The Masters in Finance (MiF) at London Business School (LBS) is consistently ranked #1 globally. It is the world’s best post-experience programme for finance professionals. We sat down with the programme’s academic director, Dr Chris Higson, to find out just what it takes to lead the field in finance.
Chris, the Masters in Finance (MiF) has been around for 25 years, making it one of the most established programmes at LBS. How do you sustain momentum over the years and still stay at number one worldwide?
The key thing is change. One of the greatest strengths of the MiF is that it’s in a state of continuous evolution, constantly changing to keep pace with the evolving role of finance itself and the changing needs of our students. This is a programme that keeps its finger on the pulse of what’s happening now. Take a look at the market place for instance. There’s an increasing understanding of the importance of the role of Chief Finance Officer and that’s being met with an upsurge in demand for people with a rigorous foundation in finance skills. For that reason, we’re now offering a specialisation or ‘concentration’ for MiF students that builds the capabilities and the mindset of a well-trained CFO.
So you’re seeing a move away from the city?
Not necessarily. A lot of our graduates do go into the finance industry and pursue exciting careers in London and the world’s other financial centres. What we are seeing though, are new opportunities emerging, such as a demand for competent CFOs.
What are the drivers of change?
Well, the industry itself is changing. Since the global crisis of 2008, there’s been a lot of scrutiny and well-deserved criticism that has prompted forward-thinking institutions to reconsider the role of finance in the world – and what constitutes performing that role well. There’s more of an impetus to look at the crises and the scandals that have characterised the industry and think about what caused them and what can be changed or done better in the future. A good senior finance professional in the future will have the skills in governance, risk and compliance to steer businesses responsibly, as well as the interpersonal skills to build buy-in around a vision or purpose.
How does the MiF help build these skills?
One thing that distinguishes the LBS MiF from other programmes in this sense is that it was the first and remains one of the very few Masters that really examines the purpose of finance. And we look at this in the context of how finance can tackle some of the biggest issues on the table – sustainability, an ageing population, inequality – in a constantly changing and disrupted environment. The programme asks the question: how can finance deliver positive impact in our world?
You’ve talked about change in the industry and of course there’s also the issue of technological disruption. How exactly does the MiF keep up with all of this?
The programme is designed to be responsive to changes in the environment. One way we do this is by limiting the number of core courses while offering an enormous range of electives – around 40 of them – that continuously evolve to capture change and innovation in areas like technology or FinTech. The MiF is really skewed to personal choice and optimal flexibility, meaning that our students have access to the courses, resources and expertise that reflect what is happening in the world right now, and that map to the kinds of roles and professional objectives they want to pursue.
Being in the heart of London, one of the world’s foremost finance hubs, must also be an advantage?
Absolutely. I’d say there are three main advantages to students in being based in London. The first is London Business School itself. We’re one of the world’s foremost finance schools and we have one of the largest and most expert groupings of finance and accounting faculty in the world. That enables us to deliver the great range of electives that we offer.
Then there’s the London effect. Walk out of campus and you are in a global capital – a thrilling city that regenerates in a million ways every single day.
And thirdly there’s our access to the London finance ecosystem. Part of the unique appeal of the MiF is our close interaction with the City of London. In London, we have access to practitioners from just about all the leading finance institutions in the world, to come into the programme to share insights. It’s simply unparalleled.
So London is great place to accelerate a career in finance. And as a career, what makes finance so attractive in your view?
Finance has always been attractive as a profession, and that’s not simply because it’s generally pretty well paid. There’s so much diversity in the types of roles open to you – roles that are open to our MiF graduates. From investment banking to start-up investor to asset manager through to CFO, you have some of the most interesting jobs in business because the intellectual challenges are so varied and so great. Being a CFO in particular, you are right in the thick of things, exposed to every aspect of a business and at the heart of decision-making. It’s an exciting and dynamic career.
Especially now. There is more demand than ever for the kinds of skills and the questing mindset that the MiF helps develop. And that demand is only set to increase.
The future, of course, is always uncertain, and the finance sector is as exposed to rapid change and disruption as any other industry. But at the end of the day, who doesn’t find change stimulating? It’s what drives us forward.
Interested in applying for the Masters in Finance? Send us your CV and our Recruitment team will be in touch to discuss your eligibility with you.