The Impact of a Student Investment Fund on Finance Education and Employability of Postgraduate Students
The Queen Mary Master Investment Fund (QUMMIF hereafter) is an active students’ managed investment fund, established in 2011. QUMMIF is a registered UK private limited company involving about 500 postgraduate students per academic year and managing more than £40,000 investment into the financial market. Its registered office is the School of Economics and Finance (SEF or School hereafter) at Queen Mary University of London and the QUMMIF director is Dr Alfonsina Iona. QUMMIF has its own website (QUMMIF Investment Fund), and it uses a bank along with a leading brokerage company for its own trading. The main objective of QUMMIF is to provide postgraduate finance students relevant, practical work experience in asset valuation, portfolio analysis and trading.
This case study is organized as follows: Section 2 describes the training provided. Section 3 analyses the spill-overs from the programme. Section 4 reports the view of one of the panel judges. Finally, Section 5 concludes.
2. The QUMMIF Training
Members of QUMMIF are all the postgraduate students, enrolled in the Finance Masters programmes at the School of Economics and Finance, that express strong interest in joining. Since its main objective is educating student members in the professional practice of fund management, QUMMIF provides them with tools and trading experience necessary for analysing asset classes, sectors, and financial markets, and allowing them the chance to apply their academic knowledge in the real financial market. The QUMMIF yearly programme of training provides students with a unique opportunity to develop professional practice in Trading, Portfolio Analysis and Portfolio Management. This practice complements what the students learn from various asset pricing modules within their Masters programmes. At the same time, within QUMMIF, students are facilitated in interacting with other students and enhancing their soft skills and teamwork abilities.
Strong commitment throughout the whole academic year is expected from those who join QUMMIF: they spend all year attending the Finance Trading Programme to gain financial markets knowledge, to understand the ways in which stock sectors rotate during the business cycle and to support their investment case focusing on a stock or a fund. To facilitate this, student members are provided with the Bloomberg financial platform and specific classes enhancing understanding of asset classes, asset pricing, equity analysis, valuation, portfolio construction, asset allocation and technical analysis. Participants are supported and guided during the preparation of their investment report by experienced professionals and traders.
Since it is crucial to know the ways the people who work for the fund engage with students and what are the environments they use to do so, the training programme is continuously monitored by the QUMMIF director. More specifically, the teaching material is reviewed every year, the teaching staff is provided with constructive feedback, and it is encouraged to develop new ways of tackling issues by providing students formative feedback, and by training them in the preparation of a professional presentation and investment report. Students are asked to produce an investment report of professional standard and present their case in the QUMMIF annual investment competition to a panel of finance experts and academics. The winning investment cases become the QUMMIF portfolio of investments, which is optimized, managed and monitored by students over the year. Therefore all the QUMMIF investment decisions are based on the students’ practical application of their knowledge.
3. QUMMIF Positive Spill-overs
Over the years, the QUMMIF educational activity has helped the school in different ways. First, it has boosted the reputation of the school as being able to provide strong finance expertise to our graduates. Second, QUMMIF has become part of the SEF’s flagship marketing tool for the various masters in finance, contributing to the sizeable increase in student in-take for these masters, which represent the strict majority of the overall MSc students’ population of the school, overcoming the average of 1,000 PGT students per year for the last 7 years. Third, it has fastened relationships with financial professionals and top managers to the point that some of those involved in the QUMMIF training and assessment have been offered visiting lectureship positions within SEF. Finally, the investment competition has highlighted the calibre of our talent pool by boosting students’ employability.
QUMMIF indeed increases the opportunity for students to get a job. Often the judges of the investment cases have given employability talks and seminars within QUMMIF. Thanks to this, many students got internships or permanent jobs in some of those companies (e.g., in Morningstar, HSBC, Moody’s, Fitch Ratings, Street bank, Bloomberg).
Overall, QUMMIF offers its members an excellent opportunity to acquire financial skills, relevant research experience and knowledge of the financial markets, which enhances their CV, increases employability, and assists in achieving career goals in many of the career choices related to the financial markets. Members can explore career options by experiencing real-world work in the roles of Equity Analyst, Portfolio Managers and Assistant Analyst.
