Alumni Award

The alumni organization for the University of Zurich’s Executive MBA program presents an annual award for the most innovative final thesis from the current Executive MBA course. The prize honors theses which stand out on account of their creativity and whose results promise successful implementation of creative ideas in an organization. The evaluation may focus both on the impact of innovation on the internal processes and characteristics of an organization – such as positive changes to the corporate culture, image, etc. – and on external effects in the sense of positive social, economic and environmental changes. The award is handed out at the graduation ceremony.

Alumni Award 2021

Today we have the pleasure to hand over the very first award for the most innovative master thesis within the Executive MBA program Digital Transformation. The award goes to Rahel Tanner for her thesis „Digitalization and Ethics: Ethical Challenges for PostFinance on its Digitalization Journey“.

You can open any newspaper, magazine or book and you will find a large number of articles and reviews describing the opportunities that arise for businesses when starting digital transformation: Content explaining the benefits of digitalization, calculating the expected revenues waiting after further digitalization, describing the innumerable potential for new business models. The risks arising from digital transformation are less likely to be discussed in large public, even less from an ethical standpoint. This is where Rahel’s personal interest kicked in when deciding on the research questions of her thesis. Rahel wanted to find out more about ethical challenges in the context of digitalization and chose the example of PostFinance for further investigation. The result is stunning, highly relevant and an important contribution to current research on digitalization.

Rahel started her research on ethical challenges for Postfinance to consider during the coming years and continues with the questions how to address these challenges, how to measure successful implementation and how to keep momentum.

The thesis defines three areas for digitalization and ethics to be reviewed: Algorithms & Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Cybersecurity. The interview results are to be read in the special case of PostFinance being a state-owned company. Rahel’s findings point out a very strong focus on customer-data and reputation. Awareness of the value of customer data and expectations for transparent and protective use are rated very high by her interview partners. As a state-owned company PostFinance benefits from huge trust of customers in cautious treatment of delicate data. Any non-ethical treatment would have a direct effect on PostFinance’s reputation.

Rahel concludes by saying that PostFinance does not have very clear guidelines for ethical questions at the moment. She recommends defining a quick and clear process to answer the ethical questions in order to provide guidance to their employees who are faced with ethical challenges in their daily business world. Rahel concludes by saying „Ethical behavior is the responsibility of every single employee and cannot be delegated.“.

Ethics and digitalization in my eyes are not only a subject to be considered by banks but by any other business dealing with digitalization and customer data. Our congratulations to Raher Tanner for writing the very first most innovative master thesis within the Executive MBA program Digital Transformation and her contribution to ethical behavior in digitalization.

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