The past year has been one of continuous upheaval for the Singapore finance sector. Market volatility, slowing Asian economic growth and restructuring at global banks have left many financial professionals questioning their career paths.
In theory, it might not be the best time to start an MSc Finance degree and further commit yourself to a seemingly unstable industry.
Professor Don Bredin, however, begs to differ.
“If I were a prospective student, I wouldn’t let poor markets affect my decision on whether to do a Masters,” says Bredin, a Professor of Finance at University College Dublin (UCD), the school that partners with Kaplan Higher Education Institute in Singapore to run its MSc Finance programme.
“In fact, when macro conditions are bad, it’s actually a good time to upgrade your core skills. Downturns always happen in finance and you must be able to deal with them and position yourself to take advantage when a recovery takes place,” he adds.
The UCD Master of Science in Finance helps you do just that.
“If you enrol into our programme, we’ll get you to look beyond the froth and the current volatility in financial services. If a Master’s Degree is too short-term, it’s of little value in the years after you graduate,” says Bredin.
The degree, which is part-time and runs for a minimum of 18 months at Kaplan’s City Campus near Orchard Road, focuses instead on the long-term “fundamentals of finance”.
“We teach key principles – drawn from case studies and economic and financial models – which will help Singapore finance professionals throughout their careers, in both good and bad markets. For example, we examine how you measure changes in value during an M&A deal or restructuring.”
MSc Finance students at Kaplan Higher Education Institute study four main financial subjects – capital markets, derivative securities, portfolio and risk management, and strategic finance – and develop practical, technical skills in each one.
“In all these areas, we study historical financial analysis and data. For example, we look at the differences and similarities between financial crises as far back as the South Sea Bubble almost 300 years ago,” says Bredin. “Many of the essential skills you need to deal with the current downturn are like those needed in the past.”
Bredin says the UCD MSc Finance also recognises the fundamental ways that careers in financial services have changed in more recent years.
“Banks are required to hold more capital now and financial regulation has been growing since the financial crisis. So risk management is an issue constantly coming to the fore in our classroom as banks put more resources into it,” says Bredin.
“For example, we use case studies to assess the impact of credit risk management on a fall in the value of a portfolio. We focus on how to measure risk and use data to make better decisions,” he adds.
“It’s important for a Master’s course to adapt to change, if that change is fundamental – such as regulation, the growth of the insurance sector in Asia, or the impact of digital technology on jobs and skills in finance.”
Kaplan’s partnership with University College Dublin is its longest established and allows it to draw on the Irish institution’s 160-year-plus record of academic excellence. “Our leading lecturers visit the Kaplan campus in Singapore regularly – we’re fully committed to providing students there with the best financial education possible,” says Bredin.
The UCD MSc Finance programme also allows students to develop core skills for the specific part of financial services that they want to work in after graduating.
“Our ‘fundamentals of finance’ approach is also tailored to your needs as we know you’re using the degree as a stepping stone into a particular job, whether that’s in capital markets, portfolio management, or research analysis,” says Bredin.
Importantly, all students must write a research paper during the final part of their degree.
“The paper is nearly always about a product in your discipline, so it’s directly applicable to the job market. For example, a student wanting a buy-side role recently wrote about asset allocation in emerging markets – portfolio diversification to create safe havens for investors,” explains Bredin.
“Your paper and the course as a whole are designed to equip you with technical skills that are critical for entry and mid-level positions in financial services, and which will also benefit you as your career progresses – in all market conditions.”