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​​Getting a leg up with platform-based learning 

Published on: 03-Jul-2017

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L-R: Ying Wen, Jiing Wei, Prof Lee and Yu Xin – looking industry-ready as it is. 

What do Chia Ying Wen, Lim Jiing Wei and Lim Yu Xin have in common? Besides studying for a double degree in accountancy and business, they are all students who are enjoying their time with Nanyang Business School’​s Platform-based Learning (PBL) programmes. 

PBL is a new pedagogical approach at NBS – now in its third year – to ensure that its students entering the banking and finance sector are industry- and desk-ready at graduation. PBL does so by systematically introducing the use of platforms throughout the curriculum, enabling students to perform tasks on platforms consistent with those used in the industry.   

The PBL school room is not a traditional lecture theatre or computer lab but a 165-square metre lab at the Centre for Applied Financial Education (CAFE).  It is the largest lab of its kind in Asia. There are 60 dedicated Thomson Reuters Eikon terminals with Datastream and 25 Bloomberg terminals. 

Lessons are conducted mainly on the terminals; but even after school, the lab is open 24 hours a day so students can pop in any time to access real-time financial, economic and business news information. 

As part of the curriculum, students perform market analytics and generate insights for decisions based on the data available on the terminals. They also have to generate reports analysing current economic or financial market issues, such as the US Federal Reserve’s policy outlook or investments in a particular sector. 

The relevance and validity of these reports are emphasised as they are published on Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters and made available to the financial market. 

In addition, graduating students are required to develop a passively managed portfolio and develop financial applications that can be commercialised. They require students to learn coding and pitch them to the industry. 

Heading the platform-based learning initiative and CAFE is Associate Professor Lee Boon Keng. Prof Lee was Managing Director and Head of Investment Solutions Group at Bank Julius Baer in Singapore where he managed a team of about 50 specialists in research, investment advisory, fund solutions, portfolio management and wealth and tax planning; and led a team in managing a portfolio of around USD1bn. He had previously headed investment strategies at UBS and DBS. 

Besides acknowledging that the terminals are very expensive and they would otherwise not be able to access them, the students are grateful for the wealth of expertise available to them. 

Yu Xin said it did not disappoint her. She had picked PBL hoping to be – and has indeed been – challenged. The interactions and discussion of current topics was more than expected. “Prof Lee is very knowledgeable, and depending on what has happened in the market that day, he will share his knowledge and experience.” 

Jiing Wei recognises that she is learning many critical skills that will help her when she enters the banking industry. “Teaching us how to understand the markets based on historical events, how to obtain, and read the signals we get from the market – these are real practical skills I find myself developing.”

Ying Wen agrees that besides knowing how to find data, it is important to be proficient in using the platform tools. “It’s just like how we can obtain a lot of information using Google, but knowing how to use the data to your advantage is the real skill.” He feels that he would have an edge when he heads out to work in the industry, in being able to locate the information and make the relevant analyses.

On this aspect, all three agree that they have been trained to write industry reports to industry standards – short, succinct, very market-focused and well-crafted – and draw charts that are useful as well as aesthetically pleasing. 

The three do feel more confident and look forward to starting work in the next year or the year after, as they are already familiar with some of the tools and platforms in their trade. 

Some of them have actually used their training to start investing in the stock market. Jiing Wei started in her first year, finding her mojo in discovering undervalued stocks through fundamental analysis. Yu Xin gained enough confidence to start investing in year 2 with a capital of S$30,000 and to date has made encouraging returns.
 
The proof is in the pudding, as the saying goes.

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