A man schooled for big business

THOSE considering studying for an MBA do not need to be told that the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) is not the same thing as the London Business School. They aren’t in the same league. But the man behind this seven year-old college has done something rather impressive. He has taken a business approach to business education. An exceptionally good idea when a report issued by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) earlier this year said that businesses were frustrated with UK graduates who are ill prepared for the world of work.

“Education is an established industry,” the founder Aaron Etingen explains, “we knew we didn’t have a brand so we simply couldn’t do what everyone else was doing.” And he certainly hasn’t: when he set up the school he only used Google to advertise. Today the school has 15,000 students and an MBA programme partnered with Grenoble Graduate School of Business.

So how did that happen? “The business model is built on a constant dialogue between the faculty and our corporate clients,” says Etingen. Indeed, 70 per cent of the students are there on corporate sponsorship. It has some impressive clients too: Deloitte and KMPG buy into its bespoke training.

Etingen is an interesting, if quite unusual, chap. He was born in Russia and raised in Israel, moving to the UK aged 18 to study at institutions he refuses to disclose since he counts them as competitors. He confesses he never thought he would be involved in education. He always saw himself as a businessman: “I had my first business at 11 years old, then another aged 15,” he explains. After graduation, he worked in a variety of finance roles, often offering his accountancy services to business people for free.

“I used to write out these business plans and they always used to hit a glass ceiling, until I wrote the plan for starting a school. I found it’s not about money, it’s all about innovation.” The LSBF began in an attic on Hyde Park Corner with practically no budget to headhunt the lecturers. “Looking back, I don’t know how I did it… all I could offer them was a vision. The core team that followed me did it purely because they wanted to be part of something new.”

The school is still doing an awful lot that is new. Just yesterday they launched a free MBA. Potential students can access all the course materials online including videos of the lectures for free. They only pay the school if they want to take the qualification. While this is an interesting idea, the school still mainly attracts foreign students chasing the London brand. Maybe with age and a few notable alumni this business idea could gain the reputation for churning out clever students.

CV | AARON ETINGEN

Born: In Russia, but raised in Israel
Age: 31
Studied: Economics and for an ACCA qualification
Lives: Belsize Park
Works: Chief executive of the London School of Business and Finance
Turnover: £100m
Talents: “Bringing bed time stories alive for my children.”
Favourite business book: Art of War by Sun Tzu
Motto: “Doing good while doing good business.”
First ambition: “To be a entrepreneur!”