David Simpson

Job title: Admissions Director, MBA and Masters in Finance
Location: London

Posts by David




An MBA can provide a chance for real career exploration and career change. The period before your MBA is a great time to reflect and mentally prepare yourself for this exciting change.

We’ve found one of the most useful ways to maximise your chances of success in the MBA process is by speaking with current MBA students, recent graduates and potential classmates. Their invaluable insights will be helpful when it comes to understanding the culture of a school – what it is, what it isn’t, and what differentiates it.

If you’re lucky enough to have admissions offers from multiple business schools you really should make an effort to meet your potential classmates at these schools. With any MBA programme, your classmates are pretty much going to be your greatest educators and your greatest asset in your business school education. Of course, amazing professors are a huge part of your learning, but in your personal development, the people you’re surrounded by for hours on end – the other students – are often going to be the ones that build your global understanding.

Our MBA student ambassadors are here to help you understand what it means to join the LBS community. Ambassadors represent a broad range of industries, sectors and nationalities and are on hand to offer you advice through your decision-making journey. Whether you want to learn more about the programme, discover what life on campus is like, or how to maximise your time living in London – they are here to answer any questions you may have.

Contact an MBA Student Ambassador today to start your conversation.

Over the last three months, not a day has gone by without a new article mentioning all the different changes business schools are making to their admissions processes. With many collective years selection experience in the London Business School MBA Admissions  Committee, we have seen a lot of changes and trends come and go. The recent trend of schools reducing their application essay requirement looks here to stay. We have dropped an essay and now require just one.

I have quite firm views on what I want us to learn from an application and therefore what questions we should ask candidates. We carefully consider how all the different elements fit together in to our overall admissions process.

A top MBA is a career and indeed life-changing experience. So for us, a question about aspirations is key – even if, by the transformative nature of an MBA, those aspirations will change during your studies.

If I am honest, I am less keen on the quirkier questions I have seen some schools use.

The application form and essays are a great introduction to you, offering information on your life and career so far and a little on your hopes and dreams. But the real story-telling opportunity in the LBS process comes with the alumni interview. Every successful applicant has an alumni interview, but not all applicants are selected for interview and not all interviewees are successful. We gain a HUGE amount from the interview process and love having our alumni conduct them, so that you can learn a huge amount about life at LBS too!

We don’t stand still – we are a business school and innovation is vital. It’s in our DNA. So this year we are introducing a video submission element for all candidates who reach the interview stage. This was not a decision we took lightly. We’ve been considering making this introduction for a couple of years. We piloted the process last year with a few candidates, to help us assess English language skills.  But this year we are going all-out and using the videos to help us learn a lot more about you.

I want to take this opportunity to reassure all interviewees that we are being very thoughtful about how we use this exciting new addition to our process. The team have carefully considered what our expectations are and the limitations of the new addition. We recognise that we need to consider cultural differences, as we do with everything, because we have such an international community. Some people will feel a lot more comfortable than others filming  themselves answering questions. And some professional backgrounds train you to carry out such activities. We are NOT looking to use this as a tool to disqualify candidates or ‘catch you out’. Quite the opposite – it is another opportunity to shine and help us get to know you. Don’t even worry (too much) if you don’t time your answers perfectly – we won’t deduct points. We just want to see how you perform on both the prepared question and the unprepared section. We love meeting candidates at events, but it’s not possible to meet you all, so this helps us see you in action.

We have really enjoyed watching the first few submissions. Alongside the application, GMAT / GRE and alumni interview, we have a lot of data points to consider. We believe that we are very well equipped to make the big admissions decisions and honestly think we have one of the most thorough admissions processes in the MBA world. And hopefully one of the most challenging but enjoyable for applicants!

The LBS MBA is a highly collaborative programme, requiring huge levels of contribution from all students. Everyone has to add something. So every admit decision we make is huge for us. We care passionately about who makes it through to the final class.  We want to recruit the 430 candidates who best fit our amazing, collaborative, global community.

We are excited about getting to know you better – and through the supporting materials included with the video software, you can learn more about us too.

If you have just completed the video submission, well done. If you are about to record it, good luck. And if you have yet to apply yet…what’s stopping you?

Apply now

One of the most fulfilling parts of our work in the Admissions Team is knowing how much the MBA is going to change our students’ lives. This is especially true for the many students who join us looking to make a career shift from non-business backgrounds. Although such candidates have a lot more work to do, especially in the first year core courses such as accounting and finance, taking the longer route within a 15-21 month MBA programme enables students to make some big career transitions. To see their educational progression and growth is fantastic. And as you will read in the following piece, Portia moving from the BBC to McKinsey & Co is a great example of that!


Portia Williams: From broadcast to the boardroom!

