Friday, 24 June 2016

Shockingly It Happened - Post Referendum Discussions

So the last couple of weeks have seen a flurry of discussion in our MBA class Whatsapp group around Brexit, the referendum and currency exchange. Most of us believed the vote would be to remain, so it was quite unexpected to follow the vote counts today and learn that Brexit won the referendum. Naturally the pound has plunged in value, much to the annoyance of some of us who were keen on capitalising on the volatile pound prior to the vote and converted most of our available cash to pounds.

I must say that I'm definitely looking forward to classes and discussions with my fellow classmates if our discussions are anything like those we've been having on Whatsapp around the Brexit!

We've had discussions around the impacts and potential outcomes of the Brexit. Also around what potential negotiations with the EU might look like. Certainly there's much concern over how this will affect us in 2018 when we graduate, and in the shorter term, obtaining those summer internships. The general commentary in the group is that consultancies will be doing well due to the Brexit. After all, businesses will need strategies to cope with the impacts. Guess that would be where most MBA's are going to be headed!

The lawyers in the class assure us that from a legal standpoint though, the Brexit isn't guaranteed yet. There's still the Parliament vote, invoking Article 50, and then final negotiations with the EU. To be honest, although the world and corporates are reacting to the news now, I don't see there being much change in London in the short term. It'll take at least 2 years before anything even happens. In the long term, who knows? The dust would have settled and the markets adjust, and life will carry on BAU. This really good commentary on the Brexit by Alex Edmans, professor at LBS is worth a read.

So my long term plan of moving to work in London post-MBA still remains unchanged. After all, my belief is that if you're determined enough and willing to put in effort, then you'll be able to find a job regardless of market conditions. The LBS brand still remains strong and I'm confident they'll be able to maintain this. Still, the referendum outcome has definitely been a curve ball and we're looking forward to the interesting case studies that Brexit will present.

The silver lining? Our tuition at LBS just got a whole lot cheaper. Time to convert cash!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

MBA 2018 Orientation Site From LBS

The MBA journey begins even before you start the course. This is true especially for the one year programs like INSEAD, but is also the case for London Business School. The MBA program team put together a very comprehensive orientation website which was launched in May shortly before the Admits Weekend:

On the site, we have the ability to enrol for some pre-courses, important especially for those with no finance background. In total, there are 4 pre-courses you can take:
  1. Introduction to Finance
  2. Introduction to Financial Accounting
  3. Quantitative Methods
  4. Microsoft Excel Fundamentals

As these online courses are run by a third party, there is actually a deadline for signing up to get the course links on time. It doesn't mean though that you can't sign up after the deadline, just means you'll get the links later than everyone else.

Also on the site is the ability to request letters needed for renting accommodation and opening bank accounts. The orientation schedule and program details will also be put on the site at a later stage.

To any future admits, you'll want to keep an eye out for the LBS email that comes round launching the orientation website and make sure you make the pre-course enrollment deadline! It's actually easily missed and I for one just made it.

In any case, I'm pretty impressed with all the work the LBS MBA programme team has done really around providing information on this site. My only comment though is that with Portal, the app, this orientation site and the official MBA 2018 Facebook page, there're really a lot of communications channels to keep up with. Unfortunately, different information can be disseminated through different channels so there's plenty of room for information falling through the cracks. I know admits who have missed things because they've only checked one channel.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

LBS Language Requirements & Waiver

London Business School requires you to have 2 languages to graduate from the MBA program. They don't provide much information however on how the language fulfillment criteria works. So it was great to have a chance to find out more during the Admits Weekend. Here's how it works and how you can get a waiver for it if you have a second language already:
  • After registration, right at the start of the program you have the opportunity to get the waiver. It's a limited time deal though.
  • You can either get a waiver from taking a language course through showing certification that you have working knowledge of a second language, or by sitting for a diagnostic test.
  • If you don't pass the diagnostic test or if you don't have a second language then you must take one of the offered second language courses
  • The language course will be counted as a core course and there are 2 levels. You have to achieve Level 2 to graduate
  • For mandarin, Level 2 corresponds to HSK Level 4.
  • You'll have several opportunities throughout the MBA program to take the test to pass the language requirement - there's at least one opportunity each term.
  • If you do already have a second language or you've passed the diagnostic test, you have the option of still taking a language course. However, this will be counted as one of the electives you're allowed to take (you can take only 12 max).
Speaking to alumni and current students, you really want to try and get that waiver right at the start. The first year core courses are so intensive that adding another language core course on top will make things pretty tough for you. For total beginners the commitment involved is 2x 3 hour classes a week and for advanced beginners, you'll need to do one 3 hour class a week. That's 3-6 hours that could be used doing something else.

As for taking a third language as an elective, my opinion is....really? Is that wise? You've only got 12 electives max that you can take and LBS has a large menu of really cool electives. You can learn another language after you graduate from somewhere else. You don't need to pay top dollar to attend a top business school to learn another language. But that's just me :)

Monday, 6 June 2016

Picking UK Mobile Phone Service Providers

Based on research and conversations with both current students and friends living in London, if you're looking for a mobile phone service provider and are on a budget, Three or Giff Gaff are the ones for you.

I recommend picking up a prepaid SIM (they call it Pay As You Go in the UK) from Three asap when you visit London (or are up for the Admits Weekend). This is what I did when I was there for a week. Here's why:

  • I would be contactable without having to pay overpriced auto-roaming charges
  • I'd have a UK number that I can give to friends and family for when I later move to London
  • I'd be contactable and be able to contact people without having to pay overpriced auto-roaming charges subsequently when I move to London
  • Three charges £0.01 per MB, £0.02 per text and £0.02 per min for calls, which makes it very cheap if you tend to do all your texting and calling through Whatsapp the way I do.
Why Three and not Giff Gaff? Well, Giff Gaff operates by monthly bundles, the lowest being £5. It makes it cheaper than Three overall, but since I wasn't going to be there for a month, why pay for what I wasn't going to use? As is, in that week I barely used £1 from my £10 credit loaded on the SIM.

