UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Meet the future of public value: Spotlight on MPA student…Dominic Bell

15 January 2021

Introducing Dominic Bell, 2020-21 Master of Public Administration (MPA) student at the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP). We get to know more about him, while discussing public value and why he chose IIPP and our MPA.

Dominic Bell

What were you doing before you joined the IIPP MPA?
I’ve been working (and still do) at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). I supervise large retail banks and specifically their lending to retail customers, making sure that customers don’t suffer when getting their mortgage or using their credit card etc. I started at the FCA in Enforcement, at the “sharp end”, working on litigation and in particular a case that ran for over 10 years, but did result in the prohibition and the largest ever fine for a senior manager of any UK firm. Before that law school, an Ironman triathlon, and I was a Vice President at Queen Mary, University of London Students’ Union for two years.

Why did you choose to apply to the IIPP MPA?
I did a lot of looking around for public policy masters degrees. When I came across the IIPP website I knew straight away this was the one. I was doubly delighted to see the roster of people teaching, some of whose work I had already read. But I was looking for public policy degrees in the first place, because I wanted to expand my understanding of how to resolve systemic issues that I see in my work. I wanted to get some different perspectives, see what is being thought about across sectors so that I might broaden my knowledge, but also give myself time and space to experiment and come up with solutions that I could take into my work. IIPP seems to provide this, and seems like the most innovative and active department in the country on public policy.

What challenges or topics around innovation, public policy and public value concern/interest you the most?
Working in regulation and the financial sector means that I am naturally concerned by the state of the nation’s personal finances. Working in retail lending also means that I come across some of the more startling statistics about how people are (not) getting by, and how this has got worse in the last 10-15 years, and especially since Covid-19.

It’s obviously a huge topic that can encompass the entirety of our economy, so the challenge for me is really finding the right lever that I can pull to have a positive impact on this. At the moment, this consists of turning the dial to influence banks to do even more to help their customers, to push beyond a base level of expectation so that their systems, operations, governance etc are better able to deal with the increasing level of needs.

I don’t underestimate this influence but I also see a rising tide, and I am sure there is a smarter answer out there to improve not just financial management, but individual’s actual take home to a level that is just and fair, and I am imagining this is tied to breakthroughs in public policy and public value.

What do you hope to get out of the IIPP MPA?
New ways of seeing and solving societal problems, and a faculty and group of peers for the long-term.

Why do you believe it is important that we change how public value is imagined, practised and evaluated?
Clearly, something special needs to happen to turn around the worsening trend for the general public’s personal finances, and it’s also clearly not going to come except by collaborative efforts across public and private, groups and individuals. So much of what’s come before is about individual’s preferences guiding us intuitively to a better society, but that idea seems pretty flat now when stacked up against all these crises we face whether it’s climate change, mental health, inequality, housing, racism etc. But despite all the vocal support, lasting solutions are not going to be found soon enough unless issues are grounded in some framework, which everyone can get behind and, crucially, understand and see working.

What is your favourite album, film or novel?
This is always impossible to answer properly but I’ll say Absolution by Muse, Black Hawk Down and Atonement by Ian McEwan. I hope this doesn’t mean I’m stuck in the 2000s!

If you had to remove one social media app from your phone, which would one would it be and why?
LinkedIn - does that count?

Who would be your top three dream dinner guests (dead or alive)?

Billy Connolly

If your fellow MPA students were to visit you in your city, where would you take them and what is a local dish they would have to try?
This is where I reveal I am a closet hipster. I’m based in Peckham where there is so much choice, but even so I’d still go for my local pub - The Old Nun’s Head - because they have a great backstory (please forgive me Lady Superior! But she got her head cut off in the Reformation), a great vibe, the funniest pub quizzes I have ever experienced, and great food courtesy of “Flygerians” at least when the chefs are not nursing in the NHS for their day jobs. Have I sold it?

What is your life motto?
Work hard, play hard