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Issue/ 9 IMPACT: Durham University Business School

A c h an g i n g wo r l d / I ss u e 9

Should hospitals embrace 3D printing of anatomical models to help plan surgery? Should service robots look like us or do consumers see them as a threat? What a president’s removal from Twitter tells us about the state of free speech

April 2021

A changing world How we’re helping society to meet the challenges of a rapidly evolving world

A p ril 2 02 1

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Welcome IMPACT / Issue 9

Business insight for a changing world Welcome to our ninth issue of IMPACT magazine, which showcases the many ways in which the Business School has a positive impact on society and the world we all share.


s I write this, I am reflecting on how this is the second issue of IMPACT to have been produced in the current Covid-19 pandemic and, in the UK, we’re approaching the anniversary for the implementation of government restrictions to combat the virus. Even though the School building may have been opened and closed in line with changing UK government guidelines, this has not stopped the excellent teaching and research activity for which we are known. The pandemic has certainly changed our world in a number of ways, and continues to do so, but in many cases, it could be seen to be super-charging changes that were already underway. So, under the theme ‘A changing world’, we examine both in this issue. Technology, by its very nature, is always subject to rapid change and we highlight a few of the School’s faculty involved in some exciting research in this area. The work of Professor Markus Blut asks the important question, “If social distancing and human contact continue to be reduced, how might this speed up the use of service robots?” Markus’ recent work examines the influence of people’s preferences on the way robots look and act, on the acceptance of robots in service. As we once more emerge and travel for work and pleasure, we might find our cities beginning to use connected and autonomous vehicles, the subject of Professor Nick Ellis’ latest research piece in collaboration with an Australian university. And Dr Atanu Chaudhuri believes 3D printing can hold the key in helping post-pandemic global health services improve surgical outcomes for patients. As a School, we always aim to have a positive impact on society, so it’s no surprise that colleagues look at a changing world through this lens too. Very early in 2021, we saw great political changes and Drs Mariann Hardey, Damian Damianov and Michael Nower capture this with their commentary on the outcomes of the US presidential election and Brexit. The effects of the pandemic still require challenging research, such as that of Dr Farzana Chowdhury, who highlights the urgent need for sustainable development through inclusion and equality to be accelerated. Professor Roger Gill

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also looks at leadership in this period and what we can learn for similar future global events. Other societal themes covered in this issue include Professor Kevin Dowd’s look at equity release, Aarron Toal’s update on how the School is collaborating with others to support the creative community of the North East, and Professor Omneya Abdelsalam’s review of the implementation and progress for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The last section of this issue is dedicated to people. After all, nothing in society changes without the action of people, but sometimes change needs examination and process. Professor Julie Hodges flags the role HR needs to play in this fast-changing world, Dr John Millar the need for social diversity, and Professor Carol Adams the need for neurodiversity in the workplace. The final piece of the academic contributions from Professor Kiran Fernandes reinforces the importance of collaboration. Of course, the people getting things done and our future change-engines are our current students and graduates. Find out how alumni, including Dr Vladimir Vladimirov, Kamales Lardi and Ade Lawal-Solarin and current students such as Grace Zhang and Iman Malik are achieving this. In this issue, you will also find our latest School news including recent and upcoming (virtual or social-distanced) events, such as our successful undergraduate placement conference. I hope you will enjoy this issue of IMPACT. As the global vaccination programmes begin, I hope this signals a return to more normal life for us all. In the meantime, stay safe, stay well.

Susan Hart Executive Dean of Durham University Business School


Contents The changing world issue

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Getting ready for autonomous vehicles Professor Nick Ellis describes his research into innovation ecosystems for connected and autonomous vehicles

Liz Lawrence Marketing Communications Manager Martin Thomas Senior Marketing Communications Officer Lindsay Webber Senior Marketing Relations Officer Natalie Taylor Communications Officer


Trump and the fears for free speech? Dr Mariann Hardey questions whether ‘speech’ can really be free if it’s owned by someone else

Charlotte Wareing Marketing Officer Paula Lane Marketing Officer Stephen Close Web and Digital Officer Deanne Dutton Conversion Relations Coordinator Laura Kovic Marketing Administrator

Thank you Thank you to all those that have worked on this issue including faculty, other School staff, students, alumni and business connections.

Contributors Professor Omneya Abdelsalam Professor Carol Adams Professor Markus Blut Jannies Burlingame Dr Atanu Chaudhuri Dr David Chivers Tom Chivers Dr Farzana Chowdhury Dr Damian Damianov Professor Kevin Dowd Professor Nick Ellis Professor Kiran Fernandes Professor Roger Gill Dr Mariann Hardey Professor Susan Hart Penny Hawley Professor Julie Hodges Daisy Igbokwe Abhirami Kannambath Dr Arzé Karam Kamales Lardi Adeseye Lawal-Solarin Iman Malik Alexandra McNinch Dr John Millar Dr Michael Nower Zhenghong Qiu Tom Shanks Khdeija Sidi-Boubacar Dennis Sun Aarron Toal Dr Vladimir Vladimirov Ocean Wang Asrif Yusoff Grace Zhang Blue Sky PR



How necessity has made stronger communities Dr Farzana Chowdhury consider’s the pandemic’s impact on resilience and sustainability


Redefining the HR function Professor Julie Hodges explains why human resources needs a rethink in the face of major new challenges


Creating robust supply chains Professor Kiran Fernandes explains how the Business School has been collaborating to offer free support to companies through the pandemic


Why autistic workers are good for companies Professor Carol Adams explains that neurodiversity in the workplace can have benefits for businesses

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06 Electric dreams Innovations in connected and automated vehicles transform personal mobility 10 Should service robots look like us? Examining the pros and cons of robots with human characteristics

31 Averting a cultural catastrophe How is Durham University supporting the creative community? 34 Protecting our mental health from Covid-19 Managing the wellbeing of remote workers



52 How the Durham MBA made me an entrepreneur Kamales Lardi explains how an MBA changed her life 55 Students solving strategic business challenges Working with a company as part of a business project 58 Our DBA community Turning the spotlight on our DBA students and graduates

14 Should hospitals embrace 3D printing for surgery? How technology can improve outcomes and efficiency

36 Hitting the target Implementing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

17 The world is changing… or is it? How the media gets numbers wrong and what we can do about it

39 Brexit and the threat to UK exports Dr Michael Nower comments on the impact of Brexit

20 Is speech really free? Dr Mariann Hardey questions whether speech is owned by someone else

40 Does Brexit news move house and rental prices? Brexit and its impact on the housing market

64 The Durham MBA Women in Business scholars Winners of the scholarship discuss their time at Durham

23 High-frequency trading and liquidity crisis Building more resilient electronic markets

41 Reshaping the role of HR New challenges create a need to rethink the HR function

66 2021 success in key MBA rankings New recognition for the Durham MBA


26 The darker sides of equity release The problem with releasing money from your home 28 How necessity has made our communities more resilient and sustainable The pandemic’s impact on sustainable development

44 A question of social diversity Is the fund management industry diverse enough? 46 Why firms should hire more autistic workers The benefits of neurodiversity 48 Building resilient supply chains How the Business School has supported companies through the pandemic

62 Masters entrepreneurial spirit shines through Celebrating the success of our Masters graduates

News and events

67 New Masters in Energy Systems Management Adding another exciting Masters programme 67 The Lemonade Principle returns Catch up with series 2 of our career insights podcast 68 Our events The School’s events during the pandemic


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Durham University Business School and Durham University logos are registered Trade Marks of the University of Durham. Unless otherwise stated, all material in this publication is copyright of the University of Durham. The University makes every effort to ensure that the information contained here is accurate. This publication is intended as a general guide to University of Durham’s facilities and form no part of any contract between you and the University. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the permission of the University. Please note that the University’s website is the most up-to-date source of information and we strongly recommend that you always visit the website before making any commitments.

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Electric dreams Professor Nick Ellis describes his research into innovation ecosystems for connected and autonomous vehicles.


ignificant transformations are predicted for personal mobility, the automotive i n d u st r y a n d l o g i st i c s , t h a n k s to ongoing innovations in connected and automated vehicles (CAVs). Established car manufacturers are developing CAVs along with newer car makers like Tesla, plus so-called disruptors like Google.

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A laser scans 360° around the vehicle for objects While we are getting increasingly used to kit such as proximity sensors, cruise control and automatic lights, CAVs are much more revolutionary. With technology becoming more in control, theoretically, we should have fewer accidents, move around faster and be free to use our time for other things while becoming passengers for every journey. But getting to this scenario will not be easy. As well as having the necessary technology in place, we will need appropriate regulations and infrastructure, and consumer and business users must be reassured over safety concerns.

A radar measures the speed of vehicles ahead

A wheel-hub sensor detects the number of rotations to help determine the car’s location

The policy perspective The UK government has stated that CAV technologies have the potential to offer benefits for increased safety and accessibility. From a policy perspective, new technologies are likely to have a major impact on traditional mobility business models and the passenger and freight services markets. There is expected to be a change in the vehicle ownership model along with local authorities and large organisations utilising CAVs to provide services. Internationally, regulators are attempting to define new rules to control the functionality of these exciting technologies. There is therefore much at stake in being able to plot the future growth of this innovation, but with this comes great complexity in making sense of how business ecosystems and networks will evolve. The technology is still emerging, with most activity being conducted by car manufacturing firms in partnership with universities and government. Even at this early stage of market emergence, differing opinions are being adopted on the societal impact of CAVs. How private strategy, public policy and society adjust to (and often simultaneously generate) these interacting forces needs to be considered holistically. To capture the market complexity, we need to move beyond single viewpoints. Social and sustainable innovation must be included alongside technical and economic discourses. So, we need to explore the perceptions of not only firms and technology entrepreneurs as market shapers, but a host of other network members.

Future behaviours The importance of this topic for understanding our changing world has been recognised in a University of Western Australia (UWA) Research Collaboration Award plus an Alcoa Visiting Professor Grant to me as a co-investigator on a joint project with Professors Sharon Purchase, Daniel Schepis and Brett Smith of UWA. The funding has facilitated data collection in 2019 and 2020 for the study of the CAV network in the UK and Australia, and ongoing data analysis. We are attempting to understand how future behaviours may be shaped in response to the


Source: Google

visions of stakeholders and in anticipation of possible socio-technical forces. Managers’ discourse will be analysed to see how it can construct identities within networks, help set market boundaries and legitimise actions. This is an approach that draws on my prior research published in the leading journals Organization Studies and Industrial Marketing Management. Participants encompass a wide variety of ecosystem representatives, including those from: car manufacturers of both traditional and electric vehicles; CAV manufacturers; trade associations; government departments, both national and regional; research centres, university engineers The study will and economists; innovation develop a robust co n s u l t a n t s ; n o t - f o r - p ro f i t empirical foundation organisations, including disability to help decisionadvocates; insurers; police; public makers explore transport providers; logistics firms; potential and prototype CAV owners. So scenarios. far, interviews have been conducted with 15 expert stakeholders in the UK from a range of such organisations, and a further 15 similar participants in Australia. These two countries are useful to compare due to the generally accepted view that the UK is much further along the road of CAV adoption than Australia, partly due to the UK still having its own car manufacturing sector. Interviews discuss the potential benefits and risks of CAV technology and invite participants to describe possible future scenarios for the development of this technology, and the critical developments that must occur in the ecosystem for these scenarios to play out. As a research team we will be continuing our analysis and hope to report in more detail by the end of the year. For more information about Professor Ellis and his research interests, visit durham.ac.uk/business/ nick-ellis

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Making a difference: A driverless shuttle in North Greenwich, London, being trialled by the GATEway Project to aid the implementation of autonomous vehicles in urban environments.

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Should service robots look like us? Professor Markus Blut considers whether our robots should have human characteristics.


echnology is vital for expansion of the service economy. Service robots are expected to change the way services are provided and to alter how customers and firms interact. They are defined as autonomous agents whose core purpose is to assist customers by performing physical and non-physical tasks. The market value for service robots is forecast to reach US$699.18 million by 2023. SoftBank has sold more than 10,000 of its humanoid service robot, Pepper, since launching it in 2014. Pepper is four feet tall and weighs around 61 pounds, and is employed by service providers in restaurants, airports and cruise liners to greet guests and help them navigate the location. It’s highly likely that robots will become more common and that customers will encounter them more in the future. While Pepper has a humanlike appearance, other robots employed by service firms, such as Lowe’s LoweBot, look more machinelike. Robot anthropomorphism refers to the extent to which customers perceive service robots as humanlike; this perception often results from the attribution of human characteristics or traits to non-human agents.

Sign of the times: A robot waiter at the Moli Robot Restaurant in Shanghai.

Perceived threat Customers anthropomorphise all kinds of marketing objects, including brands, products and services. But whether anthropomorphism in service robots enhances customers’ experiences


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is unclear. Some scholars argue that the perception of humanlike qualities in service robots facilitates engagement with customers, as these qualities have been fine-tuned to incorporate the underlying principles and expectations people have in social settings. However, others are more sceptical. As perceived anthropomorphism increases, many consumers will experience the ‘uncanny valley’ effect – an eerie discomfort and potential threat to their human identity. Although scholars have frequently examined the impact of anthropomorphism on customers’ intentions to use a service robot, the results are inconsistent. Firms need to carefully consider how to use artificial intelligence to engage customers in a more systematic and strategic way, but they lack the support of clear management guidelines. Against this background, we have conducted a comprehensive meta-analysis of individuals interacting with different service robots, to provide some clarity on this issue. The results suggest that anthropomorphism has strong positive effects on several marketing outcomes. It seems that humanlike perceptions are more likely to facilitate human–robot interactions, helping customers to apply the familiar social rules and expectations of human–human interactions. This finding emphasises that it is important to consider robot anthropomorphism when understanding customer interaction in the context of this technology. Our findings highlight to managers the potential consequences of employing humanlike versus machinelike robots in service firms. Since we found mainly positive effects associated with anthropomorphised service robots, managers should not worry that an uncanny valley effect will lead customers to avoid the use of service robots.

Customer experience Anthropomorphism is positively related to vital outcomes, including ease of use, perceived safety and usefulness of the technology, and social presence, and it does not negatively impact customer experience. However, anthropomorphism is not positively related to rapport, which indicates that service robots may not (yet) develop a personal connection with customers. Therefore, when personal connection is key to a firm’s business model, managers should employ human employees as well as service robots.


M o re ove r, t h i s re s e a rc h exa m i n e d t h e determinants of robot anthropomorphism. We have assessed which customer characteristics and robot design features impact the likelihood of anthropomorphising a service robot. Our research found that a customer’s general negative attitude towards robots in daily life, their need for interaction, and their age in particular, are related to robot anthropomorphism. Managers can use these findings to identify which target customers are most receptive to the employment of humanlike robots. They should pay particular attention to these customer traits and predispositions, and we recommend they complement these criteria with characteristics of the customer, such as customer age. Managers can also use these findings to assess whether their own customer base is ready for robot services. Furthermore, we found that different physical and non-physical robot features, such as gesture, mimicry and voice, trigger perceptions of anthropomorphism. Robots are perceived as humanlike when displaying emotions and imitating human behaviours and gestures, whereas the gaze of the robot has no effect. The results help managers to understand which robots trigger anthropomorphism perceptions.

