Real-world finance: How my degree is preparing me for industry

By Xuefei Zhu, MSc International Securities, Investment and Banking at the ICMA Centre, Henley Business School.

It feels like only yesterday that I finished my blog talking about my unforgettable first week, and now I have just completed my first term studying at the ICMA Centre at Henley Business School. One term in, and I can now say that I have experienced the practical benefits and industry relevance in the course. I will show you what I mean…

The Dealing Rooms

alfie-dealing-roomThe ICMA Centre has three dealing rooms that simulate stock market trading. I have learned so much in these trading simulations. Our professor, who has been a professional trader for more than 8 years, leads the session. The way he teaches is really different, most of the time he lets us make our own trades. At first I was really confused and frustrated because I always ended up losing money and didn’t know how to earn profits. Looking back, I realize that this is the process we must go through, and part of the solution is to discover the answer by ourselves through experience. The truth is, trading is about trial and error before you finally start earning. Different traders have their own strategies and what you need to do is discover what yours is. When using the dealing rooms, I always made sure to ask the professor questions, and speak to those who were better so that we could share trading experiences and learn from each other.

The more you learn, the more you discover you don’t yet know. I remember one friend who told me that despite choosing more than 10 modules focusing on different fields of capital markets, he still needed to dedicate a lot of time to learning outside the module and developing a keen eye for other areas such as management. This shows the ICMA Centre’s focus on professional education. Especially during the second term, some professors are pioneers in their fields of finance. At the ICMA Centre you will find a new world of finance and be fascinated by it!

Modern Finance Case Studies

alfie-project-filesThe experience I was most impressed with in the first term was the four project assignments. All of them were true finance cases that needed to be solved. I particularly enjoyed the crisis of Deutsche bank, which had only just happened at that time of the assignment. Our team members needed to pull data from the Bloomberg or Thomson Reuters terminals to come up with the best solutions. There is a lot that you need to learn throughout the course, and the whole process has given me a deeper understanding of what abilities I really need to improve and what an efficient team should be like.

Building friendships and networking

alfie-christmasPractical experience at the ICMA Centre is not just learned from the modern trading systems, or challenging case study projects, or even the professors. To some degree, the friends around you are some of the most important teachers. Some of them have great experiences already based on different careers and life paths. More and more I believe that completing several years of work and then going back to study is a better learning model, because you will find out what you truly need and go for it! I will always remember the help I have had from friends and teammates. As the old saying goes: a friend in need is friend indeed. From a long-term perspective, these friends will all become your future career connections.

If you have not studied abroad, you will never know how hard you have to work to go through the final exams and assignments. It is a totally different experience from domestic education where the pressure is just before the exams; in foreign universities, if you want to get a high score, you must work hard and learn more during the whole time. This makes you appreciate the high level and professional experience you gain here.

It is your experience that makes you different from others. The first term has given me a brand-new door to my career in finance. It is the beginning of a new world, and all the fantastic future possibilities are just in front of me.

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