Decided to do an MBA - Is it going to be in Finance ? - Harris K A, NMIMS Mumbai

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    Harris K. A completed his MBA (Capital Markets) from NMIMS Mumbai and is currently working with a premier real estate consultancy in their capital markets division. He was the recipient of the prestigious Vice Chancellor’s Gold medal for overall academic excellence at NMIMS University. Harris also led a team of 5 who won the Asia Pacific Championship of CFA Research Challenge held in Malaysia, and became the first team from India advancing to the Global finals in London. He is a CFA L3 Candidate and also has attained many certifications including CAIIB and JAIIB certification from Indian Institute of Banking and finance.


    Hi Folks! So all set to take the plunge into the management world by starting your preparation for MBA entrance exams! Before I start off giving Gyan about my experiences and what made me choose finance as specialization in MBA, let me first tell you something in general.

    I believe in this philosophy that, be it anything in life, there is no right or wrong decision. There is a set of options available at a point of time and we select one of them. Only time can tell whether the path we chose was right or wrong. But there is something we can do and that is to base our decisions on our own experiences, our internal calls and try our best to take rational decisions.

    While deciding to do an MBA, the aspiration to earn more would definitely be at the forefront for most of us, and I believe for normal mortals like us, money forms the major motivation factor. Having said that, along with getting a fat pay check, it is also of utmost importance that we have the conviction of what we are good at and what our career should be. This will help us to pursue a career, which is rewarding and at the same time satisfying.

    During MBA, Many students push their decision to select specialization towards the end of first year. Expecting that there would be that moment, which would make them realize that this is what they want to do. When I look back at my college days, I have had many friends who successfully followed this strategy.  But most of those people, who successfully followed the above strategy, were the blessed ones who had the hands of a ‘rescuer’ on their heads. A rescuer in the form of a mentor or a friend who actually opened up a subject for him/her and he/she found it to be really interesting and apt as a career.

    Generally, at the end of first year, there will be all sorts of confusion, anxiety, nervousness, and mix up among students as to what they should specialize in and ultimately many people base their decision on their grades and job opportunities. This according to me is not the right way to go about it, and we need to have clarity and solid reasons before we decide upon our specialization. 

    Now there is yet another type of students in MBA, different from the above two viz, the ones who are lucky, and the ones who are bewildered and completely mixed up. These bunch of students are aware and have clarity about their interests even before they join MBA. Fortunately or unfortunately, I belonged to this category. All thanks to my friend who dropped out of engineering because of his love for finance and became a financial adviser and portfolio manager (now managing assets worth more than 10 crores). Thanks to my roommates during engineering with whom I first floated a bogus company called ValueScrips, and thanks to my bad luck which made me loose more than 50% of my savings, which I had kept aside for buying a bike, as I ended up investing that in shares.

    It was during my engineering that I realized my passion for finance and equities. Capital markets always excited me.  Hunting for value scripts based on market analysis was really fascinating. We started excessive trading in equity markets, even while sitting in lectures of most notorious Profs. It was not the excitement of gambling which was gripping, it was the exposure to business models and knowing how numbers can be used to determine the health of a company which kept me captivated to the subject. It was fun but it wasn’t that funny when our grades started getting affected because of this.

    So I had to give a break to my financial adventures and concentrate on my studies. And as many other engineers (with due respect to the ones who pursue engineering very seriously and stick to their core subjects), I completed my electrical engineering and joined an IT firm. The finance monster started coming back to me and I became an active investor again. All these while, I was reading a lot about finance, capital markets, equity research and what not.   

    Trust me; finance is a very fascinating field, if you understand and like the intricacies behind it. It’s really mind boggling when you start to understand, how sitting at your homes comfort, based on your research and analysis, you can make a fortune by just executing some smart trades in the equity markets. Through our research and analysis, we will get a very broader picture of happenings across the globe and how things are interconnected.  We get enlightened as to why the north block or the central bank is making policies the way they are made and what is in it for us. So ultimately if you are good at it, opportunities are endless.

    Coming back to our story, the influence finance had on me was growing and I decided that if I need to choose a career, then that should be in finance. I was looking for opportunities to enter the world of finance, but for an engineer with IT background, it was something next to impossible. This is when I started thinking about doing an MBA. Parallel to this, I started giving NCFM exams (National Stock Exchange’s Certification in Financial Markets) which helped me to enhance my knowledge in finance. These NCFM certifications did help me in my journey down the line in converting my MBA call and also in my academics during MBA.

