Broker to Boss: How an MBA from the NBS can advance your career and shape local business – By Alex Chappell

Hello, I am Alex Chappell.

I have spent over 10 years at a Global Insurance Broker working on commercial insurances for a variety of firms up to household names. I joined them as part of a sponsored degree scheme designed by them, Aviva and the UEA and I worked part-time around my studies. This gave the firm industry-relevant graduates with professional exams and gave students a paid for degree and experience in the role.

Having completed that, I did a few years at the desk and I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t paid enough, and had more of an interest in how the businesses I worked with worked. My role is specialised and so to change employer required me to move. I wanted to stay in Norwich, which left me with two options; learn more about business and start my own, or change disciplines altogether.

Why did you choose to study an MBA at Norwich Business School?

I knew the UEA and I knew a few MBA alumni, one of whom said, “you’re ready” and so I started the Exec MBA 2011.

The MBA was very valuable to me – I was having discussions about theories and practices at a higher level than my undergrad which was beneficial to my employment (I was promoted during the course!) A lecturer of mine once said:

“50% of what you get from the course will be from the lecturers, 50% will be from the other students, and learning how things are done in different industries”

How did the MBA influence you, your career and your decision to start your own business?

The MBA gave me exactly what I wanted going into it, and needed coming out of it. It taught me enough to enable me to run my own business, and understand my client’s businesses to a higher level.


Why did you wanted to be involved in the consultancy projects as a business owner?

Having delivered these projects as part of my own UEA MBA, I could see the very real value it added to businesses and owners alike.

During presentations, even people who had built up very successful businesses from scratch would comment:

“I hadn’t thought of that” and “we used to do a bit of that and it made loads of money but we sold it off … we should look at that again!”

You don’t realise how much can go undetected until consultancy delivers that second look you are often blinkered to by being immersed in the day to day.

I was keen to give something back to the university and students in terms of a very open and helpful client and thought I could offer that, plus the obvious benefits to my business.

What was the project ? Did the students meet/exceed expectations?

The project was very crucial in identifying and evaluating growth opportunities, and also in providing second pair of eyes on what we were already doing.

I expected it to be well delivered by able and enthusiastic students similar to those I had met at the UEA, and to add some insight in areas we knew nothing about, as well as a review of our intended directions (pre-project).

I was very pleased with the diverse backgrounds and nationalities of the student project team. It added experience(s) that I and my business would never have been exposed to.

Despite having little group background in my sectors, they got to grips with the key concepts of my sector very quickly. I am happy to say that my reasonably high expectations (based on my experience with the UEA and NBS) were exceeded.


What were the outcomes from the project?

The project delivered some very real impacts to the business:

  • Ideas we had dismissed as pipe dreams further down the line were shown to be achievable now. We would have never investigated these, thinking we were too small to compete today.
  • A strong argument for another aspect of the project was drafted, together with a detailed implementation plan taking full consideration of our budget, which we are actively following.
  • The bottom line impact from this project is likely to be significant and in areas we had previously closed ourselves off to.

It was very worthwhile!

Is there a possibility for future partnerships with NBS and/or the students?

I have kept in contact with the students post completion, and this is something that I would be looking to continue as I have certainly felt the benefits of their input.

Alex Chappell with the UEA MBA consulting team

I am very open to any future partnerships with the NBS, in whatever shape they may be!

With many thanks to Alex Chappell for contributing to the NBS Blog