“I was working as a broadcast journalist at the BBC in London. I had been a journalist for almost seven years, mostly focusing on news and current affairs across the Middle East and North Africa.

I wanted a new challenge and found that the opportunities offered by business school really appealed to me.  I was also impressed by the experience of my some of my peers who took MBAs and by their personal development during and following the course.

It’s unusual to even consider applying to business school without experience in industries like finance or consulting or an academic background in disciplines like business or engineering, all of which are already very male-dominated.  This means that a lot of great potential candidates don’t even consider applying.

To women considering business school, I’d say, be open-minded!  There’s so much out there when you start thinking about business.  Just because you didn’t study commerce or haven’t worked at a bank doesn’t mean that you won’t have an amazing experience at business school or that there aren’t fantastic professional opportunities out there for you as a result of having done a course like this. London Business School is a great place for women to study.  There are some really inspiring and supportive women here both among the student body and in the faculty. 

I’ve really enjoyed the learning component.  The MBA has taught me a lot in terms of academic content but even more importantly, it’s altered my outlook.  I now think about problems in a completely different way to how I did before starting this course.  I’ve also really enjoyed making lots of new friends!  It’s a real privilege to be able to study with so many impressive, energetic and fun people from around the world.

One of my academic highlights was an elective course called “Leading Teams and Organisations”.  Each of the sessions involved interactive workshops with different groups of classmates from different programmes.  It was an extraordinary shared learning experience that I don’t think you could replicate outside of the MBA classroom.

Negotiation and bargaining with Dr Lisa Shu transformed the way I approached negotiating by helped me to think about potential conflicts in a completely different and much more positive light.  Taking part in simulated negotiation situations with our classmates each week meant we could try out different tactics and approaches in what felt like a safe environment.

Being part of the TELL Series Committee allowed me to meet with a number of extremely successful and very inspiring European entrepreneurs and to hear their stories first hand.  It was also a great way to get to know other students from outside of my stream and programme.

I went on the 2015 trip to Moscow and St Petersburg.  I’d wanted to visit Russia for as long as I can remember but had been waiting until I had the chance to go with Russians.  It was fantastic to be able to get their insights into life there and experience the country with them.

My Global Business Experience was in South Africa.  We spent a week doing a really fascinating project working with micro-entrepreneurs in the Alexandra Township in Johannesburg.  It was interesting and challenging in equal parts.  We also got to learn about the history of South Africa while we were there through trips and lectures and about what’s happening with business and the economy through visits to various businesses there.

I am currently on exchange at NYU’s Leonard Stern School of Management in New York.  It’s a fantastic opportunity to get to spend four months living and studying in a different country. Upon graduation I’m going to join McKinsey and Company as a consultant in their London office.  It’s a role I’m looking forward to and one I don’t think I would have even considered if it hadn’t been for going to LBS.”

I am fortunate to read a lot of excellent applications from very strong MBA candidates. But sometimes we come across amazing people who are going to change the world for the better.

When I first read Crystal’s application, I knew she was one of those people. It is really important for us that we have professionals in the class from all walks of life. Consultants, bankers and engineers are at the heart of every class. But people like Crystal and our students with medical backgrounds whose work saves lives, help to make the London Business School MBA community the very special place it is.

We are building a strong focus on healthcare through a range of different activities at London Business School.

I was delighted to see the introduction of a new healthcare elective last year. ‘Managing Healthcare’ is taught by a team of the School’s expert faculty, visiting faculty and guest speakers. The course summary states: “With increased demand and pressure to reduce costs, healthcare delivery systems across the globe are under pressure to find ways to increase quality and widen access, while simultaneously reducing cost. The aim of the course is to explore the challenges these competing goals create and to throw light on how they can be best managed. In so doing the course seeks to identify opportunities in health care for managers, entrepreneurs and policy makers. This course draws substantially from the research and consulting expertise of the team of instructors teaching it.”

As well as that elective students like Crystal have access to electives at partner schools, such as Business Opportunities in Bioprocessing & Life Science at University College London.

Crystal is President of the School’s Healthcare Club. With over 3000 student, alumni & staff members, the club is one of the largest and most active professional clubs on campus. Their activities encompass all Life Sciences areas including healthcare provision, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals & medical technology. Members of the Healthcare Club are active in a wide range of sectors including entrepreneurship, industry, consulting, banking, venture capital & private equity.


Crystal Ruff – ‘The best decision I’ve ever made’

“Prior to joining the MBA programme I was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University Hospital Network in Toronto, Canada. Although it was an exciting time for my field, it was becoming increasingly evident that a PhD would not be enough to progress to where I wanted to go. It was clear that the future of medicine lies at the junction between business and commercialization skills and the technological know-how.

