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Inaugural Schulich Master of Finance class nears completion of program

One of the most exciting recent initiatives of the Schulich School of Business was the launch of the Master of Finance (MF) program in August 2009. It is the only full-time, 12-month MF program in the Greater Toronto Area. The 20 students in the Inaugural Class hold degrees in fields such as commerce, computer science, economics and engineering.

The first year of the Schulich MF has been successful for both the School and the students in the program. Daniel Straus and Ji Wei Shao have already accepted job offers. Daniel will join National Bank Financial in Toronto as an associate research analyst of structured products and derivatives. Ji Wei has accepted an offer from the Bank of Canada to work as a funds management and banking analyst.

Choosing the Schulich Master of Finance

Daniel Straus, Schulich Master of Finance Inaugural Class 2010

When Daniel Straus completed his PhD in Engineering at Brown University in Providence, RI, the world was experiencing a financial crisis. Daniel decided he needed to learn more about finance, both for personal interest and career advancement. “I completed my PhD during the height of the financial meltdown,” explained Daniel. “I was interested in pursuing a career in business and realized how important it was to learn more about finance.”

Daniel’s brother, then a Schulich MBA student, told him about the new MF program the School was introducing. “I decided to apply to Schulich when I read about the courses in the program. Each one of them looked rigorous, technical and challenging,” said Daniel.

“The Schulich Master of Finance program is designed to provide students with an intensive training in finance that is both practical and intellectually challenging,” said Pauline Shum, Director, Master of Finance program. “Today, to be competitive in the workplace, you need to be familiar with all areas of finance. The Schulich MF provides students with a broad perspective on the multifaceted world of finance.”

For Ji Wei Shao, the Schulich MF was the only degree he was interested in applying for. Like Daniel, Ji Wei also wanted to focus specifically on finance rather than pursue an MBA. “I wanted to stay in Canada to complete my graduate education,” said Ji Wei. “Schulich is one of the top schools in the country. So although the MF program is new, their MBA is well known. I wanted the benefits that come with completing a Schulich degree.”

The MF program at Schulich has a comprehensive curriculum covering areas such as financial econometrics and statistical programming, institutional wealth management, investment banking, private equity and venture capital, and structured products. To encourage responsible financial conduct, the program also includes courses in corporate governance, ethics and securities law. In addition to course work, students must also participate in research and professional seminars, as well as a four-day course in financial modelling using Excel.

“The Schulich MF program was more focused and specific than an MBA,” said Daniel. “It filtered out the components of the MBA I thought were unnecessary for my future career path. Other MF programs were part-time and took longer to complete. I wanted to stay in Toronto. Schulich was my top choice because you could take courses full-time. The one-year Schulich MF offered the ultimate stepping-stone to a career in finance.”

Advantages of the Schulich Master of Finance Program

The small class size of the Schulich MF program provides ample opportunities for professors to work with students on their research projects and presentation skills. It also allows Professor Shum to give students a lot of individual attention. “I meet with the students after each term, providing them with feedback on their progress and soliciting feedback on the program at the same time,” says Professor Shum. “Pauline knows everyone in the program personally and she has helped direct each of us to specific jobs in fields which complement our academic backgrounds,” said Daniel.

Ji Wei Shao, Schulich Master of Finance Inaugural Class 2010

Another advantage of the program’s small class size is the calibre of the students. “Half of my classmates entered the program with a background in commerce, and the other half wanted to apply their knowledge and skills from different areas to finance,” explained Daniel. “I learned a lot from the students who have lived and breathed finance throughout their education. The program itself was a high pressure environment and it was a real benefit having the opportunity to work with classmates who want to do the best job possible, to get the best marks possible.”

Ji Wei enjoyed the many extracurricular activities the School provides. He is a social rep for the Graduate Business Council (GBC) and a member of both the Schulich Finance Association and Schulich Economics and Policy Club. At the beginning of September, Ji Wei travelled with the GBC and his MF classmates to Olympia Sports Camp in Northern Ontario for a weekend of team building and social activities. “Students in our program are treated the same as any MBA student would be treated,” said Ji Wei. “We had access to the Career Development Centre (CDC) and could participate in the GBC. The CDC staff members were very helpful. They helped us look for jobs, write résumés and prepare for interviews. And the wide network of contacts they had was great.”

Schulich Master of Finance Becomes CFA Institute Program Partner

In May, CFA Institute, the global association for investment professionals that awards the prestigious CFA® (Chartered Financial Analyst) designation, approved Schulich’s MF program as a CFA Program Partner. “The CFA is a prestigious designation that is academically rigorous and globally recognized,” says Professor Shum. “It is the industry standard for finance professionals. In addition to covering CFA admission requirements, the Schulich MF program includes an estimated 90 per cent of the knowledge required for CFA exam preparation. It builds on and complements this with training in research methods, analysis of the latest financial products and exposure to legal and regulatory frameworks.”

Ji Wei Shao, Daniel Straus and Pauline Shum (Director, Master of Finance Program), along with two other MF students (Rita Sharma and Kiel Depoe)

An additional benefit of the Schulich MF program for Ji Wei has been the preparation he has received for his CFA designation. Ji Wei wrote his third and final exam for the CFA designation on June 5th and says that taking the Schulich MF program while studying for his examinations helped him prepare. “The course content covers a lot of the material you need to study for the examination. Five of the courses in the program were relevant to the material I needed to study for my Level 3 examination alone. I think the majority of my classmates are writing or planning to write the CFA exams. Taking the Schulich MF and studying for the CFA designation at the same time is achievable.”

Receiving recognition as a CFA Program Partner demonstrates how closely the curriculum of the Schulich MF program is tied to professional practice and indicates that it is well suited to preparing students to sit for the CFA exams. As part of the partnership, Schulich students are entitled to scholarships and will have access to CFA Institute curriculum, journals, webcasts and other educational resources, including a specially prepared online Level I sample exam.