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Learning from the rapidly changing international business and education environment: a month of extracurricular lectures, events, workshops at IBS-Plekhanov: key events and an overview.
Here at Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, we keep inviting speakers from major international companies and partner universities worldwide. What is in it for our students?
Just over a year ago, at QS World Employability Rankings Launch in Geneva, the plenary started with a quotation from Alvin Toffler: 'The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.'
A very strong data analysis competence, adaptability and resilience were mentioned among the top qualities most in demand with employers, while often underestimated by both universities and their graduates.
At Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, we take the message seriously. IBS-Plekhanov, the faculty which pioneered truly international education in this country, takes extra efforts to present its students, international and national alike, with a series of events by a number of international speakers, with both academic and business backgrounds, to show the new developments in the dramatically changing international business environment, at a number of angles. These may add to, but also challenge the body of knowledge already acquired by students within the curriculum.
The deliberate exposure to a number of external views ignites curiosity and the desire to learn more, and even more importantly, reinforces the analytical ability of our students.
Within any single month at IBS-Plekhanov, there is always a good choice of international events to learn from. November 2019 has been particularly exciting, though.
On the 6th and 7th, professors from Hof University of Applied Sciences, Bavaria, Germany, Michael Spoerl (Professor International Taxation) and Dr. Heinz Goehring (Professor Financial and Managerial Accounting) delivered a short extracurricular course of lectures and seminars in their areas for 3rd year IBS-Plekhanov students of Finance.
This course started with lectures and seminars in Comparative International Taxation by Professor Michael Spoerl, and continued with lectures and seminars by Professor Heinz Goehring in Financial and Managerial Accounting.
Both professors from our partner university in Bavaria provided meaningful insights into theory and practice and discussed highly instructive cases of international companies operating in a number of markets. These real-life cases, particularly the ones focused on transfer pricing activities of international companies, raised a number of controversial questions. How much is the difference between what is legal and what is ethical? How far can multinational companies go in optimizing, "legally" reducing the taxes they pay in the countries where they operate and actually make a lot of profit? How do countries respond to that?
These workshops not only stimulate students of Economics to revise and understand the theory and the concepts, but also encourage to apply them, to make sense of the new cases and developments in the areas of Finance and Taxation. These spheres, sometimes stereotypically perceived as "boring", proved to be exceptionally exciting, and the atmosphere captured by photos of small group discussions in workshops is breathtakingly motivating.
Here is the feedback by Valeriy Siris, a 3rd year student of Economics (Profile Finance and Credit) at IBS-Plekhanov: "The course on International Taxation and IFRS provided by German professors was extremely intriguing. It is simply indispensable for students who want to recall the material regarding accounting, for those who are eager to broaden their horizons by obtaining data on international taxation. Eventually the person who attended these lectures and learned about the IKEA and Apple cases will become more flexible in a highly changing world, and be ready to deal with the sophisticated IFRS and taxation issues in the future. The course was definitely worth attending!"
On 19th November, a grand scale lecture took place, thanks to our many years' cooperation with Banca Intesa, particularly because of the continued support of Professor Antonio Fallico, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Banca Intesa, for business education and for the quality of IBS-Plekhanov programmes. The top management of Plekhanov Russian University of Economics provided all its support for the event, too. Dr. Petr A. Karasev, Vice Rector for Education and Methodology Work, opened the event, during which Mr. Mauro Micillo, Head of Corporate and Investment Banking at Banca Intesa Sanpaolo, presented a lecture about the international economic outlook and the evolving banking model in the light of the growth of fintechs.
This event, attended by over 250 students, international and national, and a number of experts from Banca Intesa, focused on the present day trends that completely transform the financial and banking sphere.
In his highly informative and analytical lecture, relying on a vast array of up-to-date data on a both the European and the global scope, Mr. Mauro Micillo demonstrated how the banking sector is no longer what is used to be. All the old ways and methods that banks used to rely on no longer work. Current macroeconomic trends aggravate the situation: lower global growth is driven by manufacturing output slowdown; international trade has been lower than the historical average since 2011. Geopolitical factors, including the trade conflicts and trade wards, have been affecting international trade more than ever.
