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Cass Business School’s New Associate Dean Talks Experiential Learning & His Plans For The Future

Steve Thomas has spent a career at the forefront of business. He brings to Cass a blend of industry experience and a mindset geared towards social awareness


Thu Aug 9 2018

When I speak with Steve Thomas he’s in the middle of an international consulting trip in Bogotá with a group of Executive MBA students from Cass Business School.

After the trip, he tells me, the students are invited to join a group of alumni on a four-day expedition in search of a lost jungle city. They are being led by one of the world’s leading mountaineers, Gabriel Becker, who is based in Santiago and is a close associate of Rodrigo Jordan, a visiting professor at Cass in Experiential Leadership.

The expedition is designed to challenge them not just physically, but mentally. Constant discussions about teamwork and strategy push students to get to the bottom of who they really are as leaders.

“We give them experiences people never come across in their ordinary lives,” Steve says, “and that is the impact of Cass—every year we’re looking for new places to go, new places to explore.”

That’s the mentality Steve wants to carry into his new role as associate dean for MBA programs at Cass. He’s taking over from Dr Sionade Robinson, someone he says has been instrumental in developing Cass Business School’s ‘explorer’s mindset’.

Steve’s walked the MBA walk for the past seven years at Cass—he’s moving into his new role from director of the Executive MBA. He’s also taught on MBAs for the past 20 years.

So, what will he bring to the table?

Alongside continuing the work of his predecessor, Steve sees his objectives as a to-do list. At the top of that list is enhancing the student experience. He says a big part of that will be exploring online learning, but not to the detriment of face-to-face learning, a key aspect of the Cass education.

Steve also realizes the maturity of online MBA offerings today—something that nobody expected, he adds, when he was an external examiner for the first ever internet MBA in Singapore, about 20 years ago. 

“You must never lose sight of the Cass identity while exploring blended learning,” he says. “Let’s call it Cassness.

“These guys leave the school and they’ve got 40 years of experiential learning ahead of them, so they must feel close to us.”

Cass Business School offers MBAs the opportunity to come back for one free elective per year after successfully completing their degree. This is part of Cass’s ambition to harness lifelong relationships with its students, to create a Cass family, if you will.

Steve brings to Cass the experience of someone who’s spent their career at the forefront of business.

He tells me he’s been developing businesses for 30 years—the first of which was a publication called Credit Rating International, developed in conjunction with Financial Times Business, which ran from 1989 until the last few years.

He’s also been a professor at the University of Wales in Swansea, his home town. It was through contacts there that he tried his hand at entrepreneurship, creating his own university around 2001.

“I was working on the south coast,” he says, “and I worked with a guy who owns international further education and language schools, so we created a university to give MBAs and BBAs.

“In those days, it was very unusual to have private universities, but I’d seen how they created private unis in Singapore, Taipei, and Kuala Lumpa, so I brought that model to the UK.”

It was an experience, Steve adds, that taught him the fundamentals of building a university from scratch.

He then entered the wealth management sector, where he first worked as an investment strategist for Firecrest Hambro between 2002 and 2006. At the same time, in 2005, he became the director for a hedge fund for Bear Stearns. There, he worked with another professor and was given a front row seat when the global financial crisis hit.

“Bear Stearns was the real canary in the coal mine,” he explains, “they went bust before Lehman Brothers.”

The close-up view molded Steve’s research when he eventually found himself at Cass. He observed that things could be done a lot better, a lot simpler, and so he set out to find a solution to protect people’s savings. In the process, he launched Solent Systematic Investment Strategies with a professor, banker, and a former student.

They advise on investment strategies and handle around $50-to-60 million of invested money.

He’s taken that social approach to Cass. “The theme of social awareness as well as innovation, that’s what the Cass MBA brand is for me,” he says.

“Developing people not just in a business context, but very much in a personal context and in a society context. We want to do good things, not just be successful.”

Does he ever have time to relax?

