Masters programmes offer chance to take career even higher
Product innovation, technological advancement and collaboration among financial intermediaries are making the sector ever more sophisticated. The outcome is that financial professionals must be proficient in the use of a vast array of specialised tools in order to excel in their industries.
The Department of Finance of the School of Business and Management at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) is offering two part-time master's programmes — the Master of Science in Financial Analysis (MScFA) and the Master of Science in Investment Management (MScIM) — for individuals who want to pursue a gainful career in finance.
Rebecca Chow, executive officer of the two programmes, explains, "There is a growing demand for both finance professionals and professionalism in the market as reflected by the popularity of the two master's programmes. Many people enrol in one of these programmes out of a real need to extend their knowledge in finance so that they can enter the sector or advance in their career path."
Ms Chow's views mirror current trends. The financial services industry is one of the backbone of the Hong Kong economy. HKUST studies show that the financial services sector has been growing at six per cent a year over the past decade. More than 170,000 people are employed in the sector, or five per cent of the working population, contributing over 12 per cent to our GDP. These figures underscore the point that competition will be keen and constant in recruiting talents possessing proficiency in finance knowledge.
Solid foundation training
The two programmes comprise core and elective courses, starting with solid foundation training in accounting, economics, quantitative and computing skills, asset valuation and financial derivatives. These form the core subjects of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) examinations, so participants can either graduate with a master's degree from an internationally recognised university or opt to attain CFA certification. In practice, the course scheduling is designed in a way that accommodates students taking the CFA examinations.
According to Angel Li, another executive officer, students are allowed to transfer freely between the two before the end of Year One, and can select their area of concentration after completing the core courses. This is well-received by students since at this stage of their studies they can make a more informed decision on the exact field that will benefit them more.
To meet individual needs, students can choose from a wide scope of advanced courses and specialised electives, which are categorised into four concentrations: corporate finance, security analysis, asset management and risk management. Corporate finance and security analysis fall within the MScFA programme; asset management and risk management are in the MScIM programme. Ms Chow explains that the most noticeable difference between the financial analysis and investment management programmes is that financial analysis relates more to the books of a business while investment management focuses on the diversity of investment tools.
Electives available for the MScFA programme include corporate financial reporting, corporate governance, equity valuation and mergers, acquisitions and restructuring. By contrast the curriculum for the MScIM programme covers investment-related subjects such as fixed income derivatives, hedge funds, credit risk management and structured products.
The faculty involved in the two programmes is impressive. "On the list are prominent scholars and industry practitioners from all over the world who have taught and worked in prestigious institutions," says Ms Chow. Students are therefore assured that they can learn both the foremost academic theories and market practices. Meanwhile, the freshly-learnt market practices can immediately be applied in the student's workplace. It is also noteworthy that the Department of Finance is renowned in the academic community for its research, and its work was ranked first in the Asia Pacific by the Arizona State University in 2005.
The two part-time programmes are composed of 30 credits, and a dedicated student can complete one programme in 18 months. Classes are held on weekday evenings and Saturdays.
Although most participants have experience in the field of finance, no formal finance training is required. However, all applicants must possess a first degree from a recognised university or approved institution. Most students have more than seven years' work experience.
As in many other programmes today, the two programmes provide students with ample opportunities to interact with one another through group work, sharing expertise and insights from their individual fields.
"Admissions to the programmes have been competitive," says Ms Chow. "Having students with strong backgrounds creates an environment for fruitful intellectual exchange."
The MScFA and the MScIM programmes were launched in 1996 and 2002 respectively. Their learning aids include an online learning platform and an extensive resource library equipped with specialised materials and the Reuters Database.