Want to do an MBA? A CFA course could definitely help
GO THE EXTRA MILE While IIM classes are dominated by engineers, those with commerce certifications are likely to be better for finance roles
When in his third year in an engineering college, Swapnil Gore realised chemical engineering was not the career he wanted to pursue. Despite being an engineering graduate, his fascination for finance led him to pursue an MBA in finance at IIM Rohtak.
Before joining the institute, he started preparing for chartered financial analyst (CFA) credentials. “For me, CFA was a risky exam because I had no prior commerce background. All the subjects in the curriculum of CFA have very high relevance in the corporate world. Subjects like ethics and financial reporting and analysis, which also have weightage in the syllabus, have paramount importance in the life of any professional. So, I want to reiterate that for anyone desirous of making a career in finance, this exam (CFA) is extremely important,” Gore adds.
Another engineering graduate and an IIM Rohtak student, Suresh Varma, says, “The postgraduate programme does have a ‘perfect’ syllabus but the only shortcoming is that the students are not allotted adequate time to dig deeper and master all subjects. CFA filled this gap for me.”
While a commerce student at any IIM is likely to find subjects like accounting and microeconomics to be somewhat easier, students from different backgrounds are on the same footing when it comes to other subjects, irrespective of their educational qualifications.
“Being a commerce graduate would help people interested in finance and they stand a better chance to be shortlisted by finance companies; but people from engineering background and interested in finance, to hone their skills and gain a competitive edge, go for certifications like CFA. This, according to me, might help them as it shows their commitment to potential recruiters, thereby increasing their chances of getting shortlisted and improving their knowledge,” says IIM Kozhikode alumnus Rajul Mangal.
As Aman Sonthalia, a firstyear student at IIM Udaipur with a background in commerce says, “It is a personal choice to pursue an additional degree, but there’s no compulsion to excel (in the subject) during the two years of MBA. It’s always helpful to have an additional certification despite one’s background, as it definitely leverages our career options if we know something more than our set course.”
Indeed so. Recruiters show an inclination to hire MBA graduates for finance roles where they have a strong orientation. It is rare to have a CFO who is not a chartered accountant, although the industry has a few CFOs who are not CAs but have a strong MBA background.
“Today’s MBAs feel that the level of finance inputs they receive in the institutes are not sufficient to manage the increasing demands of the world of commerce. While their management skills are honed to a fine level, some of them feel that if they have stronger finance strength, they have an edge that gets them the top jobs and a seat at the top in times to come. Some traditional roles in finance will always have CAs, and that is never going to be disputed. We will prefer an MBA with additional qualification in commerce over others. For this is the edge that turns the wheels of management of commerce,” says SV Nathan, chief talent officer, Deloitte India. A typical Indian Institute of Management (IIM) classroom comprises g raduates f rom diverse backgrounds – engineering, commerce, medical, arts and humanities and law.
As every IIM has the autonomy to frame the curriculum for post graduate programmes in management (PGP) – the flagship programme for IIMs – the institutes are doing their bit to ensure that the curriculum is inclusive. No student from a particular background has an advantage.
IIM Ahmedabad, when asked by HT Education about diversity, responded: “The postgraduate programme in management covers a wide range of first courses from diverse functional areas such as communication, HR, economics, finance, operations, and statistics. In the second year, students take elective courses of their choice. Hence, no student from any particular academic background has an advantage and all are equally encouraged to apply.”
However, despite all attempts to ensure that every student in the classroom finds the curriculum easy, “I n t he f i rst year, engineers will find quantitative techniques easier, nonengineers (might) find it difficult. Business policy, strategy, business environment courses in the second year are neither friendly to non-engineers nor to engineering graduates,” says Professor Prafulla Agnihotri, director, IIM Trichy.
To ensure that students don’t feel left out because of their educational background, IIMs are going the extra mile to help them.
IIM Trichy offers “tutorials in quantitative methods as well as accounting and finance courses to assist all those who may need extra support,” says Abhishek Totawar, chairperson, placement and external relations.
I I M Udaipur, right after admissions, expects all students to take up a short online math- ematics course on the institute’s website. Students are expected to complete the hour- based exercises and quizzes by paying 5,000. “Those who score 70% in the course are eligible to get a refund of 75% of the enrollment fee. We encourage everybody to go through it even if students have not done basic level for three years. This way, we are trying to ensure that students get to do some basic revision before they come into the classroom. We also recognise students who have difficulty in following a particular subject and schedule regular tutorials to help them catch up,” says Professor Janat Shah, director, IIM Udaipur.
It is also not necessary for every student to clear each subject, Shah adds. Even if they score a D grade in up to four papers and still manage to get the minimum CGPA in the aggregate, it is fine. “We understand people come from different backgrounds. We allow this flexibility. If they do well in some and badly in some and choose their career accordingly, it is fine.” Professor Anindya Sen, director, IIM Ranchi adds, “Usually many courses do not need prerequisites and if anything is needed, it is taught either in class or with extra hours.”
Statistics, accounting and financial reporting are some courses which non-commerce graduates might find difficult. However, most experts believe that it is a myth that MBA is commerce-based, “Engineering students in general perform better than commerce students even in finance-related courses,” says Sen.