As a woman deciding to go to business school there are very specific barriers. Gender balance is still not evenly represented in the MBA class – although I think this year at LBS, my study group was the first amongst business schools to have more women than men!  It can also be more difficult for women to penetrate the traditional “boys clubs” and we also face certain unconscious biases and stereotypes in the professional world. (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8gz-jxjCmg)

But here at LBS, we are working to change that.  The school is working very hard to foster an empowering environment that supports both men and women in their business dreams, and it is really reflected in the amazing and diverse student body that we can boast of.

My advice to women would be: Do it! Jump in with both feet! It will be the best decision you ever made. London Business School is one of the most gender balanced of all the major universities.  We have thriving Women in Business Club that has both men and women members and events. We are diverse and inclusive at the school – boasting 90% international students.  Actually, we recently even broke a Guinness world record surrounding this – “most different nationalities singing a popular music song”.  That is a typical Friday here – LBS has literally made many of its women (and men too!) Guinness World Record holders.

And then there’s the location. London is an amazing city and was one of the primary reasons I chose the School.  Where else in the world can you nip out to Regent’s Park on your lunch hour for a picnic, go see the Rosetta Stone at your local museum and then go meet C-Suite Business, finance and industry leaders in the afternoon?  There are no other cities in the world as internationally renowned as London and it makes the LBS experience even richer.

The most enjoyable part of my experience has definitely been the friends I’ve met and the networking.  You can learn business skills anywhere, but at the end of the day, what really counts is your network. I have an army of the smartest, most successful people in the world behind me.  Where can you NOT go, what door is NOT unlocked by the LBS key?

My favourite courses by far have been in organisational behaviour.  Time and time again, when I meet the most senior leaders, I always have a habit of asking them “what do you wish you knew at my age?” and without fail – they all say… “Technical skills can only get you so far – if you want to be a senior leader, you MUST learn to manage people as well as do your tasks”.  These courses prepare you for that.

Along with one other colleague, I am President of this year’s Healthcare Club. This year, we have seen the club grow in number and scope, we have introduced three new officers and several jobs in response to student demand, and have also instituted the first ever Advisory Board to help ensure the future of the club. We’ve been able to get amazing speakers, such as the CEOs of BUPA, Johnson and Johnson, Chairman of the NHS, and other C-Level executives that I would have never have dreamed of meeting otherwise in my wildest dreams!  The LBS Brand has really opened doors that I hadn’t thought were possible!

If you decide to study your MBA at LBS, take advantage of the Treks – I have been to Turkey, Ireland, Prague, Hiking in Ben Nevis, to Paris, Bangkok, Cambodia and Spain.  My passport looks like a child’s colouring book with all of the colourful stamps.  There is just nowhere else in the world that you could nip off to Croatia for the weekend (forgot that one) or Moscow for a quick shopping visit.  It is truly an international hub!”


We were introduced to Nono Mkhondo as the partner of a student in our MBA2014 class. We were all so impressed with her involvement in the School community even then, through her work with the Africa Club. Although delighted that she was an active member of the School community as a partner, we knew that Nono was exactly the kind of person we wanted as a student in the London Business School MBA class. It’s unusual, but not unknown for us to see couples both doing the MBA. We know it adds extra pressure on the family finances, which is why we were delighted that Nono was awarded the Mo Ibrahim African Scholarship, a merit based award for our highest potential African students. Nono has been at the heart of some of the most important and active student clubs and events in her time here and will, I’m sure, go on to be an amazing alumna with a wonderful career.


My MBA: The beginning of a lifetime journey, by Nono Mkhondo

“Prior to my MBA I was Senior Corporate Finance Analyst for Anglo American, based in London. After almost five years in corporate M&A, I started to think about how I could broaden my experience to better position myself for a general management role in the long term. My decision to study an MBA was largely influenced by feedback that I received from friends and family that had completed MBAs about their experiences and the impact the MBA had on their careers. It became apparent to me that it was the right time for me to embark on an MBA to facilitate a career transition before I became too specialised in my industry.

Even though my husband had already done an MBA, I wondered how an MBA would affect our joint goals as a couple. I was concerned about the impact taking two years out of work would have on my career momentum, on my marriage and the timing of my decision to start a family. Since starting the programme, I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of women I have met with children or who have decided to start families during the MBA.

The structure of the LBS MBA provides the necessary flexibility and environment is very supportive. It is definitely possible to have a fulfilling and enriching MBA experience while simultaneously balancing family commitments. There is a high representation of women so you never feel “alone” in any setting and the women I have met on the programme have been an instrumental part of my MBA experience and have inspired me in many ways. The MBA has made me more confident in my own abilities and given me a great platform to learn, grow and experiment in a safe environment.