“When you’re in a top business school, it’s 24/7,” he explains, “[but] I live a very rewarding life.”

Steve lives on the south coast, in Dorset. He spends three or four long days at Cass per week, he says. When back home, he contends with his unmanageable Scottish Deerhound puppy ,Stanley. At six months old, he already weighs 30kg!

“He’s gone for seven weeks therapeutic residential training, so hopefully he will come back a changed dog,” he laughs.

“He lives with another dog for seven weeks, and the other dog is owned by a famous film director, so the joke is he’s going to come out well tuned for an acting career!”

Student Reviews

Bayes Business School




On Campus

Best Journalism school in Europe

When I first stepped onto the campus of City, University of London, I knew I was in for a ride - and not just on the Tube! With its vibrant energy and an impressive repertoire of programs, City U became my home away from home. The Journalism program was kind of a big deal. Rumour was that we were the best in Europe! The lecturers were not just experts in their field; they’re practically journalistic royalty. They were invested, passionate, and had a knack for turning the most flat press release into a riveting news story. With their guidance, I’ve learned to navigate the chaotic world of media like a pro. The campus was a melting pot of every culture, being that we had such a diverse international crowd. Being in the heart of London, I had the world at my fingertips - there was always a new corner to explore, a hidden gem of a cafe to discover, or a street performer! City, University of London wasn't just a university; it was a chapter in my life story that I’ll never forget.




On Campus

Learning environment

The teacher-learner ration is manageable, giving each learner a chance to gain personal attention. It is also easier following up on the progress of a student, as the numbers per class is not large. the conducive environment for learning includes clean classes, standard desks, world class instructional facilities and the opportunity to engage lecturers even after their sessions. The team spirit at City is above board, with learners getting chance to learn both from instructors and colleagues. This is the university of choice; the place to be.




On Campus


I liked that each class had a manageable number of learners, making the professor-learner ratio favor knowledge acquisition. I also liked that study schedules were manageable, and not overwhelming. The focus on talents and gifts even within the learning environment makes it possible for learners to achieve the best of their potential, and this has worked to the advantage of those that have schooled at City, University of London




On Campus


The diversity at City University facilitates interactions and is a direction toward the unity of the world. The classes are well built to match the number and needs of all students regardless of the elements of diversity that set people apart. The use of technology in delivery makes learning even more interesting and achievable. At City University there is no distinction pegged on the issues that make people unique.




On Campus


The team of lecturers at the Uiversity are well experienced. Their level of insight and the methodologies of delivery works for the interes of the leaeners. My learning experience was largely boosted by the level of knowledge of the professors at the institution, and their passion to transfer the same to learners. I appreciate every class I attended because of the level of insight I was able to gather




On Campus

The best university I’ve been to

The campus and the people I've met have made it a wonderful experience. I was reared in a small town with a graduating class of only 88 individuals, so moving to City University was a huge adjustment for me. My dorm has more residents than my whole high school combined! I enjoy the atmosphere here, and everyone is so friendly. Outstanding academic options and a stunning campus. Really great from beginning to end. The educators genuinely love what they do, and the students are ready to learn. On or around college, there is always something to do with friends, and the social scene is particularly warm.




On Campus

Bayes Business School

As a student at City university attending Bayes Business School I would totally recommend choosing this university as the experience is exceptional with great social networking opportunities . Professors are significantly helpful, delivering with excellence and professionalism. Everyone is happy to help and make you feel welcomed in such an esteem university as City, offering exceptional development and guidance through out the course.




On Campus

Economics and Politics

Incredibly amazing university, the way they polish students and help them boost their morale and think intellectually is worthwhile. Many universities have international partnerships to allow exchanges between their students. The most obvious subjects for these opportunities would be those that involve languages, and the study of people and places.




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Clinical biology

I really like it it’s perfect for me with not too many people and not too few either. All the modules are amazing. I love the toy bar. I love all the societies that I’ma part of. Especially the colour Bollywood society