Which robots? Finally, our results indicate that the positive effects of anthropomorphism are contingent on the robot and service types. The results provide managers

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with further guidance on which humanlike robots to choose when offering services to customers. Anthropomorphism had stronger effects for female robots than for non-female robots. Therefore, we suggest that service firms employ female-gendered robots (e.g. robots with a female look, name and voice). However, managers can choose any robot size, level of ‘cuteness’ and even body form, since no differences were observed in these areas. Regarding service type, we found that the extent of a robot’s anthropomorphism can influence how it can be best used in a business. Our findings help managers to establish the service contexts in which it is most important to employ humanlike versus machinelike robots. Managers should employ humanlike robots for critical services including ticket selling and shopping advice in the retail sector; for uncritical services, robot anthropomorphism is less important. Similarly, humanlike robots should be employed for information-processing services such as banking and financial services. Managers in these industries have more need to invest in humanlike service robots and to monitor customer–robot interaction. For more information on Professor Blut’s research, visit durham.ac.uk/business/markus-blut

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Should hospitals embrace 3D printing for surgery? The technology could help to improve outcomes and efficiency, says Dr Atanu Chaudhuri.


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The use of 3D printed anatomical models, as well as patient-specific customised surgical guides and implants, is gaining momentum across the world.


child is diagnosed with a congenital heart ailment. Surgeons are wary that the complex procedure needed will be too risky for the child to undertake. Another patient with a bone tumour in her left leg is waiting for her surgery date, but surgeons are not available as they are on Covid-19 duty. Another facial reconstruction (maxillofacial) surgery is also delayed due to lack of availability of implants. These are not isolated cases. Many such patients have to wait due to lack of operating theatre capacity, non-availability of surgeons, lack of availability of implants, or because of the complexity and risk associated with such procedures. Covid-19 has exacerbated the situation and, unless they are extremely critical, many surgeries are delayed. Complex surgical procedures require years of experience. The current practice for training and planning of difficult surgery cases has been through the use of cadaver models, which are not readily accessible. The cadavers also lack the patient-specific details that are very helpful for surgeons. Printing a three-dimensional model based on merging computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) files, segmented from an individual patient, provides lots of detailed and exact information for the surgeon to plan the surgery accurately.

Complex surgery Some complex surgeries also require implants to be fitted to the patients, but the implants are usually not customised for an individual patient, which can lead to post-surgical complications and longer recovery times. Complex surgeries also require long operation times, and therefore fewer patients can be operated on during a single day. Surgical planning using 3D printed anatomical models allows for detailed planning of the surgery, which, along with customised 3D printed surgical guides and implants, alleviates many of the above problems, thereby improving both clinical outcomes for patients as well as efficiency for

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Images: iStock

Right: An .engineer holds a heart printed on a 3D printer.

hospitals. The 3D printed anatomical model facilitates clearer communication between members of the surgical team and avoids surprises in the operating theatre. It can also help in communicating with the patient, thereby increasing the patient’s confidence in the procedure. Moreover, 3D printing provides tremendous opportunities for training surgeons and can shorten their learning curves. The use of 3D printed anatomical models, as well as patient-specific customised surgical guides and implants, is gaining momentum across the world. In the UK, some NHS trusts, such as Royal Brompton and Harefield, already use them for congenital heart diseases. Similarly, surgeons at Guy’s and St Thomas’ had 3D printed a patient’s cancerous prostate and could plan the most precise robotic removal.

3D printing for surgeries Research by myself and colleagues found that some hospitals across the world are developing internal capabilities by training junior resident surgeons in 3D modelling skills, while others have invested in a point-of-care 3D printing facility inside the hospital, which is operated and managed by service providers. The service providers work in close consultation with surgeons, while others may decide to outsource the design and printing services on a case-by-case basis. In a recent article titled ‘Should hospitals invest in customised on-demand 3D printing for surgeries?’, published in the International Journal of Operations & Production Management, we illustrate some of the positive outcomes of using 3D printing for surgeries and the mechanisms by which those are generated. 3D printing for surgeries reduces the time from recommendation of the surgery to the surgery


date, and surgeries with durations of four to eight hours are reduced by 1.5 to 2.5 hours if patientspecific instruments are used (they are even 25 to 30 minutes shorter if only an anatomical model is used to plan surgery). It can also reduce variability in surgical outcome, including less anaesthesia and related risks, less bone removal and shorter recovery time for patients – e.g., a patient is able to walk one to two days after surgery, compared to three to four days without 3D printing. The research team has developed frameworks that will aid hospitals in their decisions to invest in 3D printing. Our research shows the decision to implement 3D printing in hospitals, or to engage service providers, will require careful analysis of complexity, demand, lead-time criticality and the hospital’s own objectives. Hospitals can follow different paths in adopting 3D printing for surgeries depending on their context.

Systematic assessment I believe there is a need for systematic assessment of the surgical procedures, which can benefit from use of 3D printed anatomical models, customised surgical guides and implant production. These can be rolled out across multiple NHS trusts. Data should be collected to assess the impact of technology in improving hospital efficiency and clinical outcomes. This may open up opportunities for training of surgeons on the procedures. Overall, this research demonstrates that 3D printing should be considered by all hospitals and healthcare providers, and it shows that patient experience and outcome, as well as hospital efficiency, could be improved. For more information on Dr Chaudhuri’s research interests, visit durham.ac.uk/business/atanuchaudhuri

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The world is changing… or is it? Cousins Dr David Chivers, Assistant Professor in Economics, and Tom Chivers, journalist at UnHerd, talk us through how the media get numbers wrong and what we can do about it.

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or most of us, stuck inside thanks to the global pandemic, life has certainly changed. But for other, less certain things, how do we actually know the world is changing, if at all? How do we know, for example, that life expectancy is increasing or climate change is a looming threat? How do we know when the pandemic will be over and when it’s safe to go outside again? To answer these questions, we often rely on numbers. Some of these numbers are produced by academics and you can read about their research in places like IMPACT magazine. But usually, we get our information about how the world is changing via the media. The problem, however, is the media isn’t all that good at presenting numbers. A lot of the time, numbers are misunderstood, misrepresented, or misused. A simple way the media often go wrong is when discussing risk. In 2018, The Telegraph published an article informing us that children born to men over the age of 45 were 18% more likely to have seizures. This sounds pretty scary and worrying. Especially as some people may read this and think that children born to older fathers have an 18% chance of developing seizures, which is definitely not what the article is saying. The question that needs to be asked is, 18% more than what? It would be much more informative to us if we were to reformulate the risk in absolute terms, rather than relative. For example, if I were to practise keepieuppies every day for a year, I might increase my chances of playing up front for England by 100%. This sounds like a lot, but the chances of me actually playing for England would only rise from something like one in 56 million to two in 56 million. The absolute chance of me playing for England is still (sadly) extremely low. So to put the risk of seizures in absolute terms, the risk of a child having seizures is 0.024%. If the father is in his 50s, the risk is now 0.028%. The absolute risk increase is 0.004 percentage points. This sounds much less scary, and a lot more informative to the readers: we now have a better grasp of the actual risk involved. Articles like this appear all the time in the media. As an economist who deals with numbers daily, reading news stories like this can be a painful experience. This is why we decided to write a book all about how the media gets numbers wrong and what we can do about it. Each chapter takes a real-life news story and uses it to highlight a particular concept or idea. We cover topics such as how to


know if swearing makes you stronger, and whether “The problem, however, drinking soft drinks makes is the media isn’t all that you violent? After reading you good at presenting will understand a bit more about numbers.” how science works and things like what ‘statistically significant’ actually means (for a start, it does not mean that the findings themselves are significant: they may not be particularly noteworthy). In the final chapter we propose a way to make numbers in the news a bit better. We present a statistical style guide and have started a campaign to try and get journalists to follow it in the vain hope that it will make the world a better place. Although, the question we should be asking is: how do we actually know if we have made a real difference? You can read the journalists’ style guide and find out how you can join the campaign at howtoreadnumbers.com How to Read Numbers: A Guide to Statistics in the News (and Knowing When to Trust Them), published by W&N, is available now from all good bookshops including Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles and Bookshop. For more information about Dr David Chivers and his research interests, visit durham.ac.uk/ business/david-chivers

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The Telegraph published an article informing us that children born to men over the age of 45 were 18% more likely to have seizures... The question that needs to be asked is, 18% more than what?

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Is speech really free? Twitter’s removal of @realDonaldTrump calls into question whether ‘speech’ can really be free if it’s owned by someone else, writes Dr Mariann Hardey, Associate Professor of Marketing.


he January 2021 ‘Capitol Hill coup’ resulted in the permanent suspension of the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account. But it’s not just on Twitter t h at t h e ex- p re s i d e n t h a s b e e n silenced. Following the close review of content from many of Donald Trump’s social media accounts across different channels, and the context around them, a number of platforms have permanently suspended the previous president’s accounts due to the risk of further incitement, violence, misinformation and disinformation. In less time than it takes to write a single tweet, film a TikTok video or send a “what’s-up?” on WhatsApp, Trump was de-platformed across social media. Our ability to be social across social media has helped bridge all kinds of separations and, most recently, became a force for good against loneliness in the midst of the global pandemic. Reaching for each other through the screen feels ‘normal’: it’s somewhere we unwittingly spend more time, revealing more about our lives across multiple small screens. So intense is our gaze, the drama surrounding Trump’s de-platforming further amplifies our reliance, our needs, our distractions, and how our views are heightened through social media. Social media most often gives prominence to trends ranked by the loudest or most popular topics – for Trump it was typical for his opinion to

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be communicated “In less time than it takes in capital letters. to write a single tweet, This sense of film a TikTok video or content hierarchy send a “what’s up?” provokes our curiosity in on WhatsApp, real-time events, emphasised Trump was by the social condition of de-platformed.” ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out), and rarely brings a fear of proper repercussions for those who shout the loudest. What I find interesting are the reactive qualities of social media, the sense of needing to wade into the loudest trends and to secure our own proof of ‘being there’ in the moment.

Can free speech be costly? Trump has repeatedly pushed the Orwellian properties of the ‘Big Tech’, who he claims are watching his every move and – to take Trump’s narrative – who have it in for him. The expresident also points to the Big Tech’s Marxist agenda to both offer a critique of the corporate tech organisations he cannot control and socialist politics. The trending of #nineteeneightyfour across social media following the Capitol Hill coup echoes Orwell’s own concerns about the sense of being watched, how we might react, and what Big Brother might do to us. For Trump, de-platforming reflected a loss of power:




Left: Protestors stormed Capitol Hill after a Trump rally.

his power to communicate to his followers and his power of ownership over his own content. There are two reasons why we feel unsettled about current social media platform conditions. The first, obviously, is our urgency to connect and feel connected during a period of significant change, fear and uncertainty, and a sense of feeling powerless to control our immediate social or professional conditions. Where even ‘normal’ is modified as ‘new’, what remains the same is Big Tech’s reliance on our content: they do not want such content to undermine the integrity of their business models. A key reason why Trump was de-platformed was that he became too much of a risk to the existing commercial operation. Second is a mystification about content ownership and publication rights. In part, Trump’s explosion at Big Tech was railing against what he perceived as unjust treatment against his content and his right to publish that content freely. Here’s the rub: while Trump, like us, perceives that he owns his content, he cannot fully control where and how it is used. We are using platforms provided by private enterprises who are concerned with profit, and each has their own terms of service. At the risk of getting into complex copyright and personal data law to highlight the lack of understanding around accountability and our personal tradeoff in using social media for ‘free’, put simply, nothing, as Trump has found, is free.



While locked down, it is easy “Trump’s explosion at to feel a sense of injustice Big Tech was railing where our conversations, as a against what he form of data, provoke reactions, perceived as unjust enable the monetisation of treatment against corporate social media platforms his content and his and present new concerns about right to publish Big Brother surveillance. When it that content comes to what sociologist Dave Beer freely.” calls ‘dataveillance’, user expectations about social media are counterbalanced by how transparent the Big Tech companies have been in managing data privacy, protection, and integrity against their profits. To read more about Dr Hardey, who is also part of the Directorate for the Advanced Research Computing group at the University and Durham University Principle Investigator for Creative Fuse North East, visit durham.ac.uk/ business/mariann-hardey Yo u c a n f i n d o u t m o re i n f o r m a t i o n i n Dr Hardey’s book The Culture of Women in Tech: An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, available from Emerald, at www.mariannhardey.com

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High-frequency trading and liquidity crisis Dr Arzé Karam describes her work to help build more resilient electronic markets.

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he FinTech revolution has brought drastic changes to the way financial markets perform, from currencies, governments and equities to derivatives. Trading now happens in microsecond timeframes and risks are emerging faster and in greater volume than ever before. In such instances, traditional approaches become too slow to be relevant. In my recent paper with Dimitar Bogoev, entitled High-frequency trading and liquidity crisis, we focus on the impact of FinTech innovation and the ongoing market disruptions in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis on the major electronic futures markets, that are subject to an increasing frequency of flash crash events (where the price of bonds, stocks or commodities suddenly plunges but then quickly recovers), e.g. the 2010 S&P 500 flash crash, 2015 EuroCHF peg break, 2016 Sterling Brexit referendum, 2018 VIX Volatility Index and more recently the Covid-19 crashes. We propose two metrics to capture the dynamics during liquidity crisis in high-frequency markets and outline a novel procedure that allows us to test these metrics across major futures contracts. During a liquidity crisis, financial markets experience wild price swings due to sudden selloffs by investors. While electronic markets become increasingly reliant on a high level of liquidity supplied by high-frequency traders during normal times, these traders withdraw from the market at stressful times thus amplifying the initial shock. Consequently, trading environments become more susceptible to these liquidity changes, and this leads to illiquidity spikes to the point of breakdown. When the supply and demand shock induced by the Covid-19 outbreak was added to this picture, we experienced unprecedented events which required the intervention of market regulators to stabilise the markets, as we saw back in March 2020.

