Prof. Anthony Klotz’s second summer of leading College of Business students through a course in cross-cultural management in London carried an additional benefit: This year’s group had a front-row seat to history as the United Kingdom opted for Brexit and voted to leave the European Union.
“We arrived in London about a week before the polls closed for the Brexit vote,” said Troy McCool, one of 18 students who accompanied Klotz on the three-week trip, a partnership between the College of Business and INTO; INTO is an OSU partner that helps facilitate international education.
“We saw a lot of groups on the street trying to sway voters,” McCool said. “All over the news was stuff about the vote too. For the week leading up to the vote, it all felt like the final vote would be against leaving the EU and that it would all go back to normal. When we woke up on the first Thursday of our trip, we learned that the final tally was to leave. The ramifications were immediate. Overnight their markets lost about 115 million pounds and their currency fell in buying power.”
As they did in 2015, Klotz and his students met with College of Business alumnus Don Robert, chairman of global information services giant Experian. Robert is also on the board of the Bank of England, the British equivalent of the Federal Reserve.
“Don said the BoE had been meeting around the clock in the days leading up to Brexit to plan for how they would stabilize the pound and the economy if the country voted to exit,” Klotz said. “He did not go into many specifics, but he felt positive that the plans that they put in place would be effective. Indeed, although the pound is down from its pre-Brexit level, it has recovered a bit and leveled off since its precipitous fall following the vote.”
London voters, the ones most often encountered by Klotz and the students, were 59.9 percent in favor staying in the EU, and Scotland and Northern Ireland were also heavily in favor of remaining. But nine other regions voted 70 percent or greater to exit, and England as a whole was 53 percent in favor of Brexit, resulting in the overall 52-48 breakdown.
In addition to Robert, Klotz’s students heard from Simon Sproule, chief marketing officer of British car maker Aston Martin.
“Simon is British born and raised,” Klotz said. “He expressed concern over Brexit – but didn’t say whether it was good or bad — since Aston Martin builds all of its cars, by hand, in England and ships them all over the world. We also met with several folks at Unilever, including HR directors and marketing directors in charge of the Hellman’s mayo brand and the Knorr flavoring brand. Again, they expressed sincere surprise at the Brexit outcome, but like everyone else, tried not to inject their personal opinion. All of the students rated these business visits as the best part of the trip. They also talked about how they’ll be able to tell their grandkids they were in London for one of the most historic events in European history.”
Joining McCool on the student roster were Alexandra Martino, Jennifer Duffy, Sara Black, Sophie Clarke, Ryan Lonsway, Joshua Whittle, Danielle Lacombe, Lauren Becker, Chengrun (Daniel) Deng, Meaghan Connelly, Zack Hermann, Megan Wheeler, Dehuai (Sean) Xiao, Heidi Peterson, Dominic Carrier, Isai Garcia and Duncan Miller.