This Copenhagen MBA Is Using FinTech Startups To Drive Italian Banking Industry Innovation

Charles Burns is set to drive change in a troubled sector

Charles Burns has just finished his MBA at Copenhagen Business School. In less than a month, he’ll start the job he secured back in July; driving innovation in the Italian banking sector.

Burdened by non-performing loans, the Italian banking industry is in disarray. And now banks are looking to the latest developments in financial technology – fintech – to help get them out of trouble.

Working for a major Italian IT and consulting company, Charles will support its banking clients, identify their problems and solve them through innovation acquisition. Namely, the sourcing, buying and integrating of cutting-edge fintech startups - mobile payment platforms - into Italian banks.

Charles studied politics at undergraduate level. He quit math when he was 16. He remembers the GMAT as “the darkest three months of [his] life.” Although he has a background in London-based consulting and FinTech, the new job is a big step-up.

Yet on the Copenhagen MBA, he’s gained the skills, network, guidance and the confidence, to help him achieve his goals.

How did the Copenhagen MBA help you to land your new job in FinTech?

It definitely helped; it was brought up in my interview a couple of times. Especially in Italy, coming with a foreign MBA made me stand out.

The job is quite a big jump up from where I was before. The MBA gave me the confidence to go into quite a numbers-driven environment. And I’ve connected with a lot of startups since I’ve been here in Denmark.

I’m also in regular contact with two Copenhagen MBA alumni who work in banking; one who’s my career mentor. I’ve been speaking to them almost once every two weeks; using them as sparring partners, from the very job-specific conversations to the more practical.

How will FinTech disrupt traditional financial services in the coming years?

The key things are speed, accessibility and ease of use. If you look at Transfer Wise, they offer the same money transfer service that banks do, but they do it faster and cheaper.

Even if you’re planning to invest money, you can actually make more by investing through one of these crowdfunding platforms than your traditional savings account. More and more, you’ll start to see services that we regard as traditional banking services offered by third-party finance startups.

What about blockchain?

For your average person on the street, blockchain is quite a scary thing to think about. You think of blockchain, you automatically think of bitcoin and everything that bitcoin’s been involved in.

I think blockchain could be much more use in an inter-bank or B2B environment; being able to transfer large amounts of confidential data from one point to another in a very secure way.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at Copenhagen Business School?

I’ve got a background in politics. I was working in increasingly more business-focused roles and I got to a point where I was missing certain skills and needed to increase my learning at a much faster pace.

I wanted to get out there, meet people and create a network of like-minded individuals. The Copenhagen MBA is very focused on sustainability, entrepreneurship and the Scandinavian style of leadership; and that’s the way business is going.

What should applicants think about when deciding to do an MBA?

Some schools are geared towards churning out consultants for BCG and McKinsey, other schools are geared towards making investment bankers. Have a very clear idea of why you want to do an MBA and select your school based on that.

Copenhagen is geared towards making good managers and good leaders. It gives you a more holistic, forward-thinking view of leadership; that whole idea of flat management and team contribution that comes from Scandinavia.

What are the highlights of your Copenhagen MBA experience?

The main thing is the people. You’re thrown into the same experience together and put out of your comfort zones. It brings people closer together, and you leave with a couple of really good friends.

And Copenhagen is wonderful. It’s got a good nightlife and it’s manageable; wherever you live, you’re never more than 20 minutes away from the next person. You don’t get that separation that you get in a big city.

What are your plans for the future?

Sooner rather than later, I would like to start my own venture. Having done an MBA means that when I do, I’ll be much more ready for it. And I’ll have a network of people I can ring up, talk to about it and get honest feedback on it.

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