Disrupted markets We examine whether our metrics identify market disruptions when a market is in a state of a liquidity crisis. We provide evidence on a long sample period that includes days around the 2010 flash crash event and the Covid-19 period from February 2020 to April 2020, in addition to quiet sample periods from 2019. The first metric, namely Quote Volatility (QV), which is based on the rate of oscillation of the best ask and best bid quotations, seems to detect the changes in liquidity


supply in a very short period “During a liquidity of time. The crisis, financial markets second ratio, experience wild n a m e l y P r i ce price swings due to Momentum (PM), sudden sell-offs by which detects investors.” t h e u pwa rd s o r downwards trends of trading price movements, seems to capture the impact of sell-offs by investors on trading prices. We use a Bi-directional Long Short-Term Memory (BiLSTM) neural network architecture, which has feedback connections, to estimate our two metrics and a set of liquidity variables. We argue that this approach is flexible and well suited to detect market disruptions based on the data provided. Our results suggest that the BiLSTM model’s accuracy in detecting the dynamics preceding liquidity crisis using QV ratio ranges between 94% and 95%. This suggests that the model is capturing the patterns when the market is about to crash, versus patterns that are not leading to a crash. Using the PM ratio, the results of BiLSTM model are quite good with an accuracy around 85%. When there is no event, the model correctly assigns a very low probability of a crash happening and it is quite dynamic. It also produces more volatile forecasts highlighting the elevated risks of the market crashing.

Capturing risk Taken together, the results suggest the model seems to capture the increased risks, particularly when the conditions of the markets are extreme, i.e. large order imbalance, abnormal trading volume and very low level of liquidity. What is very interesting is that the model gives a warning well in advance before we can see the actual spikes of illiquidity that lead to a crash. Our primary conclusions are three-fold. Firstly, by identifying the key features that drive financial markets to the point of the breakdown we show the potential of non-linear machine-learning methods in the field of market microstructure, with an accuracy that was not possible with traditional methods. Secondly, we show the importance of two new liquidity-based metrics in the estimation of machine-learning models. The existing theory predicts that liquidity crashes are associated

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with extreme price disruptions, a very low level of liquidity in the electronic books and high trading volume. We argue that the two metrics we propose can detect the combination of these patterns in real time. We assert that market regulators and exchanges should not look at the asset price volatility in isolation; the two metrics we propose are more suitable to identify the risk of illiquidity which predicts the low resistance of a financial market to large shocks. Finally, we note that the metrics and the model we propose are directly valuable for market regulators, exchanges and market participants. The ongoing turbulence across financial markets could raise overall market risk, and shocks can spread across assets, markets and countries,

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with adverse consequences on the real economy. It will also have a significant knock-on effect on individuals’ pensions, particularly when markets are already fragile and subject to an increasing frequency of liquidity crisis. Given the enormous volumes of trade in the electronic futures markets, which will rise massively with the uncertainty around the current economic climate and the ongoing health crisis, we believe our ratios, once enforced on electronic platforms, are useful in creating early warning signals essential to stopping market crashes as they are forming. For more information on Dr Karam and her research interests, visit durham.ac.uk/business/ arze-karam



The darker sides of equity release Releasing money from your home can have serious pitfalls for you and your lender, writes Professor Kevin Dowd.


quity release gets a lot of bad press these days and, in some cases, rightly so. Misconduct in the sector ranges from the obvious, such as commissionbased salespeople misleading potential customers, to the less obvious, such as rigged comparison panels, to the downright bizarre, such as when a certain well-known charity for the elderly got involved in a scam to rip off the very people it was supposed to protect. My colleague, Dean Buckner, and I cottoned onto this scam about 18 months ago. We wrote to the person in charge advising him that we intended to go public. The appropriate response on his part would have been, ‘Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I will look into it as a matter of urgency.’ Instead, he engaged an expensive City reputation management law firm to threaten us with a defamation suit. We then resorted to Plan B: we went to contacts in the national press and a number of articles appeared, including in Private Eye and The Telegraph. There were a few solicitors’ letters flying around, and even now, the full story is not yet out. The charity in question then quietly dropped its involvement in said scam.

Exceptional circumstances Look, I am not saying that equity release is intrinsically wrong, but my advice is don’t do it except for the most serious reasons. That usually boils down to being able to provide the best care for yourself or your loved ones in the event that one of you becomes incapacitated. The exceptions are usually along the lines of ‘I don’t have kids’ or ‘I don’t get on with my kids’ or ‘I don’t want to leave my home to a cat charity.’ Don’t equity release your home just to get a new patio or a new kitchen. That is just plain foolish. But there is more. You would think that with all this – to be frank – money grubbing going on, then at least the sector would be doing well financially. It certainly seems to be. But it isn’t. In fact, most new equity release loans don’t make any profits for the lender. I confess I was astonished to discover this.


To illustrate, I recently engaged with one of these ‘We will give you an equity release quote in seconds’ adverts that infest the internet. I managed to get a quote, albeit at the expense of nuisance phone calls (phone number since changed) and a ton of unwanted emails and stuff through the post. I then put the details through my own equity release calculator to work out the expected profit to the lender. I discovered that if I went ahead with the loan, the lender could expect to make a return of close to -1% a year. The firm was pestering me to take out a loan that would lose them almost 1% a year on the loan amount! Tweaking around with my model, I also

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discovered that loans to younger borrowers were the most loss-making, and that borrowers had to be in their late-seventies or older for the loans to generate any profits to the lender.

Finding the true cost So, what is going on? The answer comes down to the cost of guarantees or, to be precise, to the difference between the true and perceived costs of guarantees. When Bosch sell washing machines, those machines come with guarantees and those guarantees are costly to the manufacturer. However, Bosch has a pretty good handle on those costs and factors them into the prices they charge.

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The difference between Bosch and UK equity release firms is that the latter have little idea of the costliness of the guarantees they give out with their products. In the latter case, the guarantees are the no-negative equity guarantees that cap the amounts to be repaid at the maximum of the amount loaned plus interest and the value of the house at the time of repayment. The problem is firms use a faulty valuation methodology that massively underestimates the true costs of their guarantees. They then report profits that are not there but make dividend and bonus payments as if they were. The valuation approach they use is based on an elementary error concerning the price that should be inputted into the option pricing formula – and we have a forthcoming paper in the North American Actuarial Journal debunking it. The correct price is the forward house price, the price agreed now to give/receive delivery in the future, with payment on delivery. The price they are inputting is the future house price, which is not at all the same thing. Typically, the forward house price will be less than the current house price, e.g. because of foregone rental income, and the future house price is greater, because house prices usually go up. The conflation of forward and future house prices is so common among actuaries that we give it pride of place in our upcoming book, The Bumper Book of Actuarial Fallacies. The firms’ approach makes as much sense as using horoscopes or chicken entrails to divine the weather. The implications are not good. Investors such as pension funds will not receive the returns they expect, because firms have large and growing hidden losses that will only reveal themselves years down the road when anticipated future cash flows fail to come through. In the meantime, the party goes on until the roof eventually falls in. For more information on Professor Dowd and his research interests, visit durham.ac.uk/business/ kevin-dowd and kevindowd.org




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How necessity has made our communities more resilient and sustainable Dr Farzana Chowdhury considers how the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated sustainable development through inclusion and equality.


o comply with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), developed and emerging economies worldwide have been adopting measures to create a more inclusive society and leave a healthy planet for future generations. At the same time, the emerging and developing countries have also been focused on reducing poverty. The start of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020 shed new light on these issues as it impacted all aspects of life across countries. Government authorities instructed people to restrict movement to contain the spread of the virus. Many businesses ceased operations, nearly coming to a virtual standstill, while others transitioned to different modes of operations. The crisis has also highlighted future needs.

The pandemic – a double-edged sword? The pandemic disrupted business activities in both developed and developing economies. Even though businesses are located in different geographical locations, challenges faced by them have similarities as well as differences. According to a survey by the World Economic Forum (WEF), firms in both developed and developing countries have seen an increase in collaborative activity within a company. This increase in collaboration was not only apparent in the private sector but also in the public sector, as suggested by Dr Sania Nishtar, a special assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection: “I think never before, outside of a wartime situation, have I seen such synergy and concordance coming together to respond – this response has been quite unprecedented.” Dr Nishtar’s antipoverty agency, the Ehsaas programme, worked with other government

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agencies and businesses to distribute government stimulus payments. Similar public–private collaborations and innovations have been spurred in other countries as well during the pandemic. Despite the hardships they have experienced, small businesses have also experienced some positive effects of the pandemic. For instance, the WEF survey found that both developed and developing economies saw an increase in venture capital availability. Firms located in developed and developing countries faced unique challenges as well: the firms in the developed economies faced challenges associated with reduced collaboration between companies and less access to skilled workers. This pandemic has also forced governments to change their behaviours. The WEF survey found governments in both developed and developing countries increased their responses to changes. However, the WEF survey found firms in developing countries are concerned with governance-related challenges such as lack of trust in government, lack of judicial independence, crime and violence. Many developed and emerging countries crafted massive stimulus packages to lessen the pandemic’s negative effect. People across various countries have used these safety nets or proceeds from the stimulus packages to meet their basic needs. However, people in many of the emerging countries faced an additional challenge: corruption. Some bureaucrats viewed this pandemic and the stimulus packages as an opportunity to take advantage of their office or power for private gain.

Challenges for female workers and entrepreneurs Female workers have traditionally struggled to gain access to economic opportunities, and the problem has been more severe in developing countries. According to the Global



Entrepreneurship Monitor, only about 10% of women are engaged in entrepreneurship. Additionally, female entrepreneurs tend to engage in entrepreneurship by themselves without any partners, co-founders, or employees. A large portion of female entrepreneurs tend to be involved in entrepreneurship in the informal sector. Even though the formalisation of the informal economy has been an important policy agenda for inclusive growth, the informal economy remains a major share of the economy in a developing country. This informal engagement puts workers and entrepreneurs in a difficult position, since they lack legitimacy and are less likely to receive government support. Additionally, even if they decide to register businesses formally during this time, it does not translate to receiving government support in the near future; instead, this may even bring government-related problems such as exploitation by a government authority in the future. Similarly, women workers and entrepreneurs are more likely to work and start businesses in the service or social sectors such as domestic work, retail, tourism and hospitality. Both developed and developing countries have enacted policies over the years to increase economic opportunities to reduce gender inequality. The pandemic has put pressure on female workers and entrepreneurs since services sectors where face-to-face interactions are required have seen significant adverse effects.

Building a resilient society Prior to the pandemic, sustainable development through inclusion and equality was a major concern. The global pandemic illuminated and accelerated the need for urgency. Generally, crises force people to develop new perspectives since traditional assumptions and routines are disrupted.


Above: The pandemic has put pressure on female workers.

This crisis has made societies more innovative and collaborative out of necessity, which might not have been possible in normal times. While the innovation and entrepreneurship-related policies enacted during the crisis may not work well during standard times, the crisis certainly points out the benefit of creating an ecosystem where collaboration between public and private partnerships can flourish. Small businesses contribute to the local economy by creating jobs. The Covid-19 pandemic has put significant pressure on companies and the economy, and organisations that assist small businesses during the critical stages of their life cycle, such as accelerator and incubator programmes. These programmes provide services such as office space, networking opportunities and funding to small businesses. Supporting and creating an environment where these organisations can thrive and support businesses is essential. The crisis has also shed light on economic and social injustices while illuminating opportunities to restructure healthcare and social protection systems currently in place. Reforming the shortcomings of the existing policies will help tackle gender inequality and reduce constraints on women’s economic empowerment. For emerging countries, creating a transparent system where the government is trusted is vital for creating an inclusive society. While the current crisis and the models adopted by innovators and entrepreneurs may not be sustainable during usual times, this crisis certainly shows us the importance of creating a resilient society. For more information on Dr Chowdhury and her research interests, visit durham.ac.uk/business/ farzana-chowdhury

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Averting a cultural catastrophe Postdoctoral Research Associate Aarron Toal explains how Durham University is supporting the creative community during the pandemic.


he creative sector has been hit hard. Those working within creative industries have found themselves exposed to the full force of pandemic restrictions. The situation within the North East of England is particularly alarming, described as a ‘cultural catastrophe’ with projected losses of £400 million to the regional economy and thousands of jobs lost, making it one of the most impacted areas in the country. The consequences on regional businesses such as theatres, galleries and museums are felt by all, not just those who work within them. In an ironic turn, when many have sought solace during lockdowns with music, film and television online, industries like these have to face a multitude of challenges. Creative practices are the lifeblood of our own regional and cultural identity. Losing them would have far-reaching consequences for years to come, and researchers at Durham University Business School are committed to doing something about that.

Above: Durham Cathedral is illuminated as the Lumiere Festival opened in Durham City.

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The power of five Creative Fuse North East (CFNE) is an exciting collaboration between the North East’s five universities. A multidisciplinary and multistakeholder action research project, we work alongside industry, cultural organisations, charities and the public sector to explore how small businesses within the Creative, Digital and IT sector can have a sustainable future, whilst promoting the social and economic value they bring to the region. To meet these goals, the dedicated team at Durham University is seeking to empower local creative businesses, sole traders, freelancers and practitioners through various development initiatives, networking opportunities and research collaborations. One such initiative includes their recently launched programme of support – called Your Journey – targeted at Durham-based creative practitioners who are now, more than ever, in need of a helping hand.


Durham impact Durham University’s Creative “North East of England Fuse team, predominantly based is particularly alarming, within the Business School, is led described as a by Principal Investigator Dr Mariann ‘cultural catastrophe’ Hardey, working with myself and with projected Dr Ladan Cockshut, Senior losses of £400 Re s e a rc h e r a n d s u p p or te d by million.” Coordinator, Ann Howard, and Business Development Manager within Advanced Research Computing, Ed Ruck-Keene. Adopting a regional focus, the team is committed to developing connections with creative and digital businesses within the county, exploring ways to bring growth and innovation opportunities whilst fostering a diverse community of learning through its programme of support. Through action research, the team directly engages with creative businesses to understand the current challenges being faced, allowing for a continuous portfolio of bespoke content to be designed around identified development and support needs. The team brings together an extensive mixture of ideas and skills from creative, design and technology disciplines through our own professional or research expertise and from contacts within the wider University or business community, allowing for the delivery of impactful events and workshops.

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Over the past six months, direct business support has enabled dozens of local small businesses to take part in a bespoke programme of events and workshops offered by the team. These events have included themes of innovation and pivoting in response to new ways of working and selling, embracing digital tools to develop an online presence and reach new audiences. They have also looked at techniques to recognise what the future of small businesses looks like within the creative sector, whilst identifying ways to successfully adapt to changing work environments.

