Alumni of the month

Every month, we feature LSBU alumni who have made notable achievements since completing their studies. Read on to find out more about this month’s profiled alumni and their success.

To nominate alumni for this feature, please email us at alumni@lsbu.ac.uk

Alumni of the month – April 2014

Alan King
BA Modern Languages and International Business, 1998

Robert Humphreys

Since gaining a first class honours degree in Modern Languages and International Business from LSBU, Alan King now works as the Managing Director (Europe, Middle East and Africa) for Access Prepaid Worldwide at MasterCard, a role that has enabled him to travel the world and work on the biggest project of his career – a £290 million acquisition of a business he now partly runs.

Despite the usual uncertainties that school-leavers have about their career choices, Alan’s international upbringing meant that languages would definitely feature in his studies: “I’d always been interested in international affairs and had lived in many countries growing up. So the international business component of my course at LSBU was appealing. The fact that the University organised my third year abroad where I could work in a real corporate environment swung it for me.”

The year abroad where Alan carried out work placements in Munich and Brussels provided valuable commercial experience, as well as some of his fondest memories as a student: “Whilst living in Munich and working at BMW, there were many other work placement students with whom I formed friendships. What’s more, I ended up meeting my now wife at one of the city’s many bars (or was it Oktoberfest – hard to recall!).” He praises LSBU for securing such a high profile placement as many of his fellow British students, including some from very prestigious universities, had to organise their own work experience and attend interviews beforehand to be accepted. 

Thanks to the focus on international business, the skills Alan learned during his course have been applied to his management dealings throughout his career: “I still remember the case studies we worked on at University and how we navigated the business challenges to get to the outcomes. Whilst we may not have always come up with the right answers or course of action, what I learned from those sessions really helped me.”

Most of Alan’s professional career since graduation has been international and since joining MasterCard in 2005, he has used this experience to lead teams dealing with emerging payments, strategic partnerships and global account management. He ranks the role he played within the leadership team that completed a £290 million acquisition of a business he now partly runs as one of his proudest professional achievements: “I had never worked so hard in my life during our intensive 12 weeks of due diligence and then the subsequent integration of the business into MasterCard. It didn’t all go perfectly but I learned so much from it.”

What would a typical working week involve? “No week is typical for me. It could involve leaving home either on Sunday evening or Monday morning for a car ride to Heathrow. From there I fly to the Middle East, South Africa or New York for two or three days of non-stop meetings, both with customers and colleagues. I’d get back to London on Thursday morning and perhaps go into our offices in Canary Wharf. The next two days would include lots of meetings with very little spare time for myself, something I only seem to get these days in the air!” 

Ultimately, he believes the balance of a team is about creating the right mix so that its sum is more than the individual parts. Current students take note that the types of qualities he looks for when hiring graduates include attention to detail, strong intellect, common sense and a genuine passion for something that’s important to them. His own ascent up the corporate ladder is owed to a desire to do whatever job he is doing well, deliver results and keep learning in the process: “I’ve never had a grand plan. I concentrated on developing a reputation around execution – i.e. getting things done, and getting them done well and opportunities have opened up. I love running things, so general management – like a business or a region – so I do hope that I will continue along this path.”