Suresh L. Gamlath Senior Lecturer in Accountancy The Business School
The emphasis on ‘real world’ experience for university graduates has been growing in significance amongst employers. However, finding internships and placements in firms that provide students with suitable work experience is often a challenge. In recent years that challenge has increased. Employers have cut back on the number of internships offered to less experienced university students. This has compelled the course team of the BA Accounting and Finance degree to explore ways of ‘bringing the experience to the student’. One project involved the integration of a Financial Markets simulation in the level 4 curriculum. Each student assumes the role of a newly qualified trader working at an investment bank. The trader has a leverage investment capital of £2 million that is managed through investment in stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities. The simulation is accessible online and gives access to MetaTrader (MT4) software used by professional traders. The price movements and market conditions are real, in that students’ display has the same information that traders in the City use. Students can open and close positions (long or short); place limit orders; set stop-loss and take profit levels; conduct carry trades and arbitrage. Except for the fact that students do not risk actual money, all other aspects that they experience are the reality of trading.
Students can access their trading account online both on and off campus. In the first four weeks, they are trained on the use of the trading platform and essential techniques/ strategies used in the profession. Tutors are experienced traders and they adapt the training programme to the learner needs. The students make unlimited practice trades to become accustomed to the task. The trading occurs from the 5th to the 12th week. The learners were permitted to open a maximum of five new positions each week and they are required to maintain a log including the research that informed each trade. When closing a trade, students complete an entry in their reflective log on the reason(s) for the trade being profitable or not. This log is used later on as part of an exercise in which students evaluate their strategies. Tutors enabled a virtual office environment once a week for an hour and assumed each seminar group to be a firm of traders. This time was utilised to simulate certain non-trading activities and included an evaluation of the firms overall performance with exposure to risk. There is some of role play involved on the part of the tutor as the firm’s chief executive. Traders are put on a three-week rota to give brief updates on their portfolio performance.