About the MSc Finance and Investment course at Nottingham University Business School
This on-year full-time course is designed to provide students with a solid theoretical and practical foundation in modern finance and investment.
Meet the professor
Chris Pong teaches on the MSc Finance and Investment course at Nottingham University Business School.
What do students study on the course?
Core modules include fixed interest investment, derivative investment and capital markets analysis.
Fixed income investment covers topics like the valuation of bonds, interest rate determination and how to use bonds to protect against interest rate changes. We also look at quantitative easing, which is quite topical these days.
The derivative investment module covers all the different types of derivative structures (things like futures, options and forward contracts) and explores how they can be traded on the market. This includes looking at how derivatives can be used both to speculate and also to reduce risk through hedging.
In capital markets analysis we study the capital asset pricing model, portfolio theory, rates of return and the valuation of companies.
Students will also take other courses beyond these core modules. I teach financial reporting, an optional module designed for students who haven't studied accountancy prior to doing the course.
This module, along with others such as corporate risk and quantitative techniques for finance, ensures that everyone has a complete set of basic financial skills.
What are the strengths of the course?
First of all we have a very good mix of staff. A number of my colleagues have worked in the City before becoming academics.
One acted as an internal consultant for the corporate finance and treasury departments of British Gas, another used to work for a Japanese investment bank, and I myself have worked for two of the Big Four accountancy firms. Some of my colleagues are leading researchers in finance, using cutting-edge techniques. We pass on all this experience to our students.
The course itself is very forward-looking in terms of the business areas it covers. We teach the latest thinking in areas such as corporate social responsibility. Some of my colleagues are also considering new modules such as Islamic finance because it's an increasingly important market area.
What is financial reporting, your subject, and why is it useful?
Financial reporting refers to the preparation of financial statements - that means profit and loss accounts, balance sheets, and cashflow statements.
A P&L account shows how well the company has performed over the financial year. A balance sheet is a snapshot of what it has at the end of the year. The cashflow statement summarises where the cash has come from and what it's been spent on.
All these statements provide financial information for use in economic decisions. So, for example, an investor who wants to know whether a company is doing well or not can analyse the statements to see whether the company's financial position is sound. Or if you are lending money to a company you will use the statements to analyse its liquidity position.
These skills are very useful for finance professionals. Many people just look at the profits, but by studying financial reporting you learn to look beyond the bottom-line numbers. If you're able to interpret the statements as a whole you get a much better picture of what you're really looking at.
What does the study of financial statements involve?
We start by going through the balance sheet items (for example, property, plant and equipment, research and development, goodwill, and so on) and explain what all these items mean in detail.
We also look at accounting regulations and off-balance sheet finance - the things you don't see on the balance sheet but that you have to be aware of.
We spend quite a bit of time learning how to analyse financial statements, looking at how you determine issues like company performance, the profitability ratio, the liquidity position, the gearing position, the capital structure issues and so on.
Finally we will introduce the students to recent research articles to make sure they're aware of the latest thinking in key areas.
Does what you learn on the course these skills make you more employable?
Many of my graduate students go to accounting firms, which offer very good career progression. There you can train as a chartered accountant, which will use the skills you've learnt on the course.
Or you might begin a career at an investment bank, one of the large consulting firms, or a large corporate.
A well-structured degree from a top business school gives you a lot of options.