Ask the Expert pfeatures

Welcome to the Financial Times Ask the Experts Financial Training 2013. With the ongoing financial crisis, financial training is still at the top of the agenda for many. Our panel of experts will be available to answer your questions on Wednesday, 26 June 2013, between 14.00 and 15.00 BST.

Post your questions now to and they will be answered on the day. On the panel are:

John Ballantine

John Ballantine, director of the masters in finance programme at Brandeis University International Business School in the US

Mr Ballantine is responsible for course development and teaching at the undergraduate, MBA, and executive level in finance, economics, energy, and strategy for a broad cross-section of international students.

Gareth Howells

Gareth Howells, executive director of the masters in finance programmes and full-time MBA at London Business School

Mr Howells has overall responsibility for the strategic development of these programmes with a focus on admissions, curriculum development, experiential content and brand positioning.

Francis Koh

Francis Koh, professor of finance practice at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business at Singapore Management University and founding academic director for SMU’s Master of Science In Wealth Management

Since 2010, Mr Koh has been deputy dean of the business school at SMU. He has taught or studied in Australia, Canada, Switzerland and the US.

Laurent Ortmans
Laurent Ortmans, FT Business Education Statistician


I have three years experience in financial services consultancy, would a Masters in Finance or CFA qualifications be more helpful towards getting a graduate job in investment/asset management? I have a BA degree in history and three years work experience in financial services consultancy with Accenture.


Francis: If you have three years in financial services consultancy and have a BA in history, you may have a good understanding of financial services from a practical perspective but may lack a rigorous theoretical foundation in economics, finance and banking.

Theories provide insights, frameworks and perspectives which academics have researched and written on. Gaining a systematic body of received knowledge will enable you to have the basis to better understand problems and issues. You will have more tools to solve or dissect problems systematically.

You would also need more quantitative skills to complement your arts background to succeed in an investment career which would not be easy to acquire in a CFA programme. I would recommend you go to a good university to read an MiF if you wish to pursue a career in investment/asset management. Subsequently, you may also enroll in a CFA programme part-time.

Gareth: As part of our MiF, we offer a number of concentrations and you have the opportunity to tailor your studies to specialise in particular areas of finance. One of these is investment management and analysis. Asset management is a highly competitive sector to break into.

In recognition of this, London Business School has a practitioner course in the business of asset management, an extremely active asset management professional club and a highly skilled career services team committed to supporting you in your search.

Finally, we provide opportunities for students to network with our 36,000 alumni in 130 countries.

Laurent: It depends whether you are ready to leave your current job and how long you can give yourself?

It typically takes three to four years to obtain the CFA’s certification, which allows you to keep your current job. On the other hand, you can graduate from a MiF in one or two years. Many business schools are also partners of the CFA institute and offer students the opportunity to study simultaneously for the CFA exam.

What is the difference between CFA and MiF? Some experts say that just in CFA Level 1 you learn more than the whole of an MiF programme with much less cost. If it’s true then why is the MiF degree so popular?

Gulraiz Hanif

Gareth: While the CFA programme covers some aspects of our MiF curriculum, London Business School adds breadth and depth to the experience with world-renowned faculty who teach and produce cutting edge research.

In addition to our core courses we offer 30 electives, from which our students can choose 10. These allow students to specialise in for example, investment management and analysis, corporate finance and risk management and derivatives.

In addition, we place a great emphasis on putting theory into practice through a series of practitioner-led courses, which complement the academic courses.

Many of our students choose to study the CFA alongside the MiF and we see these two programmes as complementary. London Business School’s MiF is a recognised CFA programme partner.

Francis: The CFA qualification is a professional qualification programme which requires you to sit three examinations. Each examination is based on a body of knowledge and all three parts encompass both theoretical and practical knowledge.

You will be recognised as a CFA charter-holder when you have passed all three exams. Learning may be uneven as it is usually self-driven and does not have instructors delivering a standardised programme. Many candidates do self-study or enroll in commercial schools which provide tutorials. The CFA charter is not a university degree and is not equivalent to a post-graduate masters degree.

The MiF is a post-graduate degree awarded by a recognised university. Students are taught by professors who set examinations based on a university-approved syllabus. Generally, the content and requirements are more rigorous, based on university standards for graduation.

Professors may also be able to guide and mentor students on a more personal basis. The MiF allows professors to go deeper into each subject as classroom-based post-graduate learning allows more time to discuss subject matters and even allows students to debate ideas with professors.

It is not true that CFA Level 1 covers the whole of the MiF programme. CFA classes at most commercial schools do not have the time available for class projects, case-studies or simulations or term papers which are conducted in university classes. Thus, an MiF is generally more academic and rigorous in terms of pedagogy.

Laurent: The CFA is a self-study online programme while business schools offer more traditional classes. Online courses require more discipline and independent work. They aren’t for everybody.

