Interview with Prof. Brewer
Interview with Prof. Fatemi
Interview with Dr. Pakravan
N. Wozny – How has the finance profession been altered in the last half decade?
Dr. Fatemi – Over the course of the last four or five years, the profession has come to think more intently on the long term implications of decision making. Specifically, more of a long term orientation as far as value is concerned. Also, there has been a greater emphasis on standards of conduct and, to some extent, a revival of the discussion of ethics and elements of trust. The recession that came to be known as the “Great Recession” has, to a large extent, changed the financial services industry and changed it for the better. By that I mean a greater emphasis on long-term value as opposed to the short-termism that we witnessed over the previous half a decade. Also, a greater emphasis on ethics and the consideration of the interests of others in that decision making process.
N. Wozny – Obviously in the finance industry or in any industry for that matter, trust or brand is a very important asset. With that in mind, how has this affected the curriculum at DePaul?
Dr. Fatemi – We have moved in tandem with the marketplace. That, despite the fact that academia typically is much slower in changing its ways. Accordingly, what we have done has resulted in a greater emphasis and coverage in our curriculum, both at the graduate and undergraduate levels, on ethics in finance, and on history of finance by discussing financial bubbles; how they come about, and the human behavior that gives rise to these bubbles. We have also instituted a requirement for our students to get adequate exposure to risk management. Specifically, at the undergraduate level, we now have a requirement that any student graduating with a bachelor’s degree in finance should have taken a course in risk management. So, we have infused our curriculum with a discussion of ethics and trust, and instituted the specific requirement of a course in risk management.
N. Wozny – Risk management and ethics are traits that all financial professionals should acquire. Have you seen areas in the industry where demand for financial professionals has decreased or increased?
Dr. Fatemi – Immediately following events in 2008 there was a drop in demand for graduates of any type. That is best captured in today’s fairly high unemployment rate. In that sense, if you want to talk about graduates in finance, they were not immune to that. However, in the aftermath of the crisis, there was an offsetting demand for finance and accounting and graduates who could make sense of the events that had taken place and clean up the mess, so to speak. So, despite the initial fears that there was going to be a huge drop in demand, it did not turn out that badly. Further, following the modest recovery currently underway, we have seen the demand for finance graduates come back. It is not where we would like it to be, but most of our graduates are finding employment. They are finding employment of the kind that they like, as opposed to just any job. For many reasons, the demand for finance graduates has held up fairly steadily. On the supply side we did see a dip in students majoring in finance, and graduate students concentrating in finance at the MBA level. Those numbers have now rebounded with a very healthy rate of growth.
N.Wozny – How does the growth compare between undergraduate, MS Finance, and MBAs?
Dr. Fatemi – The undergraduate enrollment in finance has recovered very nicely, almost back to the pre-2008 levels. The MBA numbers are still not at that level, although they have recovered somewhat. The enrollment for MS Finance has almost tripled in size. Most of that has come from international students who have discovered Chicago as perfect place to study. Chicago is a living laboratory. They can study at DePaul and practice what they have learned within a block away.
N.Wozny – DePaul has been known for a great institution for preparing undergraduates for masters programs at Tier 1 institutions. How do those who have completed graduate programs at DePaul compete in the marketplace?
Dr. Fatemi – The demand for our MBAs remains a difficult number to access. Most of our MBAs are full time employees. They typically go back to their jobs following the completion of their MBA, albeit, with a promotion of one kind or another. It is hard to assess how that demand has changed. Demand for the MS in Finance graduates is easier to assess. We see a fairly robust demand for the graduates as students end up with jobs in their field at good levels of compensation.
N.Wozny – How has technology affected the financial industry and therefore the curriculum?
Dr. Fatemi – Like other areas, the education industry has benefited immensely from advancements in technology. What used to be done over a span of days is now done over a span of seconds, whether it is trading or management of risk or shifting positions within a portfolio. To give our students the capability to compete in the marketplace, we have provided for access to state of the art technology while they are going through their curriculum. The trading room is a significant part of that strategy. As the Finance Department moves to its new space on the fifth floor of DePaul Center, we will be moving into a trading room that is double the size of the existing trading room. It will have some 30 Bloomberg stations, which will give the students the opportunity to get their hands dirty, to see how this technology works and be able to walk into a job knowing the technology and how to use it. Of course, this does not just include Bloomberg stations, but also other technologies aimed at research, risk management and investment tools.
N.Wozny – With regard to future programs are there any initiatives and alumni can contribute to or be excited about?
Dr. Fatemi – Absolutely! This is a fortuitous discussion today. The day before yesterday, following a two year period of planning and analysis, our faculty approved the programs for a new master’s degree, the Masters of Science in Wealth Management. As this proposal moves through the chain of university approval we are planning to add this degree to the suite of degrees we offer at Kellstadt sometime next year. It is intended to address the growing need for wealth management professionals. In doing so, we will need the help and the involvement of our strong base of alumni to fine-tune the program and make it an ideal one.
N.Wozny – What type of advice would you provide potential students and current student of the finance program as well as alumni?
Dr. Fatemi – Our undergraduate students need to better familiarized themselves with the workings of the financial markets and gain an understanding of the inter-linkages between the markets here and elsewhere in the world. Whether we like it or not, this is a global environment and the students who choose to have a narrow focus are going to be at a big disadvantage. Taking that global perspective is extremely important. We have seen how minor players within an organization can bring a huge organization down to its knees. Students need to be aware of the consequences of their actions and be continuously vigilant about the element of ethics and risk management. We also advise our students that their future success is highly dependent on staying connected with the business community and with the alumni.
N.Wozny – Is there anything you would like to communicate the alumni?
Dr. Fatemi – Our programs are distinctly different from a lot of other programs in the way we strive to engage with the business community. Therefore, we really would like greater involvement of alumni in providing us feedback and guidance as to where we need to be going. This program is not going to be as successful, by any definition, if it just operates in a vacuum. We recognize and value the advice that we receive from alumni and the business community at large. It is the natural place for us to go to seek help and advice. That is the message I would like to convey: stay involved, help us better our programs so that you will always remain proud of your alma mater.