London is an amazing location for an MBA programme. From a professional development perspective, we have access to business leaders and experts and the ability to network with potential employers on an on-going basis (not merely during recruiting season). It is the perfect gateway to explore the world. The treks and my Global Business Experience (GBE) have been an important part of my development and social experience.

I love the culture of London Business School. It is small and intimate enough for me to develop meaningful relationships with students, alumni and staff-alike and people are generally open-minded and accessible. There are real opportunities to make a difference and have an impact in the community and beyond. 

My GBE was an amazing experience. I was particularly impressed by Rajesh Chandy, who facilitated the Mumbai / Pune visit. He was engaging, extremely knowledgeable and insightful but also sensitive and entertaining – a winning combination!

I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to a number of professional and social clubs. These experiences enabled me to engage with students from other programmes and learn to work efficiently and collaboratively in multidisciplinary teams. I also got the chance to experiment with different leadership styles while developing my leadership capabilities. Some examples include, defining the panel and sourcing speakers for the Women in Business Club’s 2015 Conference, sourcing keynotes for the 2015 Private Equity and Venture Capital Conference and as Club Co President for the Africa Club, I was involved with the overall strategy, sponsorship, fundraising, conferences and alumni relations.

Upon graduation, I will be joining Goldman Sachs as Associate in their Investment Banking Division in London. This represents a change in career from Industry to professional services and a change in Industry from Mining to Consumer and Retail.”



“Finding out that I’d received the Mo Ibrahim African Scholarship was probably one of the most memorable moments of my life. It was extremely humbling.”






My name is David Simpson and I’m Admissions Director for the London Business School MBA and Masters in Finance programmes. This is my first blog posting of the year.
As I sit in the spectacular atrium café at the World Bank in Washington DC, I am excited to hear the huge variety of languages and accents and see the energy and vibrancy of discussion. And I know why – it reminds me of home. ‘Home’ being London Business School.
I’m on the road for London Business School, as are all my colleagues over the next few weeks. There will be no single day when the whole admissions team are all together until late November. We’re a well-travelled bunch! We all love meeting candidates from every walk of life, in so many far flung locations.

We like to be challenged with good questions and there were plenty in New York and D.C. Questions such as: “How easy is it for non-EU nationals to get a job in London after graduation?” “What is the one most important characteristic of a good London Business School candidate?”
The answer to the first is ‘It depends’. (It’s the same answer to most questions about London Business School actually!). It depends on what you’ve achieved so far and how hard you work whilst at the School. Many of our students wish to stay and work in London after graduating – in 2012, more than 50% of non-EU MBA and MIF students chose post-study work in the UK.  Although the immigration rules changed in 2011, they altered to favour highly skilled employees above non-skilled employees – so in many ways, the 2011 changes were actually favourable for our graduates.  UK employment for LBS graduates remains strong. The bottom line is that if they want you, they will make you an offer.
I also read so many applications from candidates who are excited about returning to their home country to take advantage of  emerging opportunities; or from those who plan to use London Business School’s global education to help them transition to a new location. But we are also still seeing lots of you who are interested in living and working in London…that’s why many of you are applying to London Business School and that’s great – we love our London location and we’re glad you do too!

As for ‘the most important characteristic of a good applicant’, well, it’s just too hard to only be allowed one choice. Our decision making is based on a huge range of criteria. A strong resume showing great work experience and academic track-record won’t guarantee admission. The essential personal characteristics of self-awareness, empathy and an enquiring mind won’t be enough either. But put all that together and we will be very interested!
I guess we’re lucky at London Business School in that we really enjoy meeting all our students. Colleagues have written about ‘Introduction Weeks’ and ‘Orientation’…they really are the most exciting time in our year!
The reason why I love admissions is that it’s such a pleasure to play a role in gathering together such an outstanding and interesting group of people to build our classes. Not every high achiever you meet in life is someone you would enjoy having a coffee (or beer) with – but those we meet at London Business School are. Having the time to get to know everyone is the only challenge.  Flexibility of study time is a key differentiator on the London Business School MBA and Masters in Finance.  We build in the flexibility so you can spend longer on your programme if you want to. Or if you have an opportunity that’s just too good to delay on, then you can fast-track your studies.

As I pack up the laptop and drink up my tea, listening to a heated debate about Ethiopia from one table; a conversation in Spanish about Colombia and in French about investing in Africa, I reflect on another exhausting but enjoyable trip meeting, potentially, the next generation of  London Business School students. Back in London the nights are drawing in and an unusually hot summer is very much over.

The first round of MBA and MiF application deadlines are  approaching fast. I can’t wait to get reading. So if you are applying in this round, good luck – and if not, get working on your application for the next round!

Best regards
David Simpson
Admissions Director, MBA & Masters in Finance