    I got an offer from one of the private sector banks to join them as an Assistant Manager and I took up the opportunity with both hands. At bank I came across yet another fascinating side of finance.  The deeper you go into it, the more charmed you get. There I got exposure as Nodal officer for Mutual funds and it opened up a whole new area of fund management and portfolio management to me.  I started realizing that, lots of people in India are desperately looking out for qualified hands who can efficiently manage their savings.  I also got to know, how you can sell your products to clients and in the process get mutually benefited by earning their trust and bringing in profits for your employer.

    Now the urge of doing an MBA was getting stronger and I didn't have any sort of apprehension to decide that if I am to pursue MBA then it’s going to be in finance – and I fell into that the group of people who are streamlined as to what specialization you want to pursue in your management education. I appeared for the MBA entrance exams, A to Z, and converted couple of them and finally decided that MBA in Capital Markets offered by NMIMS is going to be my cup of tea.

    Now this was what I went through, and because I had my share of experiences, or rather I was fortunate enough to have those rescue hands of my friends and my investment gurus, I didn't had any doubts while opting for my specialization.

    The MBA experience at NMIMS is something which would make an entire article. To put it in few words – At NMIMS, life inspires you in many ways. You learn new things every day. You get fascinated by people around you, ek se bad kar ek talents. Be it the umpteen clubs, the numerous lectures, the extra-curricular activities, the cultural or technical competitions, all of this help you in your goal of becoming a capable manager. Now let’s not get carried away, the task at my hand is to help my fellow aspirants to make their life easier. I completely understand that for an aspirant who hasn't had the exposure and experience, it is difficult to zero in on his interest. But let me rephrase is, it is indeed difficult but it is very much possible. You can definitely discover your field of interest even before you join your masters. And in case finance doesn't excite you, you can try and concentrate on another specialization which may suit your skills and interests. However this exercise of finding out your interest would definitely help you out in a big way. It would also help you to face the interview with utmost confidence. Who knows, you might even end up making your interviewer bedazzled with your subject know-how because of these proactive steps and convert that coveted MBA seat which you had always aspired for.

    To tell you what to expect in finance in very generic terms, I would like to put it in this way – you need to have good numerical and statistical skills or you should at least be comfortable with numbers.  You also need to have an analytical mind. There is lot more to finance than just numbers but the number game keep coming up here and there and if you need to have a good grip on finance as a subject you should have an appetite for improving your numeric & analytical skills.

    So if you think you are game for this, and don’t have any prior experience regarding finance, the best way to garner some knowledge, should be through the various certifications available. This will not only help you enhance your profile but also make your MBA life easier and help you being ahead of the curve.

    The various certifications that would give you an insight and thorough understanding of the subject are:

    1) NCFM (NSE)

    National Stock Exchange introduced this program in 1998; it is an online testing and certification program. The program focuses on building conceptual base in the initial modules in terms of understanding financial markets: debt/equity, money market / capital market, to more advanced levels in equity research, commodity research etc. These certifications provide a good financial background prior to an MBA in finance.

    2) FLIP Certifications

    They provided finance based certifications and trainings for B-school aspirants, current students and even non-MBAs for making a career in finance. They have tie-ups with various financial institutions as industrial interfaces for employment purpose

    3) FRM Certifications

    Another very important certification in finance is FRM (Financial Risk Management) They cover the following modules - Foundations of risk management, Quantitative analysis, financial markets and products, Valuation and risk models, Market risk measurement and management, Credit risk measurement and management, Operational and integrated risk management, Risk management in investment management, Current issues in financial markets etc. The exam has two parts FRM Part 1 and Part 2.

    4) CFA

    The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation is an international professional designation offered by CFA Institute to financial analysts who complete a series of three examinations. To become a CFA, candidates have to pass three six-hour exams. There are 3 levels for this examination L1, L2, L3 respectively.  It helps one to differentiate ones profile from others and also marks a stamp on the knowledge base of a student, who is in turn highly valued during the placements

    5) Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

    The CFP Certification Examination is a 10-hour multiple choice exam, divided into one four-hour session (Friday afternoon) and two three-hour sessions (Saturday). The exam includes three major case problems and is designed to assess the student’s ability to apply his or her knowledge of the aforementioned areas to financial planning situations. For more information you can visit the following link

    Select from the certifications depending upon the time you have in hand. And these certifications would definitely either make you love the subject or help you understand that finance is not what you want to do with your life. Either ways it’s a win-win situation. Also it is a great idea to look around and understand the world of finance, try and get hold of what is happening around us. What makes the SENSitive indEX.. Are you familiar with the Index called National fIFTY.. which stocks are gonna rally given the current economic and political scenarios.. there is lot to learn and lot to understand..

    Wishing you all the very best for your MBA preparation.

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