Networking opportunities Not only do these workshops deliver engaging support material, but also serve as a catalyst for new business ventures and networking opportunities. Owen Weightman, owner of 3D Virtual Spaces, a Durham-based small business that specialises in creating interactive virtual tours, engaged with the project. He explains: “Over the last few months, my involvement in the Creative Fuse programme has definitely helped my company to develop. “The training and discussion groups have allowed me to learn a lot about myself and focus on how I can use creativity to improve my strategies and services. Being involved with such a varied mixture of businesses not only allows everyone to help and support each other, but also acts as a powerful networking tool.” Engaging with such a diverse range of businesses is only possible through the interdisciplinary collaboration with colleagues across the Business School and wider University. Also, by working with those stemming from a wide range of

Below: Durham Castle and Durham Cathedral are designated as cultural World Heritage Sites in England.

disciplines across all five North East universities involved in Creative Fuse, the project continues to demonstrate the benefits of such collaborative efforts, and how they foster new opportunities for building impactful connections within the region. The project also provides the chance for innovative research collaborations, with one example seeing the team engage with The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, offering guidance and support on research design for a participatory methods project, where people will play an active and influential part to hopefully promote further business development. As Jess White, of The Bowes Museum, reflects: “I really welcomed the opportunity to network with other creatives in the North East, particularly because I am not originally from here, I am from Essex and I started a new role back in March 2020, two days before The Bowes Museum, (where I currently work as the Project Coordinator for Engaging Audiences) had to close due to the first national lockdown. Meeting new people has not really been possible, the way you would normally, so I welcomed this opportunity to connect with other creatives I had not met before living and working in the North East.” Ultimately, Creative Fuse at Durham is committed to developing and sustaining longterm engagement between the Business School, wider University and the diverse creative business communities located within the county, whilst showcasing the impact that a multidisciplinary action research approach can bring to the local economy for years to come. For more information on the Creative Fuse North East project, visit creativefusene.org.uk or email creativefuse.ne@durham.ac.uk Creative Fuse North East is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

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Protecting our mental health from Covid-19 Professor Roger Gill provides lessons for leaders on managing the wellbeing of remote workers.


t’s been more than a year since the Covid-19 pandemic began. In the UK we have lived through three long national lockdowns, spent countless hours working from our kitchen tables and makeshift desks while home-schooling our children, and without the usual support from friends, family and colleagues due to ongoing social distancing. In the face of such unprecedented living and working conditions, it’s hardly surprising that the need to protect and preserve people’s mental health and wellbeing has become a priority for those in charge of our organisations, services and governments. But where to begin? A new study I have conducted in partnership with Professor Matt Grawitch and colleagues at Saint Louis University in Missouri may provide leaders with the first steps.

Impact of Covid-19 Together, we set out to better understand the impact of ongoing Covid-19 restrictions on mental health and wellbeing. By surveying people living and working across the UK, mainland Europe and North America, throughout June 2020, we were able to explore how various demographic factors, individual differences and leadership experiences had influenced how people perceived Covid-19 to be impacting on their lives, and how these perceptions compared to the actual impact the pandemic was having. Perhaps unsurprisingly, our study found that individuals who showed and reported high levels of resilience and adaptivity to the ongoing lockdown, as well as those who received effective leadership from their employers in tackling the challenges of remote working, were more able to positively engage with their work, and they continued to do so. However, our study also delivered some unexpected results, which we believe provide key lessons for leaders in helping to manage the mental health and wellbeing of those they are responsible for.


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While demographic factors such as being employed as an essential worker or being responsible for looking after dependent children (all commonly understood to be the most stressful and difficult circumstances to be in during lockdown) certainly influenced how lockdown restrictions impacted on the respondents’ lives, our study found no evidence to suggest that these factors had any negative impact on the mental health or wellbeing of those people we surveyed.

Positive outcomes In fact, these factors actually led to better wellbeing outcomes. It’s true that many workers were met with new demands on their time during lockdown: needing to learn new technologies in order to effectively work from home, for example, or learning to navigate makeshift and hastily implemented working procedures. And many also faced new challenges as they lost out on essential financial resources. However, the shift to remote working also created a series of trade-offs for most people that led to positive outcomes. Those who previously faced lengthy commutes found they benefited from achieving a better work– life balance – not to mention the reduction in their expenses. For many of those working part-time hours on zero-hour contracts, faced with insecure work hours or even furlough, we observed that the ability to qualify for financial support helped to ease the burden and make life more manageable. But above all, the key to being able not just to survive the challenges posed by lockdown measures but to thrive under them was resilience. Our study holds a vitally important finding – that resilience is more than merely a personality trait. With the right tools and experiences, resilience can be built. For example, the participants who had been better prepared for long-term remote working by already having flexible work arrangements in place prior to lockdown were found to fare better than others, regardless of personal circumstances. It is this discovery that we believe provides vital lessons for individuals, employers and governments in protecting people’s mental health and wellbeing in the event of future pandemics and lockdown scenarios, and indeed other kinds of crisis or emergency.

For individuals It’s important to understand where the pressure points and stress factors appear in their lives

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and the root causes of them. By increasing their personal resources – whether time, energy or money – they can help alleviate the pandemic’s negative impact on their wellbeing. Despite social distancing measures, those in need do not have to struggle on alone. Learning to seek and ask for help when times get tough is absolutely crucial.

For business leaders Managers must make a conscious effort to better understand how their employees’ individual differences and resources might impact on their work-related wellbeing, particularly when new rules and procedures (such as socially-distanced office set-ups, long-term remote working and extended furlough) are implemented in future. Doing this will help to foster greater commitment from employees and greater levels of respect between the team, and build trust – all of which will help employers to create working conditions that preserve the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. Helping staff to recognise signs of stress and their causes, maintaining an open-door policy for discussing problems, and providing training such as managing workloads and time allocation are all simple but vital steps.

For governments It sometimes feels as if our governments have learned little from how the first lockdown period impacted on our mental health and wellbeing. With the exception of creating and allowing support bubbles for vulnerable individuals and families, and helping to facilitate a wider range of financial support for those in need, very little has changed policy-wise. And that is a mistake. While governments have rightly prioritised monitoring Covid-19 infection rates, it is also vital that they monitor society’s mental, physical and workrelated health status alongside this so that, in the event of future pandemics and other crises, they’re able to better consider lockdown measures and implement restrictions and public safety policies that protect both physical and mental health as much as possible. For more information about the research this article is based upon please visit psyarxiv.com and search ‘ce84n’. For more information on leadership research visit the School’s Centre for Leadership and Followership, at durham.ac.uk/business/clf



Hitting the target Professor Omneya Abdelsalam outlines some of the work her team is doing to help organisations implement the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.


he United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were issued in 2015, and more than 190 countries pledged their commitment to achieve them. However, measuring the progress at country and business levels has become a significant challenge for governments and organisations in developing countries, primarily due to a lack of know-how and data. The following article describes three projects funded by the British Council’s Newton Fund and the Economic and Social Research Council Impact Acceleration Account (ESRC IAA), where my team and I have been working with several organisations to raise awareness and build capacity towards the implementation of the SDGs.

START microfinance impact case – the three stages Aiming to create a successful impact case, the El Shaarani Research Centre for Ethical Finance, Accountability & Governance (EEFAG) engaged in a series of projects with the START Microfinance institution (START), located in Pristina, Kosovo. The institution’s overarching goal is participation in reviving and developing the economy of Kosovo by providing Islamic financial services in the form of loans. Our three-stage collaboration with START enabled it to expand its capacity and adopt innovative sustainable finance concepts as outlined in the following pages.


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Assessing performance In the first stage, we assessed START’s financial and social performance. As our key output, we generated insight into the institution’s strengths and risks while drawing management’s attention to the key findings. Specifically, our report highlighted the declining portfolio yield while providing an overview of the challenges in the operational context (i.e., Kosovo) and a proposal for alternative instruments specifically oriented towards increasing the institution’s market share. More importantly, we thoroughly examined START’s loan pricing and loan supervision policies to develop tailor-made solutions to increase profitability and efficiency. In addition, we analysed and revealed the factors causing clients to miss loan payments or default (non-performing loans); these factors were considered in the subsequent revision of START’s customer supervision and credit methodology. Beyond that, we also highlighted sustainability issues that could assist the institution in improving its long-term performance.

Demonstrating sustainable value During the second stage, we focused on increasing START’s awareness of the SDGs and enabling it to build relevant capacity. We managed to quantify the overall value created and distributed by the institution in relation to the SDGs, thereby demonstrating to START that it has the potential to become a hub for sustainable development in the country. In addition, to increase awareness among START’s employees of their institution’s tangible outcomes towards the realisation of the SDGs, we linked the institution’s activities and outcomes with the relevant SDGs. This led to the creation of a blueprint that serves as a future reference when examining START’s contribution to the SDGs. In the final stage, we introduced the concept of integrated reporting, collaborating with START in preparing its first Integrated Report. More importantly, we endeavoured to prepare a

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report that quantified not only the use of START’s six capitals (Financial, Human, Intellectual, Manufactured, Natural, and Social and Relationship capitals) but also how these capitals are transformed. Our main objective was to persuade START to embed the value creation process into its corporate philosophy, and we consider ourselves successful in this regard as we illustrated how its day-to-day operations contribute to the overall creation and distribution of value, both within and beyond the institution. In summary, we supplied START with specific tools (benchmarks and key performance indicators) to facilitate performance evaluation while broadening its knowledge on concurrent issues by linking the institution’s respective outcomes to both the value creation process and the SDGs.

Sustainable development goals in multiple organisations in 2019–2020 (funded by Newton Fund Research Environment Links Grant Scheme) In this project, we worked with multiple academic and professional partners in Turkey to build their research capacity, establishing an SDGs Implementation Network to ensure the project’s long-lasting impact. As a result of our work, these universities introduced sustainability courses and changed some of their policies to embed sustainability; one university is currently preparing to submit to the SDG-based Times Higher Education impact ranking. Meanwhile, we are working with Ibn Haldun University via the Sustainable Development Goals Implementation (SDGI) network, assessing their university policies to identify gaps and adjust their policies to embed sustainability. In addition, a considerable number of early career researchers and postgraduate researchers were mentored and inspired to write research papers and dissertations on SDGs in Sehir University (now merged with Marmara University). Furthermore, via the SDGI network, we worked with the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, the Istanbul Chamber of Industry, and the Istanbul Development Agency, as well as several Islamic banks, to raise awareness of the SDGs and help them embed sustainability in their policies and practices.

conduct comparisons with their peers around the globe. “Our research is Collectively, we inform our providing muchreaders of the SDG performance needed empirical of the country in general, and of evidence for the listed firms in particular, revealing United Nations areas with adequate performance Development and areas requiring further attention Programme.” and effort by officials and the corporate world. These reports are currently communicated to the relevant policymakers. At the firm level, we provide insight into the overall and individual SDG performance of globally listed businesses at national, regional and continental levels. We also conduct multivariate analyses and illustrate the factors influencing firm-level SDG performance of the largest 4,000 companies worldwide. Furthermore, we extend our results to capture the associations between various types of shareholders and SDG performance. For example, we have found that having greater stakes in a firm’s shares owned by individual investors, hedge funds and exchange-traded funds negatively affect firms’ SDGs performance, while performance improves when pension funds, insurance companies, and sovereign wealth funds hold greater stakes. We also examine the association between SDG performance and firm market risk. Our research is providing much-needed empirical evidence for the United Nations Development Programme, which has expressed an interest in partnering with the Durham team in taking this project further. For more information on the El Shaarani Research Centre for Ethical Finance, Accountability & Governance, visit durham.ac.uk/business/eefag. For more information on Professor Abdelsala’s research interests, visit durham.ac.uk/business/ omneya-abdelsalam

Country- and firm-level SDG performance Our research team is currently producing SDG performance reports at both country and firm levels. At the country level, the aims are threefold. First, we provide insights into the SDG performance of a specific country while also drawing comparisons at the global and regional levels. Second, we respond to the ongoing interest for firm-level SDG performance metrics by developing a comprehensive SDG scorecard, drawing on data points from multiple databases. Third, we provide insights into the overall and individual SDG performance of listed firms and


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Brexit and the threat to UK exports Dr Michael Nower says that, when it comes to Brexit, things can only get better... until they don’t.


t was always clear that the UK’s exit from the EU was going to be disruptive in the short term: increased regulatory burdens, health and agricultural control checks, all impose an additional cost on trade with the EU. Research at Durham University Business School clearly predicted an ‘overshooting effect’ on the UK economy, as firms take time to make adjustments to the new trading arrangements, and so UK trade with the EU falls substantially initially, before rebounding to its new, lower, long run equilibrium. The last-minute nature of the deal only compounded these additional costs, meaning that firms did not have sufficient time to adjust to the new reality they faced with the EU. These effects have been clearly felt, particularly with agricultural and fisheries products, and have only been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has imposed additional testing on hauliers travelling to and from Europe and closed crosschannel ‘accompanied freight’ for several days in the run up to Christmas.

situation. One ‘benefit’ of the pandemic has been to potentially dampen the immediate impact of the new restrictions, given the collapse in demand by the hospitality and non-essential retail sectors both in the UK and EU, which has lowered trade volumes between the UK and EU. In the near future, things are likely to improve dramatically from this low point: firms will adjust to the new trading arrangements, becoming more skilled at navigating the new regulatory environment. The disruptive effects of the Covid-19 pandemic will diminish over time. Customs systems will become bedded in and more adept at swiftly processing the paperwork associated with UK-EU trade. New firms will enter the market to provide more specialised customs services. All of these factors are likely to lead to a reduction in the cost of UK-EU trade and therefore drive the expected rebound in trade volumes.

Export risks The long term, however, is a very different proposition. Currently, the UK’s regulatory system is identical to the EU, given the transition of all EU law into UK law. As UK law starts to diverge, the difficulty of complying with both UK law (for domestic sales) and EU law (for exports to the EU), increases steadily. In the longer term, this is likely to drive smaller, less productive exporters out of the market, concentrating market share down, and lowering total UKEU trade. It is likely that a large portion of these ‘lost’ exports will be made up for by increased trade with non-EU countries, given the possibilities of new free trade agreements and the economic growth trajectories of the rest of the world compared to the EU. However, such gains are not guaranteed and it may take a significant period of time to make up for lost UK-EU trade.

A pandemic Brexit This closure, in the immediate period before the new regulatory burdens were imposed, introduced further severe disruption into the

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For more information about Dr Nower ’s research interests, visit durham.ac.uk/business/ michael-nower



Does Brexit news move house and rental prices? Following the UK’s exit from the European Union, Dr Damian Damianov considers its impact on the housing market.


n 27 June 2016, the Monday after the Brexit vote, I rang my landlord to notify him that I was ending my rental contract. “What!” he exclaimed, unable to conceal his alarm and apprehension. He was fearing further phone calls on that day as, when events occur in short sequence, one tends to believe that they are somehow interrelated. All the financial havoc and political turmoil in these early post-Brexit days was certainly not helping him remember how he’d hiked my rent up a few months earlier. At the time, in a matter of just a few short days, the British pound plummeted to a 30-year low and the FTSE plunged more than 8% causing a double whammy for investors.

Nothing to fear Yet, my landlord had nothing to fear. The housing market has multiple layers of protective coating, making it resistant to external shocks. Firstly, in a free-floating system, exchange rates absorb political and economic shocks almost instantaneously making all goods and services, and in particular real estate, cheaper to foreign investors overnight. And secondly, only about a month after the vote, the Bank of England intervened and further lowered the official bank rate down to a 0.25%. Consequently, mortgage borrowing became even more attractive. Both effects boosted demand and shored up confidence in the housing market, swamping the negative economic expectations. Indeed, in the nearly five years of Brexit negotiations and uncertainty, house prices remained surprisingly stable and even enjoyed a moderate growth: all major house price indices (Land Registry, Nationwide and Halifax) are up on average about 15% since the Brexit vote.


