultures and extending my base of knowledge. As the motto boldly declares: To have a profound impact on the way the world does business.”

That’s not the only travel that students can enjoy. Sarah Miller is looking forward to being part of the Expedition Club, a great way, she says, to bond with classmates. If that’s her goal, she won’t be disappointed according to 2019 alum Brady Dearden. “I have had a great time with my friends on the Expedition Club,” he writes. “I hiked Kilimanjaro last November with four great LBS friends. Last September, we also completed the “3 Peaks Challenges” in which we hiked the three highest peaks in Scotland, England, and Wales within 24 hours. And I am excited the adventures will still continue…I am hiking to Everest Base Camp with fellow LBS students this May.”

The London Business School’s DNA may be international, but its reputation is finance. That’s right: LBS – like Columbia Business School and Chicago Booth before it – has been tagged with the dreaded “finance school” label. In many ways, the tag pays homage to the program’s academic prowess and alumni lineage, which includes the co-founder of Capital One and former CEOs of Shell and Jaguars. Fact is, LBS is far more diversified and entrenched across industries. Take the Class of 2018. Among these graduates, the largest segment – 37% – entered consulting. Even more, tech and finance accounted for the same percentage of placements: 23%. At the same time, the top four employers for consulting – McKinsey, BCG, Bain, and Strategy& – snapped up 100 graduates. The four-largest in finance – Bank of America, CDC Group, Credit Suisse, and Goldman Sachs – recruited just 17 grads.

FORTUNE 500 MIGHT AND STARTUP SPUNK MEET

Among the 2018 Class, 28 students launched startups. That’s one area, says 2019 grad Allie Fleder, where LBS is truly moving into a league of its own. “I have found that the school has incredible resources for people like me who are interested in the startup and entrepreneurship space. They range from professors who have decades of experience in angel and VC investing to the school’s annual hackathon and incubator. And, of course, London itself is an incredible startup hub, and the global leader for FinTech. Regardless of Brexit, it’s a pretty hot place to be if you’re interested in the startup world. And LBS has the right connections with entrepreneurs, incubators, and VCs across the city to make it easy to navigate around.”

Aerial view of the London Business School

These days, London is the place to be for entrepreneurship. Last year, larger London tech startups attracted $2.3 billion dollars in investment. That’s twice as large as similar investments in Berlin (and nearly three times better than Paris). Last year, the city crowned 13 billion-dollar unicorns alone – not to mention launching another 5,000 tech ventures – with names like Deliveroo, Truphone, and Monzo increasingly gaining traction in the marketplace. Beyond that, the area itself boasts 75% of the Fortune 500 and headquarters 100 of the 500 largest companies in Europe. To put London in perspective, the metro alone maintains a GDP that’s comparable to Saudi Arabia or The Netherlands.

This concentration of industry, coupled with deep-pocketed investors like 24 Haymarket and accelerators like The Bakery, make London the place to make an impact.  “London has New York’s urban diversity, LA’s concentration of media, film, TV and creative industries and Washington DC’s proximity of government, all in one place” said Joanna Shields, Group CEO for BenevolentAI, in 2016.

LIMITLESS CHOICES

Outside of commerce, London is a melting pot that includes people from 300 nationalities. At the same time, it is home to cultural landmarks like the Natural History Museum, Tate Museums, and the Royal Opera House. Such benefits make London one of the best cities to devote two years to earning an MBA. It is a venue, says Natalia Estupinan, where you can “wake up and walk around the river, have a picnic at one of the parks, run around Little Venice, eat some curry at one of the markets, and go to concerts, exhibitions and the pub.” In other words, London is the total package, blending the big possibilities with the small joys that make for an unforgettable experience.

“London has always been on my radar,” writes Pierre Bize. “I always wanted to explore and live in this dynamic and diverse city. I like the city’s balance between its cultural mix and its rich ecosystem uniting business, finance and innovative industries. Also, being one tube station away from a multitude of companies and job opportunities is an important factor to take into account during the MBA. Not to mention, the city has limitless choices in terms of social, art, music and sport events.”

Not only is it limitless, adds second-year Nikki Gupta, but London is also highly accessible. “Being in London means that introductions and networking are not surface level activities,” she writes in a P&Q column. “You can grab a coffee with the startup founder you met on campus a few weeks later; you can meet the CEO of that amazing social impact VC company and ask to learn from his team; and you can even just ask your future boss if you could do your summer internship at their very cool EdTech company. It is not just within reach; it is inherent to how this remarkable city works.”

IF YOU CAN’T FIND IT HERE…IT DOESN’T EXIST

Like London, LBS is always evolving to meet student and marketplace demands. One of the ways the program does this, says David Simpson, is through new programming. One recent addition to the school’s electives portfolio, he tells P&Q, is the ‘Managing and Financing the Responsible Business’ (MFRB).

Student study area

“As an institution, LBS profoundly cares about “The way the world does business, and the way business impacts the world,” he explains. “MFRB is a genuine implementation of this vision. Taught by Ioannis Ioannou, Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, and Alex Edmans, Professor of Finance, the course addresses corporate responsibility from both an internal (i.e. corporate) and external (i.e. capital markets) perspective. The course explores how companies’ adoption of responsible business strategies and practices (in association with the investment community’s shift to account for Environmental, Social and Governance factors in investment decisions) may help to address some of today’s global challenges effectively. It aims to shift students’ thinking about the position of business and finance in society and arm them with the skills to design, implement and evaluate innovative responsible business strategies directed at creating sustainable long‐term competitive advantage.”

‘Digital Investing’ is another new course that the Class of 2021 can take. “As digital’s importance continues to increase, LBS is committed to positioning itself as a leader in that space,” Simpson adds. “‘Digital Investing’ is consistent with this ambition and reflects the significant global demand for knowledge regarding how to invest in digital companies.”

Those are just two more FOMO-inducing options for the Class of 2021 to weigh. Still, LBS’ wealth of opportunities is far better than the alternative, adds Diego Vega Jenkins. “If you can’t find what you’re interested in at LBS and you can’t find it in London, there’s a very good chance it doesn’t exist.”

What led these professionals to enter business schools? Which programs did they also consider? What strategies did they use to choose their MBA program? What was the major event that defined them? Find the answers to these questions and many more in the in-depth profiles of these incoming MBA candidates.

DON’T MISS: MEET THE MBA CLASS OF 2021: THE GO-GETTERS

MBA Student Hometown Undergraduate Alma Mater Last Employer
Dr. Chidi Amadi London, UK King’s College London NHS (National Health Service)
Pierre Bize Lisbon, Portugal Grenoble Ecole de Management PEGAfrica
Natalia Estupinan Popayán-Cauca, Colombia Universidad Externado de Colombia Corona Foundation
Natalia Fomichenko Moscow, Russia Financial University Oliver Wyman
Prateek Gupta Bhopal, India Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee McKinsey & Company
Jess Harcourt Spring Grove, PA Penn State University Clinton Health Access Initiative
Sarah R. Miller Rancho Palos, CA Northwestern University Apple
Frederika Pardoe Johannesburg, South Africa University of Cape Town Amulet Diamond Corporation
Nicholas Rudder Sydney, Australia University of Sydney Macquarie Capital
Francois van der Merwe Bloemfontein, South Africa University of Stellenbosch LOU Rugby
Diego Vega Jenkins Lima, Peru University of Texas at Austin La Pepa
Bonnie Yiu Sydney, Australia University of Technology Sydney Consulere.io

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