Professor Costas Grammenos, CBE, founded the International Centre for Shipping,
Trade and Finance in 1983 at Cass (then the City University Business School)
and, over the past 30 years, it has supported a vast amount of original
research, which in turn has shaped an industry and established a new academic
Professor Grammenos's office helps to tell the story. It is packed with
academic tomes, photographs of the great and the good in the world of finance,
maritime paintings, antiques and souvenirs. Like his father and grandfather he
served in the Greek navy, but he was the first family member to become an
academic. A pattern seems to have been set: his wife is an archaeologist who
teaches at Athens University, and there is also a historian son.
It was more than four decades ago when Costas Grammenos started burrowing in
the files of the National Bank of Greece, picking over unpublished data to try
and grasp how shipping finance worked in practice. He had more than 400 loan
files to look at. This was virgin territory for a would-be academic: and in
these files the young Grammenos found his vocation.
In the mid 1970s he enrolled at the University of Wales, Bangor (now Bangor
University) and took an MSc in Financial Economics. It was here that his work
began to attract attention and he started to build an international
Nonetheless, he initially resisted his Professor's urging to publish his
work, insisting on taking another year before starting on the path to a new
approach to the study of shipping finance with Bank Finance for Ship Purchase
in 1979*. In the late 1990s he was awarded the DSc by City University for
establishing, through his published research, Shipping Finance as a new
academic subject. "In the early 1980s the banks were suffering," Professor
Grammenos says, "but raising finance from the capital markets was something
The shipping industry, and the analysis of it, had concentrated on the supply
side, that is to say shipbuilding. In the late 1970s, and later with his
students and dedicated colleagues, Professor Grammenos helped to refocus
attention on the demand side as well. This led to profound changes in the
industry and how it was financed. "This was a revolution in thinking", he says.
"Shipping has always been global - it is the most international business of
all. But although shipping by definition takes you beyond national frontiers,
the financing had not so much." The big players had relied on domestic (and
international) bank lending but, as capital markets opened up and developed in
the 1980s, the shipping industry, prompted by Professor Grammenos's analysis
and presentations, woke up to the new financing possibilities.
The Centre at Cass has pioneered the study of shipping finance. Its MSc in
Shipping, Trade & Finance was introduced in 1984. It was the first
self-financed course in the UK, a model which set a trend in the School and
country. An MSc in Transport, Trade & Finance was offered in September
1997. An MSc in Energy, Trade & Finance was introduced in 2003. More than
2,600 students from 100 countries have graduated during the Centre's lifetime.
Many now hold leading positions in international banking, shipping and trading
and manufacturing sectors. In addition to shipping finance the Centre carries
out research in maritime risk management, logistics and commodity trade and
finance. It has also created a forum for international dialogue and debate,
hosting significant (and sometimes off-the-record) conferences between senior
executives, government officials and academics.
"For 15 years we had no imitators," Professor Grammenos says. "But gradually
other universities started to introduce shipping finance courses or modules.
And this is a good thing - ideas should spread. I don't believe in the private
ownership of ideas. We should be passing them on. It is the role of the
academic to create new ideas and to disseminate them."
Professor Grammenos has undoubtedly done this, turning Cass into a global
hub of thinking in his field. He has also helped to oversee the Onassis Prize
in Shipping, a $200,000 "Nobel" for the industry, as well as the Onassis Prizes
in International Trade; and in Finance, sponsored by the Onassis
Professor Grammenos's pride in the Centre's achievements is both palpable and
justified. The flow of students, academic colleagues and business people
studying at the Centre and coming back to share experiences has never ebbed.
Theory and practice are united to powerful effect. "I tell my students there
are three things they need to do: work hard, work hard and work hard," he says.
"Lots of people are intelligent: the difference is in how you apply it." In
this he is remaining true to the lessons his mother taught him as he was
leaving Athens to come to the UK four decades ago. "Look high, look forwards,"
she told him. "Work hard and use what you have in your head." Professor
Grammenos has carried out these instructions to the letter. In 2007, the Centre
that he established in 1983 was renamed after him - the Costas Grammenos Centre
for Shipping, Trade and Finance.
*University of Wales Press
Stefan Stern is Director of Strategy at Edelman and also Visiting Professor of
Management Practice at Cass. He can be contacted at email@example.com