Five minutes with Ruth Bender

Ruth Bender, Professor of Corporate Financial Strategy at Cranfield School of Management, was this month appointed chair of The Case Centre's Executive Committee

Ruth, congratulations on your new position – what attracted you to the role, and what's your vision for The Case Centre?

Based at Cranfield, I’ve known The Case Centre throughout my teaching career. I’ve used the cases, been on their teaching and writing workshops, taught on a couple of their courses, and been friends with their last two chairs. So when Richard (McCracken, The Case Centre Director) approached me, it was an easy decision to say yes.

As to my vision, The Case Centre exists to promote the case method worldwide. Cases improve the quality of management education, which makes a difference to so many people’s lives. So I would like to see us expand the work through different levels of the management structure, from trainee to board.

You have over 20 years' experience teaching corporate finance and governance across degree courses and open and corporate programmes; how much of a role has the case method played during your career?

I first came across case studies when I did my MBA at Cranfield. 

I vividly remember, in HR, tackling the case of a factory where the workforce was about to walk out on strike. I’d never had to think about a problem like that, and had no idea that there even was a potential solution, let alone how to get there. Working on the case study with my learning team, and then in class, was hugely rewarding and really brought home how the knowledge could actually be applied. I was hooked from then on.

Finance and accounting is sometimes seen as a subject where the case method is difficult to use. Is this your experience?finance

Not so much ‘difficult’ as ‘different’.

I sometimes hear that case studies have no right answer: well, in finance and accounting they often do.

In some of the case studies I use there is only one way the numbers can be put together, and the art is in determining which of the case numbers are relevant, and how to manipulate them.

Other cases are more like those of my strategy colleagues, where the assumptions you make will define your outcome; so there might not be a right answer but there will always be some that are clearly wrong.

HorseIf you could be transported into another profession for one week, which would you choose, and why?

Horse whisperer – I'd love to know what's going on inside their heads!

How do you relax?theatre

Theatre, art galleries, walking and riding horses. When you're on a horse facing a jump or trying to get your head around a complicated movement, you can't also be worrying about work!

Do you have a favourite quote or guiding principle?

One thing I learnt on the MBA – ‘the customer is always right, but they’re not always the right customer’. If a customer’s demands are so far away from your business model that they cause problems, that’s probably a good time to move away from that customer.

customer

About Ruth

After completing her MBA at Cranfield School of Management, Ruth Bender joined the faculty there, specialising in corporate finance and governance. She is passionate about teaching and learning, and has been developing technology-enhanced learning materials for two decades.

Ruth is an accountant, and prior to teaching was a partner in Grant Thornton. She has worked in the City as a private equity executive; served on the board of an NHS hospital; and enjoyed a spell as a committee member of the ICAEW’s Faculty of Finance and Management.

Ruth’s research deals with the practical implications of corporate governance, in particular executive pay.

e r.bender@cranfield.ac.uk
tw @Ruth999

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