Protective forces “The housing market has multiple layers of protective coating, making it resistant to external shocks.”

The powerful forces of these two mechanisms were again on display in the early stages of the Covid-19 crisis. The initial shock of closing the UK economy was absorbed by the exchange rate. In the first two weeks of March last year, the British pound fell 12% against the US Dollar. And when the government responded with economic stimulus, put a furlough scheme in place and a stamp duty land tax holiday, house prices surged as soon as the housing market reopened. With all these protective forces at work, is it going to be smooth sailing and steady growth for the housing market as we emerge from the pandemic? Certainly, the end of the transition period and the completion of Brexit at the start of the year has had less impact than Covid-19. For now, inflation and rising interest rates appear to be the primary risk factors, but they are not yet in clear sight on the horizon. For further information about Dr Damianov’s research interests, visit durham.ac.uk/business/ damian-damianov

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Reshaping the role of HR Professor Julie Hodges explains why the human resources function needs a rethink in the face of major new challenges.


nyone who has been on a long car journey with a child has heard the repeated question, “Are we there yet?” At first, the question captures the excitement of the child anticipating a new place, but after a while the questioning becomes exasperating and only adds to the length of the journey. Similarly, the Human Resources (HR) function seems to have been asking the same question for some time, “Are we there yet?” and appears to have spent years looking for, but never arriving at, their destination. Indeed, there are few HR functions that have not, at some point, embarked upon a journey of transforming the way they are organised and how they deliver their services, including moving from being a low level administrative and maintenance function to operating as a core organisational function and a strategic business partner. Much of this change has been based on a desire to achieve a greater alignment between business strategy and HR strategy and to drive more costeffective and improved delivery of services.

Adding value The need for the repositioning of HR is particularly acute now as organisations attempt to navigate through several complex trends, not least of which is the global pandemic. This reimagining necessitates HR asking itself, “How can we add value through improving organisational effectiveness and individual wellbeing?” Within this context my latest book Reshaping HR considers the role of HR in organisational change. Some of the underlying thinking in the book is based on the results of a global study involving 500 HR practitioners and non-HR managers from 30 countries, operating in 20 industries. The findings from the study indicate that HR practitioners are:

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largely operating in the transactional space (that is, internally focused on the operational side of how employees are managed); reactive rather than proactive; supporting change, mainly during its implementation; performing the role of adviser to line managers during change; and still controlling the management of human resources. Overall, the findings suggest that the role of HR practitioners in organisational transformations is ambiguous in that they advise and support managers but still adopt a policing role. Consequently, the HR function is facing key challenges around its credibility, relevance and added value.

Transformational change The main proposal in the book is that, since people are of significant importance to the success of change, and since HR knowledge and expertise is vital to the experience and engagement of individuals and teams, internal and external to the organisation, there needs to be clarity about the role of HR in transformations. This is not to say that HR is not already involved in organisational change, but that the role of HR lacks clarity and focus with respect to how transformational change affects the whole of the organisation in an age of accelerating and complex change. We suggest that HR exists to focus on the people aspect of organisational change and that this needs to be done within the context of improving organisational effectiveness and individual wellbeing. However, this does not imply that HR should be solely responsible, but rather that HR and line managers, in particular, should work together in leading and managing the process of change. To do this effectively, HR will need to connect to the broader context in which the organisation operates, and to external, as well as internal stakeholders. HR will also have to change the conversations they have with stakeholders. They will need to be prepared to challenge views, provide innovative ideas, have a healthier appetite for risk, and be courageous and bold in order to build trust and credibility with stakeholders.


In order to succeed, HR needs to make a critical shift from being transactional to transformational which requires: • Thinking about stakeholders differently: Rather than considering stakeholders from an internal perspective only, they should also be considered from an external perspective. Applying a stakeholder lens will help to drive a critical shift in HR thinking and this shift is the foundation upon which other transformational priorities can be built • Developing new capabilities: HR will need to adopt a new mindset and embrace new skills and behaviours, which will allow the organisation to thrive in the digital age • Increasing the efficiency through which HR transactional activities occur using automation: HR will have to widely deploy advanced technology in order to promote productivity and value and to simplify the employee experience. In addition, HR will have to capture data that will facilitate the development of more data-driven decision-making • Expanding the expectations and stature of HR: HR must elevate its focus by driving tangible and measurable value across the organisation.

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Rebranding HR Movement in this direction is not without its issues and it will require HR to address some key challenges, one of which is what it is called. What was clear from the research is that the term ‘Human Resources’ is no longer fit for purpose, and some organisations have rebranded the function as ‘Employee Experience’ or ‘Employee Engagement and Performance’. Likewise, some HR leaders have changed their titles from HR Director to Chief HR Officer (CHRO), People Director, or even People and Culture Director. This type of rebranding has been happening at major inflection points in the history of the profession, such as when the name of the function was changed from ‘Personnel’ to ‘Human Resources’. Although such a rebrand can serve as a refresh, it may also be ineffectual if there are no fundamental changes made to the purpose, role, and outcomes. Merely changing its name and/or job titles will not transform HR. The path forward for HR requires some fundamental rethinking about what HR does and how it is built to deliver its purpose. In reshaping the HR model, a whole systems approach will need to be adopted to identify changes to be made to the structure, governance, and analytics, in order to create a coherent self-sustaining and integrated HR. What emerges then will not be a ‘cut and paste’ of someone else’s best practice, nor an implementation of a standard model, but instead a model that is fit for the future. Professor Hodges’ new book, Reshaping HR, is available from the publisher routledge.com For more information on Professor Hodges’ research interests, visit durham.ac.uk/business/ julie-hodges

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A question of social diversity Is the fund management industry diverse enough to represent the interests of stakeholders? asks Dr John Millar.


The fund management industry plays a central, though often unrecognised, role in all our lives. Historically the industry’s main purpose was to invest money saved through pension funds or insurance products – the decisions they took had important consequences for the financial wellbeing of savers and the provision of capital to businesses. More recently, and particularly since the launch of the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment in 2006, fund managers have promoted their environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials, positioning t h e m s e l ve s a s re s p o n s i b l e s t ewa rd s o f

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their clients’ investments. These ESG activities i n c l u d e m o n i to r i n g i nve ste e co m p a n i e s ’ behaviour, holding them to account, and engaging with them in order to improve, for example, their carbon emissions or their policies on workers’ rights. Fund managers therefore have an important part to play in reshaping the world, both through their investment and their corporate engagement activities. The power they have is tremendous: a Boston Consulting Group study calculated that global assets under management totalled $89 trillion in 2019, equivalent to over 60% of global GDP, so they can exert a huge influence on the boards of the world’s largest companies.

Recruitment process The emergence of ESG as a core activity is still developing, and there are a number of interesting research avenues to explore. My research has focused on a different, yet related question: does the fund management industry have the social diversity needed to legitimise its claims to represent the interests of its stakeholders? I studied this question by examining the recruitment processes among firms based in Edinburgh, the UK’s second-largest centre for fund management. This is a cluster of which I have extensive first-hand experience: before my doctoral studies I worked for 24 years as a fund manager in Edinburgh. I was particularly interested in exploring the theme of social class: the investment industry has been active in responding to its lack of diversity through initiatives such as the Diversity Project, but so far has paid relatively little attention to the theme of social diversity. Echoing both prior academic research and a 2014 study by the Sutton Trust which found that 42% of new entrants to the industry had been privately educated (the national average is 7%), I found a high level of social exclusivity within the field. In my study, over 60% of those who took part were privately educated, and all had attended a Russell Group university. As a majority of research participants came from a narrow sliver of society, it suggests that the recruitment practices within firms are excluding or even discriminating against candidates from less privileged backgrounds. I am not suggesting that firms are actively and deliberately pursuing discriminatory policies, rather that this is happening as an unintended consequence of their practices.

Cultural fit The core process underpinning these recruitment practices is one that has been discussed by academic researchers including Louise Ashley and Lauren Rivera: the pursuit of cultural fit. Candidates are assessed not on their academic records or technical skills, but rather on t h e ex te n t to w h i c h t h e i r b a c kg ro u n d s ,

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self-presentation, and interests and pastimes overlap with those of existing members of the firm. In her 2015 book Pedigree, Lauren Rivera studied the recruitment processes across several elite professional service sectors, finding that, in more than 50% of cases, the hiring decision was based on these interpersonal factors. In some respects, the pursuit of fit is a sensible approach. After all, as research participants argued, it is good to have something in common with colleagues with whom you are going to spend a lot of time in the office or, as one respondent described, “stuck in an airport terminal in Lagos”. However, there is also an obvious risk: that firms will be made up of individuals from very similar backgrounds with similar life experiences and who accordingly see the world through a very similar lens. Through a shared pursuit of fit, these individuals will hire in their own image and in this way an elite group can reproduce itself. This is particularly likely if, as I found, the criteria upon which hiring decisions are made are socially loaded – this helps to explain the exclusionary nature of firms’ hiring practices.

What firms look for Specifically, I identified three hiring criteria: the power of an individual’s social network, t h e i r co m m u n i c a t i o n a b i l i t i e s , a n d t h e i r extracurricular achievements. Each of these has an instrumental value: strong personal networks can indicate good interpersonal skills, communication abilities are important in a job where you have to be able to persuade your colleagues to follow a particular course of action, and extracurricular achievements indicate commitment and resilience. H oweve r, t h ey a l s o b e a r sy mb ol i c a n d socially-loaded meaning. Analysing someone’s social network allows you to place them in the social hierarchy and hence, as the famous sociologist C. Wright Mills described, certify the “socially fit”. An assessment of communication skills involves consideration of accent, physical appearance and confidence, all of which again serve as elite markers. Finally, the achievements valued most highly are those that map most closely to traditional upper-class pursuits. Why should these findings matter? Simply, if the fund management industry is to fulfil its potential as a significant change-maker, it needs to move beyond a patrician form of ‘gentlemanly capitalism’ (the gendered adjective is deliberate), to something much more inclusive and much closer to the needs and values of those whose money they invest. My research suggests that a radical overhaul of their recruitment practices is needed – otherwise they risk becoming dislocated, decoupled and delegitimised. For more information about Dr Millar’s research i n t e re s t s , v i s i t d u r h a m . a c . u k / b u s i n e s s / john-millar



Why firms should hire more autistic workers Professor Carol Adams explains that neurodiversity in the workplace can have benefits for businesses.


ome of my favourite fictional characters include Spock and Seven of Nine from Star Trek, Dr Martin Ellingham from Doc Martin and Shaun Murphy from The Good Doctor. Apart from being brilliant at their jobs, they are all considered to be autistic by the autism community. It is no coincidence that what makes these characters so good at their jobs are characteristics


associated with autistic or non-neurotypical people. Leaving aside the Good Doctor’s and Seven’s savant abilities, they are all logical thinkers, curious, evidence-based decision-makers, tenacious, persistent at solving problems and focused. They offer different perspectives and don’t succumb to the sort of groupthink or nonevidence-based decision-making that lands many companies in trouble. Their tendency to be direct and honest in social interactions can sometimes get these characters into hot water. But it also stops them getting bogged down in office politics. And it’s for all these reasons that, in the real world, a growing number of companies are seeing the value of hiring autistic people. Technology companies such as Microsoft and Dell already have autism hiring programmes. The hiring process tends to focus on the technical abilities of candidates and includes observing team-building exercises. Other organisations are going further, aiming to change perceptions and highlight the benefits that hiring people with different ways of thinking can bring. German software company SAP launched an initiative in 2013 to recruit more people on the autism spectrum and showcase the benefits they bring to the company. Their chief executive, Christian Klein, says: “SAP teams who have colleagues with autism report a rise in

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patent applications, innovations in products, and an increase in management skills and empathy.” This is due to the curiosity of autistic people, an ability to memorise large amounts of information, see patterns as well as detail and a determination to get the job done. New ways of seeing problems have led to innovations for the company. These successes have thrilled managers and encouraged them to look beyond the neurotypical skill set.

people in the way that neurotypical people expect. Recent research by Catherine Crompton and Sue Fletcher-Watson found that autistic research participants communicated more effectively with one another than mixed groups of autistic and non-autistic people. This shows that autistic and non-autistic people have different expectations about communication and social interactions. They think, feel and communicate differently.

Room for improvement

Reporting and accountability

Despite these clear benefits, participation rates of autistic people in the workforce are low. It’s 32% in the UK (16% full-time) and 38% in Australia, despite the vast majority of unemployed autistic adults wanting employment and having skills to offer. In many other countries, there is no data – autistic people of working age are invisible. Selection processes for jobs often emphasise eye contact, small talk and rapport, which can lead to employers missing out on autistic candidates. So-called soft skills may be sought and judged when they are not required or not an integral part of the job, even where they are trumped by work ethic, technical and perception skills. Some consider people on the autism spectrum to be refreshingly direct and honest. But autistic people can be considered rude for their direct way of communicating. This isn’t because they do not care about others, they just might not respond to

To avoid missing out on the skills autistic people bring, companies can learn from the experience of improving gender and race diversity, where both direct and indirect discrimination act as a barrier. There is still a long way to go when it comes to gender and race equality in the workplace and the road ahead for the neurodiverse is no less arduous. Over many years of reviewing corporate reports, including their equal opportunities policies and disclosures on gender, race and “disability”, I can count on one hand the mention of the benefits of neurodiverse teams, the successes of autistic individuals or the measures taken to accommodate them. My research shows how the banking and retail sectors have changed the way they hold themselves accountable for the employment of women and ethnic minorities over the last century, in line with changing views of society. This also reflects changes in government policy. Greater awareness of neurodiversity is needed and will hopefully lead to similar changes for people who think differently to the majority. We need all kinds of people – women, different races, cultures, sexual orientations and neurodiversity – at all levels of our organisations to create our future. Whether that’s activist Greta Thunberg daring to confront political leaders on climate change, an academic challenging practice and policy through evidence, or an employee finding an innovative solution to a problem. For more information on Professor Adams’ research interests, visit durham.ac.uk/business/ carol-adams This article was previously published on The Conversation and retains its original wording and style.

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In the months following the first UK national lockdown, supply chains were facing a new set of challenges due to demand shocks.


Durham University Business School / IMPACT

Building resilient supply chains Professor Kiran Fernandes explains how the Business School has been collaborating to offer free support to companies through the pandemic.


he Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the vulnerabilities and fragilities in global supply chains. This black swan event has shown that, while companies operate through global supply chains, the impact of such an external shock is felt at a local level. A study, entitled Covid-19 and Supply Chains in the United Kingdom: Impact & Mitigation, that I co-authored with Drs Atanu Chaudhuri and Manish Shukla, alongside other professors from the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Technology Management (CITM), has shown that the potential effect of Covid-19 on economic and societal costs will be huge. The report, which reviewed over 1.7 million businesses in all UK geographical areas, spread across all industrial sectors, found that 29% of companies were at high risk due to how their supply chains operate. This report also shows around 35% of the firms were

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The Durham team used a big data approach to better understand supply chain configurations and develop mitigation strategies.


