Employing a competitive edge
Students access real-time Wall Street financial data and information technology in new lab
By Kelsey Mohring ('12)
The JMU Capital Markets Lab, open to any student who completes the necessary training, is used most often by higher level financial courses such as advanced finance, risk analysis, investment and financial management. It is also a tool used frequently by the Madison Investment Fund group, which manages $100,000 in JMU Foundation Inc. funds.
For many seniors, the fear of not finding a job after graduation is a huge theme. In a time when jobs are scarce, JMU students are doing everything they can to rise above their competition. For quantitative finance major Ed Andrews ('12) of Sparta, N.J., that competitive edge came through the Capital Markets Lab in the JMU College of Business. Andrews already had a job waiting for him when he graduated in May, largely due to the real-world experience he gained through the resources in the new campus lab.
The Capital Markets Lab was built through a generous contribution from Enrico S. Gaglioti ('94), a College of Business marketing alumnus. The lab is equipped with 12 Bloomberg terminals, a professional investment computer system created for the financial marketplace. It also features two 50-inch flat panel displays with cable news feeds, a catchy stock ticker above the Zane Showker Hall Room 109 entrance and a wide range of systems and databases that allow students to access a wealth of information. Elias Semaan, JMU professor of finance and business law, says the lab is not only an invaluable resource for the students, but that it has significantly enhanced teaching.
Bloomberg, the main database system used in the lab, is the industry elite of financial databases. Including Bloomberg experience on their resumes gives students an invaluable leg-up during job searches. In addition, many students choose to take the Bloomberg Assessment Tests and earn a "Bloomberg Essentials" certification, which Semaan regards as "almost the equivalent to having a second degree." The hands-on learning that the Capital Markets Lab provides "makes students more marketable," says Andrews, who also served as president of the student-operated Madison Investment Fund. "We have access to the same tools as professionals. You can't get better experience than this."
The use of the Bloomberg program not only gives Dukes a world of experience beyond other students at the same level, but it also increases productivity. Tasks that previously would have taken three to four hours and data collection that can take months, is now done in the time it takes to click a button. This then allows students to spend time in more valuable ways, like interpreting data and analyzing appropriate actions. Semaan says he initially noticed the huge effects of the lab in the quality of student presentations. Students are able to get details they couldn't before and take their stock pitches a step further with high quality, professional data. The resources of the lab also help students keep up with developments in the industry, which according to Semaan is why students are so successful when they leave JMU.
The systems allow students to take concepts that were once abstract discussions and apply them to real-life cases. Students, who once simply discussed how natural disasters affect economies, can now use these resources to find and examine the actual data describing how Hurricane Katrina affected the U.S. economy. Expanding the use of the lab to the entire campus and students of any major is the next phase of the lab.