£10 btw is the lowest value you can load on a Three PAYG SIM. Definitely worth my doing research before hand because they'll try and sell you the SIM with the £10 or £20 monthly bundle at the store so just make sure you let them know exactly what it is you want - a free SIM and to load some credit on it.

My plan after moving to London in terms of mobile providers would be to use up all my credit on the Three SIM, and then simply port my number over and switch to Giff Gaff for their cheaper monthly bundle. Well...that is if I run through credit enough to warrant it. One of the great things about Three if you plan to travel (which I am), is that they don't have roaming charges for a select list of countries. And in case you were wondering, Australia and NZ are on the list! See full list here. Go figure.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Save on Transport in London - To Do Before You Arrive

This post is meant for new travellers to London or future admits travelling to London for the first time for the Admits Weekend. Or anyone who doesn't know of the Visitor Oyster Card. This can help you save while travelling around in London.

If you're in London, chances are you'll end up using public transport at some point - the tube, bus or train to get around. London is very well connected via public transport (unlike NZ!). Locals carry the Oyster Card which is the cheapest way to pay for single journeys on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, Tfl Rail and most National Rail services in London.

I recommend that visitors or people first moving to London get the Visitors Oyster Card which gives you local travel prices on public transport. Thing is, you can only purchase it online and have it posted to your home country. It can take 8-10 working days to get there so make sure you buy it in plenty of time before depart! You can't buy it within London from a ticket station unlike the regular Oyster Card. Well actually you might be able to and have it shipped to a UK address where you can pick it up, but I've not investigated this.

The difference between the Visitors Oyster Card and the normal Oyster Card is that you only pay £3 for the card vs £5 for the normal card (though you'd need to pay shipping fee so get the card posted so it does end up costing more overall for the card alone). But the Visitors card also gives you access to promotional offers on attractions too. See here for details. Like the regular Oyster Card, just top up when you run out of credit on the card.

By getting the card sent to you, you save right from the start travelling from the airport to your accommodation in the city via train or tube. You can also use your Visitor Oyster card to pay for travel on train services to/from Gatwick Airport, including the Gatwick Express. The airports are really well connected. I took the tube from Heathrow to my mate's place in Canning Town and using the Visitor Oyster Card, it cost me £3.10 (off peak). If I'd paid cash, the same journey would've cost £6. You can look up fare prices here on Transport For London.

For visitors not planning to return to London, you can cash out any leftover credit in your card before you leave. As for admits to LBS, you might as well keep the card for when you return to London as it would take some time to apply for a student Oyster Card.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Day 2 of the Weekend | LBS Admits Weekend Part 3

Sunday's schedule very kindly kicked off with breakfast at a later start of 10.30am. This is a good thing given the really full on day we had Saturday. Ladies had the option of attending the regular breakfast or the Women In Business Club's breakfast. So I picked the WIB.

WIB brunch was sponsored by BCG and was a pretty lavish affair, complete with sparkling wine. I got to meet more fellow classmates as well as current members of the WIB club. It was a great opportunity to get further insight into what we could expect from the MBA. Plus the MBA2016 student I spoke to was very forthcoming with information. The key tip I picked up was "join the Rugby Club". It seems the Rugby Club is the most social club on campus and even if you don't play, join the club anyway.

Brunch was following by a Clubs and Moving to London fair. Only a small number of clubs were present though. Apparently the Admits Weekend coincided with several treks which was why there weren't that many available...or maybe it was the lack of space? Sadly, the Australian and NZ Club was one of those absent, although you could find reps from just about every other region. LBS corporate partners providing services like real estate agents and loan companies were present at the fair too, which was quite handy for finding out more about moving to London.

We also had the opportunity to take a tour of campus, which isn't very large but reminds me of a maze of corridors inside. I've a sneaky feeling that being directionally challenged, it'll take me a bit of time to learn the "maze". There are a few cafes within the school and lots of meeting rooms. LBS comprises of the main building and across the road there is another that houses the library, the gym and the pool. We heard from the dean as well on Saturday that the school recently acquired another building which is currently under renovation and expected to be ready come Jan 2017. The current students however generally don't concur. As with all major renovations, I probably would take that January deadline with a pinch of salt.

Anyway, gym bunnies would be happy to hear that gym and pool use is free. The gym is open 24/7 but the pool has more limited hours since a lifeguard has to be present. You need to d a gym induction before you can use the gym though. As for the library, according to the librarian it has computers with free Bloomberg access including a special keyboard.

All too soon we were called back to the lecture theatre for a presentation on entrepreneurship and how LBS caters for it. The highlight was a previous student who had started up his own business around inspiring children to write talked about his experience and journey down the entrepreneurship path. It was certainly eye-opening to hear first hand about the difficulties with entrepreneurship and the opportunities he had at LBS.

The last official event of the day was a British afternoon tea...with absolutely delicious chocolate eclairs. Of course, the fun didn't have to stop there for those of us who didn't have flights to catch yet. The rugby club, soccer club, LGBT club and French club organised social activities to round off the day.

All in all it was a tremendously fun and enlightening event. The best part was meeting my future classmates. Certainly all of us left feeling really excited for August. It's definitely worth flying halfway round the world for. So to anyone considering doing the MBA at LBS, do plan to fly in May for the Admits Weekend if you can!