Durham University Business School / IMPACT

either at low or medium risk due to the potential impact of Covid-19. This study also found that many companies have never experienced such an external shock and therefore were not prepared with mitigation strategies for their complex global supply chains. This was due to several factors like complexity of supply chains in the region, supply chain configuration, internal and external resilience characteristics of companies, agility in managerial decision-making capability and the adoption and use of technologies. The Durham team used a big data approach to better understand supply chain configurations and develop mitigation strategies that could be adopted by supply chains across a large number of sectors. These mitigation approaches were designed to help companies develop resilience strategies and to provide practical advice on how managers and business owners could navigate their company in the time of the current ongoing crisis.

Robust strategies Researchers from the CITM partnered with groups such as the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the Materials Processing Institute (MPI), to provide free support on how companies can develop robust mitigation and resilience strategies, which can be adopted by them to not only overcome the impact of Covid-19, but successfully compete in a global economy. Many companies directly benefited from the free support provided by Durham. During the first few weeks of the pandemic, the UK medical industry, like many other sectors, was facing supply shocks. This was primarily due to disruptions in the supply of parts and services from South East Asian countries such as China, which like the UK, have been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Durham team worked with a North-East-based company to propose the development of a smart on-demand manufacturing platform that can connect national UK capabilities of both conventional manufacturing and 3D printing to deliver medical devices in compliance with ISO 13485 standards and the UK regulatory framework. Such a system can combine local manufacturing capabilities to form a federation of supply chains, in order to deliver critical medical components which not only meet the UK regulatory framework but can be traced across the entire supply chain.   In the months following the first UK national lockdown, supply chains were facing a new set of challenges due to ‘demand shocks’. One of the unintended consequences of national and

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regional lockdowns was that consumers were stocking products to comply with restrictions on movements, and in many cases were ‘panic’ buying. During this period, the team in Durham worked with a supply chain specialist company to help develop a solution that would allow supply chains to be dynamic, and meet demand shocks by having responsive, interconnected systems with end-to-end visibility. The supply chain specialist company now offers solutions that allow supply chains to have data in real time so managers can take decisive actions – particularly to meet ‘demand shocks’.

Inventory bounce In the current pandemic recovery phase, the main challenge for companies is to avoid ‘inventory bounce’ and seek a different cost/resilience tradeoff to make supply chains robust, sustainable and green. Inventory bounce could happen as a result of Covid-19, as in many areas, demand has reached a new steady state which is lower than the pre-Covid steady state. This affects both upstream and downstream processes and, if not managed well, could cause huge disruptions in the supply chain. In addition to this, companies need to analyse the carbon footprint of their supply chain networks to make them sustainable and green. The Durham team is working with a company that specialises in mapping supply chain carbon “This study also using a novel methodology found that many which captures carbon data companies have never across the entire supply chain. experienced such One of the largest multinational an external shock energy and services companies is and were not adopting this novel carbon capture prepared.” methodology to develop a zerocarbon strategy. The Durham team adopted an agile strategy to support businesses, ranging from a series of free webinars and masterclasses, to providing one-to-one support. Working with stakeholders and project partners like CPI, CBI, FSB and the MPI has allowed Durham to work with regional businesses and ecosystems. This knowledge transfer has allowed Durham’s expertise to be transferred to businesses so they can develop both short-term and long-term resilience strategies to help them not only survive, but to compete in a post-Covid-19 environment.  For more information on Professor Fernandes’ research interests, visit durham.ac.uk/business/ kiran-fernandes. For information on the Centre of Innovation and Technology Management, visit durham.ac.uk/business/CITM



How the Durham MBA made me an entrepreneur Businesswoman Kamales Lardi explains how an MBA changed her life and her career.


amales Lardi is an alumna of t h e D u r h a m M B A ( F u l l - t i m e) , a student mentor, a guest lecturer and Chair of the MBA Advisory Board. She’s also the entrepreneur behind Lardi & Partner Consulting GmbH, p rov i d i n g h e r c l i e n t s w i t h s m a r t d i g i t a l transformation strategies. Ka m a l e s ’s co m p a ny wa s vo te d D i g i t a l Business Transformation Firm of the Year 2020 by Business Worldwide Magazine and she was invited to join the Forbes Business Council –becoming a regular contributing author on the platform. Since graduating in 2004 she has carried the Business School with her throughout her career. She shares her story here…

Why did you choose to study at Durham University Business School? Before the MBA, I was a consultant with Accenture in Malaysia, focusing on technology implementation. They’d recruited me straight out of university. After three-and-a-half years I wanted to develop more business and management knowhow, so an MBA made sense. Durham was one of the few that offered a one-year degree at the time, providing me with the chance to get back to my career as quickly as possible. The programme was also one of the most diverse I had encountered. We had students from multiple regions in one classroom and 65-year-old doctors learning alongside young graduates. For me, this diversity of knowledge, culture and experience was key.

Did your study experience on the Durham MBA alter your career plans? Things changed quite a bit because I met my husband in Durham, and never went back to Malaysia. Instead, I moved to his native country, Switzerland, and I continued my career in consulting there. My career plans also changed in the sense that I got a taste for European culture through the MBA. It was the first time I’d been away from Asia and it had a huge impact on me in reconsidering how I adapted to the wider working environment.

Where did your career take you after graduation? Did you move straight into launching your own venture? No, I sent out almost 300 job applications! It doesn’t sound great, but this point is important because a lot of MBA graduates will go through a similar process. There are no shortcuts to the


job market. The process can be tedious, but it’s fruitful if you persevere. Once I secured a position, it was easier to make my way up – I began at Zurich Insurance and then moved on to Deloitte. By the time I left, I had become the Head of Deloitte Digital Switzerland. I was about to have my first daughter when I decided it was time to launch my own business – maybe brave, maybe crazy – but there was more than a little bit of stubbornness involved. Once I became a mum, it seemed I was expected to take a step back in my career. I said “absolutely not”. If my employer couldn’t offer me progression, I’d secure it for myself. I started applying for other jobs, but quickly realised that most companies responded in the same way to a working mum. So, I explored launching my own firm instead – worst case scenario is that I’d fall flat on my face and end up in the same position I was already in! Fortunately, it worked.

Did you face any significant hurdles as a new entrepreneur – particularly a female entrepreneur with a young family? One of the biggest challenges was maintaining motivation. In a corporate environment you are handed responsibilities and deadlines, and have a shared goal to work towards with others. In striking out on your own, you’re responsible for your own successes and failures, and that can be hard to get to grips with. Another key challenge, particularly relevant for today’s graduates, is the need for experience. The years I spent in the corporate world after my MBA were hugely beneficial, so I always advise the MBA students I mentor to work on getting the relevant basic experiences first.

Are there any key lessons you took from the MBA that have been invaluable in your entrepreneur journey? The MBA humbled me. It required me to step back, reassess and ask myself: “Do I really know everything I think I know?” I also learned a lot from collaborating with my classmates. I thought I had come into the programme from quite a multicultural environment, but the MBA had people from all over the world. I had to consider: “How can I work effectively with different people, personalities and cultures?” Most importantly, being at Durham allowed me to test myself without really truly failing. This is why business school is so important – students can explore their limits knowing they’re in a safe

Durham University Business School / IMPACT

Once I became a mum, it seemed I was expected to take a step back in my career. I said ‘absolutely not’. If my employer couldn’t offer me progression, I’d secure it for myself.

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environment to learn from their mistakes and improve. I don’t think many students see it that way; they’re very driven and they want to be successful in everything, but failure is a big part of success.

Are there any other lessons you’ve learned along the way that might be beneficial for MBA graduates aspiring to be entrepreneurs? There’s a challenge which every entrepreneur faces in getting the right resources and the right people at the right time. You’re constantly juggling many things: you’re responsible for your own marketing, your own promotion, your client management and lead generation, ensuring project delivery – never mind managing your personal life too! You need to learn when to ask for help. I’ve had business coaches and business mentors over the years who’ve helped me to build my profile and to grow.

Has knowing the value of that mentor support driven your decision to become an MBA mentor? I think so. Mentors and mentees have a lot to offer each other. I’m currently working with two recent Durham MBA graduates who I met while I was at the School for an MBA Advisory Board meeting. They first came on board to help with a project, and now we’re collaborating on other things – so it’s been mutually beneficial to have this continuous relationship with the Business School throughout my career.


How did you become involved with the Business School again after graduation? The alumni service asked me to give a guest lecture, then invited me to join the Advisory Board. From there our collaboration has grown – I’ve been part of the Advisory Board for over four years, and I’ve been the Chair for over a year. I’ve also mentored MBA students for a number of years – being voted Mentor of the Year in 2016. I’ve been invited to give more lectures and now I’m a teaching fellow. Durham truly changed my life, so I’ve been very happy to give back.

Are there core elements of the MBA programme or important principles of the School that have endured? The authentic, down-to-earth culture of the School is something I truly enjoyed as a student, and that’s stayed the same. The last year has been very challenging for higher education institutions, but I’ve been able to observe how well the Business School, as well as Durham University, has responded to that – shifting things online, coping with the challenges the pandemic has brought, and not letting it dampen the mood or the working environment that we’ve created. Follow Kamales Lardi on LinkedIn linkedin.com/ in/kamaleslardi or read about her company lardipartner.com To find out more about the Durham MBA, visit durham.ac.uk/mba

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Students solving strategic business challenges Two former Business School students tell us what it was like to work with a company as part of their business project.


he School works with local, national a n d i n te r n a t i o n a l co m p a n i e s a n d organisations in many ways, ranging from knowledge transfer partnerships to executive education, and research collaborations to providing placement students. However, in this issue we are highlighting our postgraduate business projects, particularly those undertaken by our MBA and MSc Business Analytics students. Between June and September, our MBA and MSc Business Analytics students work with

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companies to complete a business project. This is a great opportunity for organisations to benefit from our talented students to tackle a business challenge head-on. Our students work across all sectors and functions, applying their skills and knowledge to deliver results that can move a business forward. A business project also provides an excellent opportunity for students to gain practical experience relevant to their career aspirations and enhance their professional network. Read on to hear two different experiences from our MBA and MSc Business Analytics alumni.

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Daisy Igbokwe uses marketing research to assess student brand awareness and product adoption intentions Nigerian-Canadian MBA alumna, Daisy Igbokwe, chose to do her Strategic Business Project with Sage, market leaders in cloud accounting and business management software. Before studying her MBA at the Business School, Daisy worked at an accounting software company, Intuit, in Toronto, across a variety of roles in marketing. Since graduating, Daisy has been appointed to a role at Sage in London, as a Product Marketing Manager, and is looking forward to growing her career at Sage. Read on to hear more about Daisy’s experience working on her project.

a panel was convened to allocate projects based on the interests of the companies and the students.

Describe your Strategic Business Project

Why did you choose Sage?

I chose to work with Sage for my project exploring the topic of customer awareness and software adoption intentions. I partnered with the Sage Qualifications Programme team to examine and understand students’ awareness and perception of Sage Accounting software, and the motivating factors that influence their decision to adopt or continue using Sage after graduating. The objective was to identify opportunities for Sage to engage with students and propose creative solutions, which will help Sage to improve its awareness and facilitate students’ adoption and continued use of Sage software.

I shortlisted and selected Sage as my top choice as I was familiar with the company and industry, having previously worked for an accounting software company, a competitor of Sage. I was also really interested in the business issue they were looking to investigate. Once I was matched with Sage and assigned a supervisor, I was introduced to my main point of contact at the company, who I worked closely with. We immediately met to discuss the project in more detail and clarified the topic and focus. We outlined a timetable which had key dates and the milestones I was working towards, which helped me to stay on track. My experience of working with the company was great, we communicated frequently via email and videoconferencing and I found them to be incredibly supportive and collaborative. My main point of contact at Sage, Tim O’Reilly, was an amazing partner and connector and he provided me with the resources I needed to effectively conduct my research and analysis, including relevant company information, and having his support set me up for success.

What was your experience of choosing the project and working with the company? Strategic Business Projects are either self-sourced, where students find a company to host their prospective project, or School-sourced, where the Business School sources several projects from external organisations, and these are usually competitive and aligned to your chosen pathway. My project was School-sourced. All the Schoolsourced projects were shared with students for us to access and do some background research on the different companies that we were interested in working with. We then indicated the projects we were interested in. The companies also conducted a similar selection exercise, as they were provided with our MBA Talent Book to choose the students they felt were the best fit. Once both parties had made their choices,

Above: Daisy Igbokwe chose to do her Strategic Business Project with Sage.

What were the project outcomes? The outcomes of the project were to provide an independent, well-researched and analysed written piece of work on the business issue being investigated. By applying relevant research techniques, I critically analysed students’ awareness and perceptions of Sage accounting

Sage was excited to host this successful Strategic Business Project last year.  When selecting a student to manage the project, Daisy clearly stood out. I was very impressed with her enthusiasm from the outset and thoroughly enjoyed working with her. We gained extremely useful insights and the feedback will help Sage to develop our support for students. Tim O’Reilly, Qualifications Manager at Sage


Durham University Business School / IMPACT

software and presented recommendations for facilitating its continued use to the business.

Did you find it beneficial to undertake the project, and if so, how? I definitely found the project beneficial, as it allowed me to apply the learnings from the MBA in practice, from in-depth research and analysis to developing a critical understanding of business practices, as well as developing and implementing strategy at an organisational level. This project also allowed me to hone and enhance my planning, organisation and time management skills. I also really benefited from the relationships I built with the organisation and the Business School throughout the project. to consider the environmental aspect, which is extremely relevant in the current business world, with companies operating on a global scale. I considered myself lucky in getting this project and working with such a well-known retail company.

Zhenghong Qiu uses data analytics to inform the supply chain distribution model After completing his Business Administration degree in Boston, USA, Zhenghong Qiu came to the UK to study the MSc Business Analytics programme. For his Business Analytics project, Zhenghong worked with WoolOvers, a British lifestyle brand, designing and selling quality natural knitwear. Since completing his programme, Zhenghong now works as a consultant. Read on as he tells us about his business project experience.

What were the outcomes? After comparing earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) in different scenarios, I recommended the company keep the third-party warehouse due to anticipated decreasing demand and the “The project helped increased shipping costs me improve greatly associated with a centralised in terms of my skills and inventory system. academic abilities.”

What was the project about? Using data analytics, the project aimed to look at WoolOvers’ distribution model at a local level. The company partners with a third-party warehouse in Australia to handle the entire stock and delivery services for Australia and New Zealand customers. They wanted to understand whether it was beneficial to continue operating a separate warehouse in Australia, or to move to a model of despatching these orders out of the UK. The project included considerations from a monetary and non-monetary perspective, investigating the short-term and long-term impact of such change.

