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  • Writer's pictureSricharan Sanakkayala

Fireside chat: Reflections on Future of Finance 2021 Conference

Sricharan Sanakkayala reflects on Future of Finance 2021 Conference's Fireside Chat session.

Hosted by 6 of the LARGEST careers societies from leading global universities, Future of Finance 2021 was organised by UCL FinTech Society, LSE SU FinTech Society, LSE PRIS, Imperial Finance Society, Warwick Entrepreneurs Society & King's Business Club.

The speakers

Raj Shamani, Founder, Shamani Industries

Founder of Shamani Industries, Raj Shamani is an FMCG Entrepreneur. He is in the Top 5 Young Influencers and leads his own business podcast that was rated in the Top 10 Business Podcasts, both in India.

Sanzar Kakar, Chairman, Moore Afghanistan

Sanzar Kakar is currently holding the position of Chairman at Moore Afghanistan, a company providing auditing, taxation, payroll, technology, and human resource services.

Elham Fardad, Founder & CEO, Migrant Leaders, ID Inclusion, MenteeMentor, and Edutech Kids

Elham Fardad is CEO and (Co-)Founder at various companies, such as EduTech Kids, MenteeMentor, ID Inclusion, and Migrant Leader. She is also a former Director GE at EY. She is part of the Warwick University alumni.

The panel

In this panel, the speakers were Sanzar Kakar, Elham Fardad, and David Gilgur. They bring views from the entrepreneurship and venture capitalist realm to the panel. The discussion varies from companies pre-COVID and post-COVID to a discussion on how companies may need to change how they think.

When asked what companies are doing differently before and after the COVID-19 pandemic, the three speakers had varying views. Gilgur begins off by explaining that there really is not much to be done and simply “do the best you can with the magic chance of using a startup”. He explains that the COVID situation is unpredictable and if the business is not set up to deal with it, then it will suffer inevitably. Following Gilgur, Fardad’s response was specific to the mistake she sees a lot of companies make. Companies should not decrease prices in order to provide services because “that is not a sustainable method”, she explains. Lowering prices will impose a financial burden on the company unnecessarily and lead to future problems. Then, Kakar expresses the “other side of the spectrum”. He explains that fair pricing is great, but if someone takes advantage of the weak (i.e Covid patients) then they will lose reputation. That is something that a lot of companies need to be wary of. He reminds the audience that “money making is about trust”.

Then, the host brings up the point that the stock market is doing well, but unemployment is still high because companies are cutting employees to give the shareholders their returns. To this end, Gilgur explains that this phenomenon is because the stock market does not reflect real life. He hopes that as we enter a decentralized finance era, more people can invest in anything from startups to big companies. This allows for companies to grow even if they lack short-term profits. “The stock market and real-estate markets are going up because the US poured in $2 trillion last year and people with disposable income got money to invest”, adds Kakar. However, all three of the speakers agree that this may not be the case for too long. An unsustainable model means the stock value is bound to drop. “Congruence of purpose and to think long term is what helps companies move forward”, Fardad concludes.

Another important result of COVID-19 is that people started realizing that institutional education is just a platform to gain information, and information is everywhere. For the general public, “COVID is the first blow against the foundation of traditional education”, Gilgur claims. For the first time, when someone finishes an IT course online, it is as acceptable as a Harvard degree. However, the issue may be that companies do not yet think this way. Fardad explains that the only solution to this would be to look at the data and realize that the “university [which one] went to does not determine career outcomes and progression”. Once companies scan their applicants for characteristics like “resilience, hard work, integrity, collaboration, and teamwork” they will have higher success hiring employees.

The main focus of the Fireside Panel has been the impact of COVID-19 on companies and the general public. There was a lot of value in hearing the 2 separate perspectives of the story. The entrepreneurs say what companies should and should not do, while the venture capitalist analyzes why the market is moving the way it is. Throughout the discussion, their expertise was quite evident in the way they describe their ideas. From this talk, I realised COVID-19’s impact on education for the first time. The idea of a broken foundation of traditional education seems to give way to new future trends. What are those? Only time will tell.

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