The long-term outlook, Mr. Mauro Micillo demonstrated, is determined by global forces disrupting the landscape. The ageing population, the rise of healthcare expenditures, the shift of power to Asia, a new wave of automation driven by artificial intelligence: these are just some of the factors making the context in which banks operate today even more challenging.
Banks are trying to respond to these challenges. However, the key lines along which they have acted so far (reducing the cost base, for example), have not brought the desired results.
The competitive context in particularly difficult for the banks from Western Europe. 56% of banks worldwide show ROE below the cost of equity. While in 2007, six European banks were in the world's top 15 by market capitalization, in 2019 only one of these remains there.
The situation may be perceived as unnerving both for the banks and for those aspiring to start a career in this sphere.
However, Mr. Mauro Micillo has shown a new exciting trend, which may throw light at the end of the tunnel for those who are ready to notice it. There is a number of ways in which banks can pursue stronger value and thus become more competitive. One of the key approaches is driving technological innovation.
Thus the key message of the lecture was: talent is a key enabler for banks to address, and the hiring of the right talent, aligning it to strategic priorities can ensure that banks can compete with technology players on perceived attractiveness.
Mr. Mauro Micillo has shown how banks and higly dynamic fintech companies can join forces.
This lecture has provided a source of both enlightenment and motivation to boost the competences of our students.
On the 26th and 27th November, Professor Dr. hc. Sander Schroevers and drs. Aynur Dogan from Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences taught a Predeparture Exchange Module aimed at developing and honing students' intercultural competences.
IBS-Plekhanov faculty is Russia first higher education programme taught entirely in English and with two-way student mobility from the day it was launched in 1992, after that, other universities and faculties followed suit with setting up programmes taught in English and starting their student mobility process with partner universities abroad. International student mobility is very attractive, and, when efficiently used, increases the skills most valued by international employers in the rapidly globalizing world. Moving to live and study in another country and culture for a semester or year involves a number of challenges, though, and it was exactly about addressing these challenges that the Predeparture Exchange Module by Sander Schroevers and Aynur Dogan is focused on.
Whatever clever books and guides one may read before going abroad, almost everyone, deep down, expects people in the foreign country to react the way people in the home country do, interprets their words, gestures and actions in the way that may work at home. The picture showing one driving a car, seeing the Arc de Triomphe in Paris through the windshield and still seeing The Kremlin in the rearview mirror is a very good metaphor of our anchoring on our own culture and ways of thinking.
In their highly interactive lectures and workshops, Sander Schroevers and Aynur Dogan illustrated how vast the cultural differences between different cultures are. The lecturers touched upon the theoretical frameworks, such as Hofstede's Cultural dimensions and Trompenaars' model of culture differences, and ran a number of exciting experiments with the students. The target audience, mostly 2nd and 3rd year students about to go on exchange and double degree semesters or years to partner universities, experienced the challenges and the differences in cross-cultural communication, both verbal and non-verbal, and thus all their senses sharpened and prepared for the immersion into a different culture.
The special value of this pre-departure course was that colleagues from Amsterdam specially tailored it to the countries with the highest student mobility flows with our faculty and university.
Speaking on behalf of the students who took part, Valeriy Siris: "I was given the opportunity to attend Sander's lectures in the Pre-departure Exchange Module. Sander Schroevers delivered tremendously great lectures, which were extremely catchy and really fascinating. The cultural Intelligence expert presented the module in a very vivid and artistic manner always being in the center of gravity by telling funny jokes and interacting with the audience.
Aynur Dogan provided helpful information on how to organize one's life studying in a foreign country. Furthermore, Ms. Dogan told a great number of fascinating stories, which inspire and give power to go towards the dream, to study abroad!"