For MBA Students, Adding a Degree of Expertise

It’s one thing to earn your MBA in the classroom. It’s another to do so in a boardroom while presenting a strategy to a room full of executives.

That’s what Stevens students are learning in the Howe School’s new Field Consulting Program, in which MBA candidates work with a company to address a real-world challenge executives are facing. Pershing LLC, a BNY Mellon company that provides services to other financial organizations, asked students to assess how its business might be affected by the rise of computer-enabled systems that use intelligent algorithms to automatically manage an individual’s finances. 

MBA program director Dr. Murrae Bowden compared this disruption to the technology that has affected other transaction-based industries, such as travel agencies. 

“Virtually every transaction-based service industry is open to disruption by Internet-based systems,” he said. “The financial services industry is certainly not immune.” 

Dr. Murad Mithani, an assistant professor at Howe, teaches business strategy and has a background in consulting, making him a good fit to lead this project. 

The Field Consulting Program “combines the creativeness of academic experience with the practicality of professional experience,” Mithani said. It enables students to “work closely with industry people who are eager to translate their ideas into action ... exposing students to real-world experiences while capitalizing on their creative energies.”

For a global financial services company like Pershing, “it’s important to always keep one eye on the future,” said Rich Bingham, a director in Pershing’s Global Strategy, Marketing and Communications group responsible for innovation initiatives.

“This trend toward online advice could have a significant impact on the way financial advice is delivered while increasing the overall size of the market that consumes it, so it’s about more than just disrupting current business models,” he said. “Traditionally, personalized financial advice was available only at the higher end of the market, to those individuals with significant funds to invest. If these online advice providers are successful, the model could change to where advice becomes widely available at any asset level, which would be a real boon to younger investors. Our aim is to get ahead of this trend so we can help our clients understand and take advantage of any opportunities it may bring.” 

Partnering with Stevens was a natural fit.

“We’ve long recognized Stevens as one of the better colleges for producing people who understand innovation,” he said. 

One student, Hardick Shobhawat, said he appreciates the chance to learn more about the U.S. financial industry, “because we have so much support from faculty and the people at Pershing.” 

Like many international students, one of the main reasons Shobhawat wanted to study in the United States was the opportunity to find employment here upon graduating. Having the Field Study Program on his résumé helped him get an interview. 

“I think I got the call because of this program,” he said. “The entire interview was related to this project — why you are doing this, what do you think would be the impact on the industry in the future. Working for a company this big pops out for an interviewer.”

This connection to technology and innovation distinguishes Stevens’ MBA from what Bowden calls “vanilla” MBA programs at other universities.

“Elsewhere, the focus is primarily on the business disciplines,” he said. “Here, we recognize that technology is an important component in any business, and have tailored our core to include courses on technology and innovation management, as well as entrepreneurship.” 

That emphasis is critical to students like Shobhawat, who’s aspiring to a career in technology-driven fashion forecasting. 

“This project has really helped,” he said. “It’s a real-time, real big challenge. It’s a critical area to them, and they really want our opinions and recommendations.”