University of East London: Entrepreneur receives honorary doctorate from UEL

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Sir Ron Kalifa has received an honorary doctorate from the University of East London’s Royal Docks School of Business and Law.

Sir Ron, who received the honorary doctorate in business administration, has forged a career in finance spanning more than 30 years.

He is currently chairman of Network International, a FTSE company and leading payments operator across the Middle East and Africa, and a non-executive director on the Court of Directors for the Bank of England.

Addressing graduands, Sir Ron congratulated everyone for persevering through the unprecedented challenges wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said, “Despite these enormous challenges, you have succeeded. The world you are walking into now is very different to the one when you went to university. I can tell you that this experience has already set you up for your life ahead.

“We are going through some profound changes in the ways that we work – curiosity, determination, insight, collaboration are valued much more than they ever were.

“This is such an exciting and evolving landscape so keep an open mind. Sectors will continue to evolve and new opportunities will arise. Acknowledge what you have done and be fuelled by the possibilities in front of you.”

Sir Ron has always had a keen understanding of the ever changing world, particularly with online payments. He took over as CEO of a small business, Worldpay, in 2002 which at the time had 75 employees and was operating at a £7 million loss.

Sir Ron transformed it in ten years, culminating with a listing on the London Stock Exchange. Worldpay was purchased in 2019 by FIS Global and is now one of the largest businesses in the world.

In 2020, Sir Ron authored a Strategic Review for Fintech at the personal request of the former Chancellor of the Exchequer. Also known as the Kalifa Review, it defined a strategy for government, industry and regulators on how to maintain the UK’s position as a global leader in Fintech policy. The government accepted all of the recommendations, published in 2021, calling it the “seminal review of Fintech”.

Sir Ron has had a close relationship with the University of East London and earlier this year helped launch UEL’s Centre for Fintech. Driven by innovation and technology, the Centre brings together research and education to help address the significant skills gap within the sector.

Talking about the transformational power of education, Sir Ron told graduands that it was now their turn to become the mentors.

He said, “Education is, of course, about personal growth. Not just economic growth, but your professional and personal growth. Your experience here, at the University of East London, has been about building bridges, and opening up. Staying authentic.

“Until today, you had mentors, guides, teachers, parents, professors, friends and family members, so many people who, in their own way, supported you and were role models. From now on, you trace the path of becoming role models for others not just in what you do but also in how you interact with others, how you build lasting relationships.”

Among his many achievements, Sir Ron was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List of 2018 for services to financial services and technology.

Just four years later, in 2022, he was knighted in the Queen’s Jubilee Birthday Honours List for services to financial services, technology and public service.

In his closing remarks, Sir Ron told graduands that it was now up to them to make an impact on society.

He said, “You are the pride of this University, this community, your friends and your families. Now it is your turn to shape the future of society by asking yourself ‘how can I take all these lessons I’ve learned – in and out of class – and apply them to my life’. Because that will be your legacy.”

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