What was your experience of the project and then working with the company? I was always interested in business supply chain problems. The scope also required me

Did you find it beneficial to undertake the project, and if so, how?

Above: Zhenghong Qiu came to the UK to study MSc Business Analytics.

F i r s t l y, t h i s p ro j e c t co n s o l i d a te d my data analytical skills such as Python clustering, Excel modelling and most importantly, my business problemsolving mindset. Approaching this real business problem and communicating with someone from the company made the whole learning process much more engaging. Secondly, the project helped me improve greatly in terms of my skills and academic abilities. To learn more about how the School works with business visit durham.ac.uk/business/corporatepartnerships or for Business Projects visit durham.ac.uk/business/bp

Zhenghong was excellent. He was proactive in arranging discussions, approaching me with questions and was very logical and well thought out in his approach to the project. He clearly put a lot of time and effort into the project and that showed in his output. Stephen Kehl, Financial Controller, WoolOvers Limited

Issue 9 8 / 2020 2021

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“The flexibility of a DBA is like no other. I am thankful for the opportunity to pursue my professional and academic aspirations.”

Our DBA community Changing the world of business practice with every thesis


his magazine showcases the vast range and depth of academic research undertaken by the School’s faculty. In addition to this, our students also undertake a large amount of excellent influential research. In issue 5 of IMPACT, we focused on the School’s PhD community. In this issue we turn the spotlight on our Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) students and graduates. Our DBA part-time programmes enable business


executives to continue to work whilst they study and focus on a research project relevant to their organisation or industry sector, increasing the breadth of their subject knowledge and informing business practice. The Business School offers three unique DBA programmes: the Durham DBA based in Durham; the Durham DBA at Fudan, in partnership with Fudan University, Shanghai, China; and the Global DBA run in partnership with emlyon business school, France.

Durham University Business School / IMPACT

The Durham DBA Asrif Yusoff

Dr Vladimir Vladimirov

A curious and committed learner, Asrif Yusoff from Malaysia started his DBA with Durham last year. Asrif is a senior manager with the PETRONAS Leadership Centre, and already has a Masters in Social Innovation from Cambridge and an MBA from Imperial College London, so why did he choose to start his DBA with Durham? “Pursuing a doctorate was never a plan I had but, after completing my master’s programme, I grew curious about the dynamics of organisations and how it relates to my day-to-day interactions at work. It’s a fascinating subject which drew me to look out for a doctorate degree that has the right balance of depth, challenge, and flexibility. The Durham DBA had it all, so I applied.” PETRONAS is very supportive of Asrif undertaking his DBA. “I’m fortunate to be working in an environment where I am surrounded by learning and development practitioners, which is close to my research topic. So, it has been an enriching journey not only in the classroom, but also at work. I get to make connections between theory and application almost daily as part of my job, and I’m very thankful for this opportunity. My research is focusing on how leadership development can be more effective, inclusive, and accessible within organisations. It is an area companies invest in heavily over the years, but the returns on these expenditures still need to be uncovered. It’s still early days, and I do hope to sustain the momentum for the long run.” Asrif adds: “The flexibility of a DBA is like no other. I am thankful for the opportunity to pursue my professional and academic aspirations together, especially when I get to test the theories I am exploring at work. It’s a great connection between working and learning. The faculty are always engaging, the staff are helpful, and my classmates were friendly from the get-go. It’s great to be associated with the Durham family.”

One of the great things about the Business School is the alumni network that being part of the Durham family opens. It includes alumni like Dr Vladimir Vladimirov from Sofia, Bulgaria. IMPACT caught up with Vladimir recently and asked him to reflect on why he chose the Durham DBA and what his experience has taught him. “After careful consideration I chose to study the Durham DBA because of the executive character of the programme, and the worldleading quality of the Business School research. Throughout the taught modules, I gained new insights looking at business mechanics, which I have never considered as important before. I am an MBA graduate and a Fellow Chartered Certified Accountant, and therefore was supposed to be familiar with the best business practice before beginning the DBA programme; however, the taught modules promoted my knowledge of business management to an even higher level. I have learned about issues and approaches that are very often either unknown or underestimated by some boardroom-level executives.” Vladimir now uses his new business insight through his research in a consultancy as the basis for organisational turnaround and restructuring. He explains: “My research thesis is about transformation of troubled organisations and possible approaches that deal successfully with underperforming companies. The programme context allowed me to see the reorganisational issues from the right perspective, and the DBA professors helped me to succeed in my research efforts.” Vladimir adds: “Overall, the DBA programme was a fabulous journey that I will never forget. I met great professors and outstanding doctoral students, who all came from different industries and professional backgrounds across the globe.”

Issue 9 / 2021



The Durham DBA at Fudan Grace Zhang

Dennis Sun

Grace Zhang is a current candidate with Durham and Fudan. She works for Shanghai Municipal Audit Bureau. “I hope to broaden my horizons, further improve my capabilities in enterprise management and develop a rigorous research and learning methodology through the DBA. It will help me to define the problems, to do the literature review and find the gaps in existing theories and ultimately to do the research to address issues.” Grace is only at the beginning of her DBA journey, and this year will start the sampling and formal survey to inform her research study ‘Implicit followership, leadership empowerment and employees’ innovative behaviour: evidence from China’. “The research will be significant as I look to fill gaps in implicit follower theory. It will enrich the field of implicit followership and also expand the research on the leadership trust and the forerunner variables of empowerment behaviour,” she explains. The research should be complete, written up and submitted by December this year. “The DBA programme is excellent for business people who wish to pursue further research and study after their master’s degree,” adds Grace. “It is like a window to explore the unknown world, through which we can understand what we do not know, through which we can study the achievements of our predecessors, and through which we can go into the fields we are interested in. DBA students can make contributions to both theoretical and practical areas.”

Durham and Fudan have delivered a partner DBA programme for over 10 years, and the programme has a growing alumni base. Dennis Sun, Founder and Managing Partner of Granview Capital, graduated last year and is currently living in Shanghai. “I have worked in the information technology industry for nearly 20 years, in countries such as the United States, Singapore, Japan, and Malaysia. In that time, I have witnessed the rapid development of computer and information technology and the growth of the internet industry. The digital economy has gradually become dominant, and the digital transformation of enterprises is also accelerating. However, most enterprises have failed in digital transformation. My research looked to find the key factors and successful models of digital transformation.” Dennis found the six years of the programme challenging, but it was ultimately an experience that he very much enjoyed. After in-depth analysis of Chinese information technology enterprises and collaboration with mentors, supervisors and classmates, Dennis found the answers he wanted. “In the process of digital transformation, as the research discovered, customer value co-creation is a very important factor which can affect the company’s performance. Furthermore, the enterprise’s digital maturity affects multiple dimensions of value co-creation and multiple factors of company performance.” Both the research findings and alumni network have been brought together in Dennis’ current enterprise. He explains: “In the last year of my DBA study, several alumni and I founded a venture capital fund involved in value creation. We focused on investment and service with early start-up technology companies. We used the knowledge and tools which I learned through the DBA to provide precise value-added services for enterprises.”


Durham University Business School / IMPACT

The Global DBA: Durham-emlyon Jannies Burlingame

I wanted to do a DBA as I’m in perpetual pursuit of knowledge – to further my education, and to prepare myself for leadership positions on corporate boards.

Offered in partnership with French business school emlyon, the Global DBA is the latest addition to the DBA portfolio. The Global DBA very much focuses on technology and innovation. IMPACT caught up with Jannies Burlingame, former Chief Audit Executive of a bio-pharmaceutical company in the USA and now an active consultant and one of the inaugural 2019 candidates. She says: “I wanted to do a DBA as I’m in perpetual pursuit of knowledge – to further my education, and to prepare myself for leadership positions on corporate boards. I chose the Global DBA for its global aspect, and the quality of the faculty and cohort were both strong considerations in my decision. The joint offering by two top business schools added value to my academic endeavours.” Jannies’ research topic is in keeping with this issue’s theme and IMPACT was keen to find out her thoughts on studying in the current environment. “My doctoral thesis is ‘Empathy and its role in virtual negotiations’. I chose a dissertation relevant in today’s business world, and in areas I am passionate about. “The programme is both challenging and intellectually satisfying. I adore my cohort – we are one big global family and support each other. I love that, instead of competing with each other, we elevate each other. We communicate frequently (nearly daily), keeping each other updated. It’s fascinating to learn the world view on the current global pandemic. It brings many flavours to our colourful discussions.” For more information on the Doctor of Business Administration programmes offered, visit durham.ac.uk/dba

Issue 9 / 2021



“They all had big dreams they were passionate about; they all knew what they wanted and believed they could achieve it.”

Masters entrepreneurial spirit shines through We are always happy to feature the successes of our alumni and in recent issues of IMPACT we have covered a number of entrepreneurial Masters graduates. In this article we catch up with some of them.

Alumna recognised as a top entrepreneur Congratulations to Khdeija Sidi-Boubacar who was named in the Poets and Quants Masters in Management Entrepreneurs of 2020 list. Published in November 2020, by the US graduate business education publisher, the list is made up of 20 successful entrepreneurs from leading Masters in Management programmes around the world. Khdeija graduated from our MSc Management (Entrepreneurship) programme in 2017 and then built her own company, Raiona. Raiona is a business matchmaking service which Khdeija describes as “arranged marriages for companies”. Companies come to her with an issue, and she connects them with another company that can collaborate with them to solve it. Raiona operates from Mauritania and works with businesses f ro m a n e t wo r k s p re a d a c ro ss 1 4 4 different countries. As part of the Poets and Quants report, Khdeija shared experiences along


her entrepreneurial journey, including studying here in Durham. She said: “One of the best things about Durham University Business School is how supportive and accessible its staff are. The time I spent there helped me to build my self-confidence, gain important business knowledge and tools, improve my n e t wo r k i n g s k i l l s a n d t a ke t h e decision to create my own start-up upon leaving the UK.” Khdeija recalls her time in Durham as “the best year of my life”, and described the cohort she shared her Durham MSc Management journey with as very passionate: “They all had big dreams they were passionate about; they all knew what they wanted and believed they could achieve it. It is something I truly admired and found inspirational.” You can read the full article and Khdeija’s interview on the Poets and Quants website poetsandquants.com and find out more about Raiona at raionaa.com

Durham University Business School / IMPACT

Business start-ups that are driven by passion Adeseye (Ade) Lawal-Solarin is a serial entrepreneur from London, who graduated with distinction from MSc Management in 2017. IMPACT first caught up with Ade in issue 5 when we covered his first social enterprise, Young and Giving (soon to rebrand as Mentor Dojo). The concept of the start-up was simple – connect diverse millennials with mentors and like-minded peers. Mentorship completely changed Ade’s life and he drew upon these personal insights to envisage a platform that could empower millennials to pursue their career aspirations regardless of their background. Today, Ade (pictured right with cofounder and brother Ori, left) as CEO and Co-Founder of Piinky, a data-centric business-to-business software as a service platform which enables independent artists to distribute, market and live stream directly to their fan base. Ade says: “I have a deep-seated passion

for music as I have been an artist, artist manager and I ran an independent label. I have also worked directly with platinumselling music artists. Working with the team, we’ve created a simple way for independent artists to have full control of their artistry through a platform that allows them to distribute, market and live stream their music directly to fans.” The Piinky team include music lovers from Harvard and Cambridge Universities, Apple, Universal Music Group, Uber, Platoon and Roc Nation (think Jay-Z). Despite launching a start-up in the eye of a pandemic, Ade is very optimistic a b o u t t h e f u t u re. H e s ays : “ We ’ re continuing momentum into 2021 with our fantastic team, launching our mobile app by the end of March, and closing a seed investment round.” For more information visit piinky.io

Supporting business and community We first introduced Tom Shanks, MSc Finance graduate and Finance Director of Blueline Taxis, in the last issue of IMPACT (issue 8). Tom, a graduate (January 2020), moved quickly at the start of the pandemic to support staff and the wider community, including National Health Service (NHS) staff. Since then, Tom has continued his and the firm’s involvement in responding to Covid-19. The company’s local delivery app, Grab, has been supporting businesses in the North East of England and attracted coverage by local and national media. Tom said: “Since March 2020, the Grab platform has delivered over £3 million back into the local economy. With the largest delivery fleet in the North East, run by a local family business, we are here to help and continue to work around the clock to act fast. Launching this start-up during the pandemic has been tough but coming together with other local business owners has been so rewarding – supporting each other on a business level and

Issue 9 8 / 2020 2021

making friendships that will last a lifetime.” At the start of the UK’s vaccination roll out in January, Tom aligned Blueline with Newcastle GP Services to assist with the logistics around this incredibly important response to the coronavirus. Blueline’s drivers assisted with the safe movement of vulnerable residents to and from the local vaccination centres. Tom has since taken his involvement in the fight against Covid-19 even further and passed the training required to administer the vaccine. Now working with the NHS, Tom is on the frontline vaccinating the local community. Although a paid role, Tom will donate all his earnings to the Terrence Higgins Trust in support of LGBT+ History Month. You can find out more about the Blueline Group at bluelinetaxis.com. For more information on our Masters p ro g ra m m e s , v i s i t d u r h a m . a c . u k / business/masters

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News and events

The Durham MBA Women in Business scholars


high-level of diversity is crucial for any top global MBA programme. Candidates look to not only learn from faculty and business leaders, but from their peers too, so the more diverse their class is, the more peer-to-peer shared knowledge and learning there will be. When we talk about diversity, we of course mean everything from culture to industry backgrounds. But having gender parity on an MBA programme is also incredibly important in driving diversity of thought and experiences too. All business schools are striving for gender parity, which in turn supports gender parity across industries and senior business positions. In a competitive MBA marketplace, one way in which Durham University Business School ensures we show our commitment to the student experience, education as well as ethics, sustainability and responsibility is by attracting outstanding women in business through our dedicated MBA scholarships. The Durham MBA (Full-time) Women in Business Executive Dean’s Scholarship, which is available for two students per year, is designed for women with outstanding career experience, an impressive academic record, the potential to become outstanding leaders in their field, and provide supportive, inclusive environments themselves. In this year’s MBA cohort, the candidates who displayed the outstanding qualities needed to receive the Durham Women in Business Executive Dean’s Scholarship were Iman Malik and Abhirami (Abhi) Kannambath. We caught up with them to discuss what receiving the scholarship has meant to them, and how they have enjoyed their time at Durham University Business School so far.


Could you tell us a bit about your background before coming to Durham for an MBA? Iman: I am originally from Sudan and am an architect by training (BSc in Architecture), and a certified PRINCE 2 practitioner. I have 12 years’ experience in the engineering consultancy industry, where I started as an architect, and then went on to work in project and portfolio management, operations management, bid preparation, and most recently, strategic planning. Abhi: I am originally from Kerala, the southernmost state of India. I completed my Bachelor of Technology in Electronics and Communications in 2015. Following my successful completion of this, I took up the role of a System Engineer in the aerospace sector. Overall, I have around five years of corporate experience. I then left my role as a senior software engineer in 2020, and decided to accept an offer at Durham University Business School to pursue my MBA full-time.