The more traditional format allows students to work in teams, network and interact with faculty. Business schools also offer more activities through student societies and have extensive facilities (IT, research centre, etc). The careers service will help you find an internship or help you with your job search, including soft skills (CVs and interview skills for example). Finally, students also seek the recognition of an international business school to promote their career.

John: The CFA level 1 exam essentially covers most of the core/basis requirements of most business schools (economics, accounting, statistics, finance and ethics). The MiF takes this basic knowledge and then gets into significantly more detail in how markets operate and price risk…and companies make decisions.

I’m an Italian student of the university of Milan-Bicocca. I’m about to finish my undergraduate programme and so I’m looking for the best universities to attend for my MiF. Are you able to suggest something that could help me in my research?

Mattia D’Alessandra

John: Brandeis accepts Masters of Science in Finance students with two years of work experience – we expect students to understand something of the work and financial markets. Our MiF programme is oriented towards students who are just graduating from undergraduate institutions.

Francis: Since you have just graduated, you may wish to enroll in pre-experience programmes that allow students with no prior experience to enter into the programme.

There are very good programmes in the UK as well as in various parts of the world. You may wish to find out more through the FT ranking published on Monday. I hope the list will be useful in helping you choose the university that is most appropriate for you.

Laurent: You should consider which country(ies) you wish to study first, research fees, admission policy and programme types. If you are interested in broadening your international experience, find out which schools offer exchange programmes, and which destinations are available. Or maybe you wish to do an internship. Not all schools include one in their programme.

If you are interested in some financial sectors more than others, the FT’s top 10 will show the best schools in each sector. Finally, you could consult our ranking for average salaries, employment rates and career progression.

I am a business admin (finance concentration) student recently graduated during the financial crisis, and now working in the accounting field. I would like to know what would be my best (value wise) next step for my career: Either go into a reputable MBA programme, or get a certification (CPA, CFA, CMA, etc) along with professional experience and then join an MBA programme?

George H Kasbo

John: The MBA programmes are oriented towards management and business decisions, while MiF programmes are much more focused on finance and financial markets. Depending upon your career path either masters degree may be appropriate. More business management and deal making (MBA) and more finance oriented, MiF.

Francis: Your career interest should be your foremost priority. If you enjoy accounting work, then a CPA or CMA will be appropriate. However, an MBA may serve you better if you enjoy working in general management.

It is important to have a passion for your chosen vocation. Then again, the secret of life is not to do what you like but to like what you do.

I am considering doing an MiF. How would you describe the current state of the banking industry in terms of recruitment and career prospects? Given that the investment is huge, is it still a safe choice to pursue an MiF despite the ongoing crisis?

Younes Manal

Gareth: The financial crisis has clearly had an impact on the sector. The financial services sector is increasingly looking for people with strong soft skills as well as a firm grasp of the technical elements of finance. London Business School’s MiF provides students with a tailored self-development programme ranging from negotiation skills to financial modelling.

One potential indicator of the recovery of the investment banking sector is the number of internships offered to our students. London Business School has seen a 15 per cent increase in Summer Associate offers compared with 2012.

Our global education helps our MiF students go on to work anywhere in the world. Our most recent MiF graduating class went to work in 22 cities in 20 countries.

John: Financial investment and banking jobs are growing slowly in the US / EU - unlike pre-2007 - so jobs in the finance industry are replacement and not part of significant sector employment growth. However, there are jobs in the finance industry and almost all expect masters level training - MBA, MiF, etc.

Laurent: Recruitment and career prospects appear strong for graduates from top business schools. 85 per cent of the more recent graduates from the top 40 pre-experience programmes accepted a job three months after employment.

Among those who graduated three years ago, a poll published by the FT reveals that 83 per cent of those working in finance feel secure or very secure in their current jobs, in particular thanks to having a finance degree. Virtually all think that it is likely that they will remain in the finance industry within the next five years.

Francis: The state of the banking industry is uneven across the world. Despite the global financial crisis, the banking industry in Asia remains robust. One growth area in the banking industry here is wealth management.

The population of high networth individuals in Asia-Pacific is still increasing rapidly. According to Capgemini/RBC Wealth Management World Wealth Report 2013, the wealth of Asia-Pacific’s HNWIs will grow from $12 trillion to $15.9 trillion or at about 9.8 per cent p.a between 2010 and 2015. The wealth of HNWIs in Asia-Pacific is expected to outstrip that of North America and Europe by 2015.

As long as wealth management remains a high growth industry in Asia-Pacific, there will be a need for talents to support the banking industry, including commercial/investment bankers, wealth managers, analysts, portfolio managers, forex traders and so on. A masters in wealth management or finance will be a worthwhile investment to further your career prospects.