To confirm the above, the data collected by our survey show that the vast majority of QUMMIF students finds a job in asset management companies within 6 months from graduation. While classical sample self-selection can partly explain the outcome, this is unambiguously remarkable, considering that main employability statistics providers, such as HESA’s Graduate Outcome Survey (GOS), consider longer time spans; more precisely, graduate outcomes 15 months after graduation. Students rate this experience of exceptional impact on their achievement of finance practical skills. The survey conducted by the QUMMIF director over the last 10 years, reveals that:
- 80% of students considered the QUMMIF crucial in applying for the School Master programmes, and
- 95% stated that they acquired important practical finance skills relevant for their career development.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, thanks to the engagement with finance practitioners, the latter have been recruiting directly from the QUMMIF classes that highlighted the interest and calibre of our talent pool.
Consistently with this, the students’ feedback has revealed that students greatly appreciate this educational experience considered of the highest value to secure a job in the finance industry.
QUMMIF played a relevant role in the student learning and employability during the pandemic as well as it was a unique opportunity for students’ engagement, for maintaining a vibrant community and sustaining mental health in those difficult months. Students stated that QUMMIF was a great possibility of achieving, during their Masters, a practical experience in trading and investment analysis at a time where it was impossible to find an internship in the finance industry. QUMMIF experience was deemed by students as an internship both because they had the possibility to apply theory in the real financial market and because they were actively involved in extracurricular activity and worked on projects over the entire year.
4. A judge’s view
QUMMIF ends its activities with a final investment competition, held after modules’ examinations took place (mid-June), during which groups of participants present their investment case and compete on this basis to convince a “panel of judges” to support the investment case they present. The panel judges provide a mark both for the investment report and presentation, from which the final classification is directly derived.
The choice of the members of the “panel of judges” is thoughtfully made not only to make sure to gather professionals with the appropriate expertise in the world of investments and asset management, but also to achieve a diversity of personal background. The judges are not only SEF alumni appointed in academia and the finance industry, but also finance practitioners, asset managers, risk managers and Queen Mary University of London academics. Some of these judges have also previously been QUMMIF participants, and they all have different years of experience in their field. This selection mechanism, while being able to represents all main demographic features, assures that the panel judge provides the appropriate dedication both before the main event and during/after it.
The role of the judge has evolved over time and does not end with providing the “mark” to the single component of the competition for each group. Judges can pose questions at the end of each presentation and provide feedback during the networking session which follows the competition.
After acquiring technical, written and oral skills, QUMMIF students also learn how to network. The latter is vital, as at least 80% of jobs are found through mutual connections, according to Forbes (Ton 2020). The networking element of QUMMIF Event (the “post Event”) contributes indeed to the enhancement of employability skills. In fact, students have a chance to network with all panel judges, who provide feedback on their work, tips for job interviews and, more generally, job market, and sometimes even job vacancies, making new connections on LinkedIn.
QUMMIF educational structure is fantastic and brilliant both from a students' career perspective and a judge’s perspective. The students are navigated from their classes into the real world of finance, while judges are impressed by the practical and soft skills created, the connection that the QUMMIF can create with the finance industry, and the careers opportunities that QUMMIF can enhance by emphasizing talents and skills of its students.
To conclude, QUMMIF is the perfect reflection of the following statement “Teaching-related scholarship is the application of the most current knowledge of a discipline or professional specialism to broader activities and practice, communicated in ways which influence others beyond the institution” (University of Leeds 2012). QUMMIF is a service offered not just to current students, but has become a community building opportunity, as it is able to connect current students and alumni. It is worth mentioning that its good performance requires organisational skills, as the whole set of activities of QUMMIF are diverse and they are spread throughout the whole academic year. It is also rather formative for the academic director, as it implies the development of excellent coordination, support, supervision, and mentoring skills. This could be a way to provide evidence of commitment to all professional values of the HE; successful incorporation of scholarship into the academic practice; respect of individual learners and diverse learning communities; ability to promote participation and equality of opportunity for learners, and recognition of the implications of the teaching and learning quality for professional practice.
Finally, QUMMIF provides an example of creating an innovative and unique key area of finance practical education within the School/Institute and Faculty. Similar activities are definitely welcome for the previously mentioned reasons, and they certainly give the opportunity to the academics involved to shape the scholarship profile in a unique and distinctive way.
Ton, J. (15 October 2020) "Networking: It's Not What You Think" Forbes
University of Leeds (2012) "Definition of scholarship"Back to top