What have been the highlights of your time in Durham?

Above: Left: Iman Malik, Right: Abhirami Kannambath.

Iman: Although, due to the current restrictions, much of my interaction with my fellow classmates has been virtual, one of the highlights of my time in Durham has definitely been the privilege of getting to know my fellow MBAs. The programme has brought together an exceptional group of people, who are intelligent and accomplished, with many having considerable experience in their respective fields. Being in their company is fun and stimulating, and certainly challenges you to do and be your best. Another highlight is definitely the charm and beauty of the city of Durham. I think few campuses can rival it in that respect. It is a beautiful town that

Durham University Business School / IMPACT

The programme has brought together an exceptional group of people who are intelligent and accomplished, with many having considerable experience in their respective fields. Being in their company is fun and stimulating and certainly challenges you to do and be your best.

is steeped in history. As an architect, I love being surrounded by so many historical buildings that are set in an absolutely breathtaking landscape. Abhi: It has been five months since I started my full-time MBA programme at the Business School. My experience so far at Durham has been very fulfilling. Even during the times of uncertainties and disruptions caused by Covid-19, the School has maintained its excellence, by incorporating face-to-face classes for MBA students in teaching bubbles of 12. The live lectures are also equally enriching to an extent that they have exceeded my expectation.

What has it meant to win the Executive Dean’s Scholarship and how will it help you? Iman: The eligibility criteria for the Durham MBA (Full-time) Women in Business Executive Dean’s Scholarship is competitive. So, being awarded this scholarship was a great source of affirmation for me, and the fact that I was even considered for it is very rewarding. The School sets very high standards for itself and its graduates who go on to carry the Durham name. And to go on to “Being awarded this be one of the scholarship was a great Durham alumni source of affirmation ambassadors for me, and the is a privilege, fact that I was which I am greatly even considered aware of. I am sure for it is very future employers will rewarding.” recognise the value of this award.  A b h i : I h ave i m m e n s e gratitude to be chosen as one of the Executive Dean’s Scholarship recipients. Coming from a humble background, this scholarship has helped me bridge the gap between my savings and the tuition fee, whilst giving me an opportunity to study at the prestigious Durham University Business School. This scholarship motivates me to work even harder at my subjects and throughout my career. It is a valuable recognition to have received this award from the School. For more information on the Executive Dean’s Women in Business and other MBA scholarships, visit durham.ac.uk/business/scholarships

Issue 9 / 2021


News and events

These strong results from The Economist confirm the School’s position as one of the top global business school MBA providers. The ranking also demonstrates the School’s dedication to providing progressive, challenging and transformative approaches to business education and research.

2021 success in key MBA rankings The Durham MBA (Full-time) has been recognised as one of the top programmes in the world by The Economist Which MBA? Ranking 2021 and The Financial Times Global MBA Ranking 2021. The Economist Which MBA? Ranking 2021 placed our full-time MBA programme 37th in the world. This meant that the School, for the first time in its history, entered the world top 40 in this important ranking, climbing 21 places from 58th in 2019. The School’s MBA is also ranked 2nd in the UK and 11th in Europe. Th e E c o n o m i s t ra n k i n g a s s e s s e s M B A programmes on a variety of factors, including quality of faculty, available facilities, quality of career services and post-study salaries. Our programme was placed 6th in the world, 3rd in Europe and 1st in the UK on the section of the ranking, showing the diversity of recruiters of the programme’s graduates, which demonstrates how the Durham MBA can open new career opportunities. Professor Susan Hart, Executive Dean, said: “These strong results from The Economist confirm the School’s position as one of the top global business school MBA providers. The ranking also demonstrates the School’s dedication to providing progressive, challenging and transformative approaches to business education and research, enabling our alumni to continue to enrich and shape society and business across the world.” Following this success, The Financial Times Global MBA Ranking 2021 placed the Durham MBA (Full-time) 1st in the UK, 2nd in Europe and 6th in the world for value for money, showing the exceptional return on investment our graduates are realising, as they have seen, on average, an increase of 86% on their salaries three years after graduating with their MBA. This prestigious ranking also ranked the Durham


MBA (Full-time) 1st in the UK for alumni satisfaction and 3rd in Europe, demonstrating the overall satisfaction of our alumni with the programme and their overall experience at the Business School. Professor Julie Hodges, Associate Dean of MBA and DBA Programmes, said: “These rankings demonstrate the high quality and relevance of the Durham MBA in today’s global marketplace. It continues to develop as a world-class programme which combines academic excellence with professional development and provides a challenging and leading-edge experience. Our students benefit from engaging with international businesses through the strong connections that the School has, enabling them to enhance their capabilities and expertise which are required for leading and managing in a complex and continuously changing environment.” The Durham MBA transforms careers, enhancing key business and leadership capabilities. Our programme offers three pathways of Entrepreneurship, Consultancy and Technology, meaning students can tailor their studies to be specific to their career ambitions, and can choose the length of their programme to be either 12 or 15 months. You can find out more about the Durham MBA (Full-time) at durham.ac.uk/mba

Durham University Business School / IMPACT

New Masters in Energy Systems Management The School is adding another exciting Masters programme to its current range of excellent and respected postgraduate degrees. Energy Systems Management is being developed in partnership with Durham’s Department of Engineering, and in conjunction with the world-class Durham Energy Institute. This is the first new programme since the successful launch of MSc Business Analytics in 2018. The Energy Systems Management Masters will bring together all the elements essential to equip students from all backgrounds to become leaders in Energy Systems Management. For the first time, students will be taught a combination of skills and competencies  from a wide range

of disciplines, providing them with  a  unique understanding of  the  multidisciplinary abilities  needed to effectively contribute to net zero. This new programme will align perfectly with the School’s strong ethical and sustainability ethos.  In a world where climate change is an indisputable reality, it aims to prepare graduates with compartmentalised  skillsets  to move organisations and countries toward  net  zero carbon emissions. Further information will be available in the coming months. To view all the School’s current Masters programmes, visit durham.ac.uk/business/ masters

The Lemonade Principle returns Series two of career insights podcast The Lemonade Principle, featured in issue 8 of IMPACT, launched in February. Originally created to provide on-the-go additional industry and alumni insights to our Durham MBA students, the podcast now has listeners tuning in from across the world. At the latest count the podcast created by Chris Roberts, Engagement Manager (Recruitment), had gained over 2,000 plays in 44 countries across the world. The first episode of series two features Dr Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter OBE, CEO of Coltraco Ultrasonics, who is also a Professor in Practice at

the School. Chris, and new co-host Engagement Manager Katherine Kirby, discuss Coltraco Ultrasonics’ response to the pandemic and how Carl adapted his business to not only survive, but play a role in the UK’s response. “The Lemonade Principle is helping me to figure out what I will gain from my MBA journey. The insights of former MBA students, and those from other programmes, can really help both current and prospective students alike to shape our own paths,” said current student Apoorv Shrivastava. The podcasts are beneficial to anyone seeking advice, such as exploring how to launch a new business or stand out in job applications or even the options a degree gives us. Most importantly, through these inspirational stories of successful alumni, it provides motivation and helps broaden the business interests of all the listeners. To listen to episodes of The Lemonade Principle, search on most platforms including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.


News and events

We won’t miss an opportunity to tell the world about the great programmes offered by the School and we’ve attended events hosted in: Mexico; Thailand; Columbia; China; Taiwan; India; United Kingdom; Japan; Nigeria; and USA and Canada.

Our events Even during the current pandemic, the School has continued to have a wide range of speakers and events, with most activity moving online. Talking to the world In the months since the last issue of IMPACT, academic staff and members of the Marketing and Communications team have been attending a number of virtual recruitment events. These have been interesting due to the time differences between the UK and the local times where the events are held. However, we won’t miss an opportunity to tell the world about the great programmes offered by the School and we’ve attended events hosted in: Mexico; Thailand; Columbia; China; Taiwan; India; United Kingdom; Japan; Nigeria; and USA and Canada. These are in addition to the Online Information Sessions regularly held for anyone interested in the School’s Masters and MBA programmes. For the latest information on upcoming events, visit durham.ac.uk/business/events







United Kingdom



USA & Canada

Durham Rutgers Accounting Analytics Network hosted the 49th World Continuous Auditing & Reporting Symposia I n O c to b e r 2 02 0, t h e S c h o o l a l o n g w i t h Rutgers Business School (New Jersey, USA) ran the 49th World Continuous Auditing & Reporting Symposia under the Durham Rutgers Acco u n t i n g A n a l y t i c s N e t wo r k ( D R A A N ) banner for the first time. It was also the first time that this event had been run virtually. This event is the leading forum for the discussion of research and practice into the application of technology to auditing and reporting. The aim of the conference is to provide a forum for all stakeholders, be it accounting customers, regulators, the Big-4 and regional accounting firms, internal auditors and technology vendors to share experiences, best practices and emerging technologies. The 2020 theme was ‘Big Data Analytics in Health Service Sector’. Professor Amir Michael, DRAAN Director, said: “The symposia was very successful and, with the Covid-19 pandemic, managing health services financials and internal control systems effectively and efficiently is even more important.”


Durham University Business School / IMPACT

Without the pandemic we may have never looked to harness the technology available to us or may not have necessarily utilised it to its full potential.

Grace Kunzler

Chloe Fellows

Georgia Crown

Lucy McKean

Guy Baverstock

Ravi Odedra

Placement Conference success In November 2020, over 400 current undergraduate students from across the University attended a new flagship placement event, which gave all attendees the opportunity to find out more about business placement opportunities available to them. Due to the current pandemic, it was decided in early summer to make the School’s on-campus annual Placement Showcase a virtual event as traditionally, with over 20 employers networking with a few hundred students in person, it would not be possible. The new-style event gave the opportunity to aim higher and create something different. The result was a full week of employability activities and the University’s first-ever virtual business placement conference. Each day was themed to attract potential current students looking for different opportunities. The week started with internally led sessions on ‘It’s not too late to find a placement’, confidence building, along with professional and digital etiquette, all of which were incredibly popular. Tuesday and Wednesday were led by employers and these sessions focused on job application tips and career insight. The companies that were represented, giving opportunities to Business School students across the two days, included Amazon, Hewlett Packard,

Issue 9 / 2021

Enterprise, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Morgan Stanley, NatWest, RSM, Sony and VW Group. O n Th u r s d ay t h e we e k ’s a c t i v i t i e s we re drawn to a close with a series of practise interviews lined up and a panel featuring students currently out on placement. Alex McNinch, School Placement Manager, summed up the week’s activity saying, “The “Not only were there conference was a resounding over 400 attendees success, not only were there over across the week, 400 attendees across the week, but there were also but there were also more than more than 4,000 4,000 hits to the events website hits to the events on SharePoint. Even if our usual website.” campus activity returns in 2021, there will definitely be a Placement Conference with elements of virtual activity and a miniwebsite to host relevant content. “Without the pandemic, we may have never looked to harness the technology available to us or not have necessarily utilised it to its full potential. Developing this event has enabled us to widen the appeal of placement opportunities to students and Above: Our given employers a choice of avenues to access the student right students for their opportunities.” panelists who You can read more about ‘How placement year shared their students rose to the pandemic challenge’ in issue 8 experiences. of IMPACT magazine.


News and events

Research seminar series Over the past year, the School’s research centre, Durham Research in Economics Analysis and Mechanisms (DREAM) has taken the opportunity to share a fantastic range of speakers with School staff, students and other interested parties. Moving the regular seminar series online actually opened the series to a greater range of speakers as the need to travel to the UK was removed. To make the best use of this new opportunity, DREAM co-organised together with the universities of Bristol, Kent, Southampton and City University, London, a joint series of seminars that has hosted prestigious speakers from the top world institutions delivering seminars on the research frontier of economic theory. These have included Professor Jeanne Hagenbach from Sciences Po Paris (France), Professor Nora Szech from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany), Professor Kfir Eliaz from Tel Aviv University (Israel), Professor Bård Harstad from University of Oslo (Norway), Professor Marina Halac from Yale University (USA) and Professor Renee Bowen from University of California San Diego (USA), among others. Similarly, the School’s Quantitative Research in Financial Economics (QRFE) research centre has been able to continue its research seminars, first established in 2014, by creating a weekly webinar series in response to the crisis caused by coronavirus. Focusing on outstanding seminars at the research frontier of Econometrics and Finance, QRFE also found they were able to attract a wider audience. Co-director, Professor Abderrahim Taamouti commented: “The QRFE Webinars are open to all people inside and outside of Durham University’s community. This helped us to extend the beneficiaries for these webinars globally. We now have people from the USA, Europe, Africa and Asia (from both Academia and Business) that attend regularly.”

Alumni events in China signal a new chapter While most of the events reported in this IMPACT article are virtual, there are a number of exceptions. As China managed to bring the coronavirus under control towards the end of 2020, it enabled the country to begin holding


It was great to meet so many lovely people. The atmosphere and passion of our alumni in Nanjing impressed me a lot.

physical events again. We can only hope that, as the global vaccination programmes progress, this becomes the norm again for our alumni events around the world. So, while the overwhelming majority of alumni events continue to be found online at dunelm.org.uk, the Durham University International Chapters in China were able to get together during December and January in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen to “With over 9,000 network and celebrate their graduates across China, shared experience of studying the Business School in Durham. In Nanjing, on has very much 19 December, 29 Durham alumni taken the lead on and seven family members met developing our with Durham University Business alumni network School International Committee there.” Chairman and International Advisory Board member, Ocean Wang, for the Nanjing Chapter’s first meeting. Ocean said, “It was great to meet so many lovely people. The atmosphere and passion of our alumni in Nanjing impressed me a lot; 16 of our Dunelm community were from the Business School and are working for some of the most famous Banks in Nanjing.” Alumni Manager for the School, Penny Hawley, added, “With over 9,000 graduates across China, the Business School has very much taken the lead on developing our alumni network there. Our chapter leaders and other volunteers in China have shown great compassion and resilience over recent months to maintain this connection under Ocean’s leadership. “Although the difficulties of international travel meant Durham staff couldn’t be there, we are delighted to support the new Durham University Left: Ocean Nanjing International Chapter as another Wang contribution to connecting our growing alumni Right: A community in China. Nanjing is a city with many selection of prestigious universities, so we hope that having a some of the high-profile graduate group there will encourage photographs more exceptional students to consider Durham taken at for postgraduate study.” alumni chapter For more information on all our events, events in including research seminars, visit our website China. durham.ac.uk/business/events

Durham University Business School / IMPACT

Issue 8 / 2020


The Durham MBA (Online) Inspiring Business Leaders



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Profile for Durham University Business School

IMPACT magazine - Issue 9  

IMPACT magazine - Issue 9  

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