How easy is it in the current environment to switch from accounting to investment banking? Do you see this career switch becoming more difficult in the future or less so?

Gareth: Switching from accounting to investment banking is a well-trodden path. Many investment banks value the skill sets developed in a career in accountancy. Investment banking remains highly competitive and at London Business School we provide the broader financial knowledge and industry exposure which coupled with your experience will give you the best chance to take advantage of opportunities to switch function.

John: It is never that easy to switch, however, an accounting backgound is very helpful for any finance career. Needless to say that master levels finance jobs are a necessary starting point along with strong relevant work experience.

Francis: Accounting is useful to further your career in investment banking. However, the ability to switch depends on the availability of opportunities to do so. I would think that you may have better prospects if you were in Asia as economic growth in this region remains robust.

A relevant postgraduate degree that will broaden your knowledge/skillsets with exposure to Asian capital markets will put you in a better stead to make a switch from accounting to investment banking. Hence, you may want to consider pursuing an MiF in Asian gateway cities such as Singapore or Hong Kong.

For example, SMU’s MSc in Applied Finance and MSc in Wealth Management provide a solid foundation in finance and at the same time offer ample exposure to the dynamic Asian financial markets.

What are the main barriers for an ‘arts’ graduate to enter the financial services industry?

Gareth: As a post-experience programme provider, we place a strong emphasis on the quality and areas of work experience after your undergraduate studies, as well as your academic achievements.

An arts degree is not a barrier in itself, provided you can demonstrate that you will be able to meet the demands of a rigorous quant-based curriculum. Our selection process is designed to determine your aptitude for this programme and a career in the financial sector.

John: Arts graduates need to go to business school and get relevant job experience to demonstrate their interest in finance and show that they have mastered some of the essential tools of finance.

Laurent: Motivation apart, one the main barriers to arts student is their mathematical skills. Many business schools require very high GMAT scores. Other graduates already find it difficult to enter a masters, being outscored by Indian and Chinese students. Online courses offer an alternative but passing the exams would still prove very difficult without a solid mathematical background.

Francis: The main barriers to entry for arts graduates include a lack of quantitative analytical skills and intuition for numbers but you can overcome these with interest and hard work. Knowledge and skill sets can be acquired through formal learning as well as on the job training.

Reading a postgraduate degree in finance can help you to bridge the gap and jumpstart a career in financial services. You should look out for programmes that offer internships and attachments to financial institutions as these will provide invaluable insights into the workings of the financial services industry. That way, you can also assess which aspect/area of financial services suits your career interests best.

Do you think that the pressures currently being exerted on the banking sector will have any lasting effects? Will the culture of the City return to that which was predominant pre-credit crunch, if indeed it has changed at all, or has the banking sector been chastened by this tricky period? Do you see levels of employment in the financial sector returning to pre-2008 levels in the near future?

Archie Graham-Watson, University of Edinburgh graduate

Gareth: Recruiters are certainly being more selective about the number of schools that they recruit from so choosing to study your MiF at a global and well-established, top ranked school gives you the best start. At London Business School, our MiF is practical and applied. Here you will develop a global mindset and the ability to adapt to trends in the global economy.

John: I believe that there are long-term structural changes going on in the finance industry and the recovery from the boom/bust period and slow recovery in Europe is having a long-term impact on the industry. Growth of finance is moving toward Asia over the next 10-20 years.

As a new MBA student - starting my programme in September 2013 - I am really curious about finance, but at the same time I feel that I don’t know much about the topic. That’s why I would like your advice to guide me in my future studies.

In today’s global economy what is the financial area in most need of new talented and qualified people?

On what financial areas/topics should a person study and become an expert, in order to help recover the European economy?

What kind of job should that person look for if he/she wants to contribute to the recovery of the European economy?

Juan Jose Prado

Gareth: The global economy values and requires experience and skills as well as technical knowledge. The shifting sands of the global economy require graduates to be flexible and adaptable to the twists and turns of global trade winds. As economies become more inter-linked, it is important that students are able to put theory into practice and adapt to different geographies.

At London Business School, we leverage our London location to give students a rigorous, applied curriculum that connects students to business. Students can also choose to extend their studies to go on exchange or take up an internship which helps maximise their attractiveness to employers.

Our MiF aims to give students a broad understanding in many specific areas which include: finance, economics, accounting and strategy. In addition to the core courses, MiF students take up to 10 electives from 30, which cover many subject areas. In all our courses, we focus on giving a global perspective through our diverse students and faculty. This allows London Business School students to go on to work anywhere in the world.

Laurent: You are not the only MBA student interested in finance. A quarter of all MBA graduates surveyed for our 2013 Global MBA ranking now work in finance.

I would say that Europe’s problems are structural rather than financial but good luck anyway. Europe needs all the help it can get.

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