New grad program advances economics education

Western Economics professor Jim MacGee and his colleagues may have launched their newest venture Monday, but the real work has just begun.

“This is the beginning of a journey, not the end,” said MacGee, co-director of Western’s new Master of Financial Economics (MFE) program. “We have a lot to learn, and a lot to gain, and a lot to improve.”

The four-term, 16-month program is only the second program of its kind in Ontario, following in the footsteps of the University of Toronto. Representing a partnership between the Department of Statistical and Actuarial Sciences, Department of Economics, Faculty of Law and Ivey Business School, the new postgraduate degree will prepare graduates with a diverse skillset employers are looking for, officials say.

Employers are increasingly finding PhD graduates are ‘too specialized’ while those with an Economics undergraduate degree aren’t quite prepared to contribute, said Western President Amit Chakma.

“They need some sort of masters training to meet their needs, and if you don’t (comply), you don’t rise to the top. This new program will serve the department well, the university well, and I hope it will also serve the industry well,” he continued.

“We will see the need to have programs like the MFE – where you bring together the interdisciplinary input from four faculties, with support from industry and thoughtful input from our alumni. These academic partners have designed an excellent curriculum for future leaders who will graduate from the program to excel in a wide range of roles in banking, financial analysis, pension and investment management, private consulting, and regulatory institutions.”

The inaugural MFE class has already begun, with its first intake having arrived last fall.

The program, consisting of 12 one-term courses and a four-month summer internship in the third term, provides practical and classroom experience to students, spanning topics such as financial theory and the economic framework upon which the theory is based, as well as the understanding of quantitative finance and securities law.

Industry partners, among them London-based Highstreet Asset Management, Inc., are an asset to the MFE, MacGee continued, as they will provide feedback to ensure the program is up to date and continually meets changing industry needs. Highstreet is funding the program’s initial scholarship and taking on an intern.

“We hope to work closely with the university in developing tools and research products; the new research team we are building at Highstreet is one of the most talented. It’s no coincidence that a good many of those researchers come from Western,” said Ben Legge, Highstreet president and chief investment officer. “Our ability to lead financial research here in London is significantly improved by the development of this program.

“We are thrilled to help design and create the next generation of leaders. We at Highstreet are not interested in competing locally; we must compete globally. Western understands this, and this program will help us.”

Matt Parisien, the first MFE intern at Highstreet, feels lucky to have snagged the opportunity – both in the internship and in the new program.

“I really thought this was a good idea. I get two sets of benefits: I get an economics side, learning the fundamentals, but then there’s all the financial applications to those economics classes. So everything I see is then turned around and then applied to finance,” he said.

Western MFE is now accepting applications for Fall 2014 admission through Western’s online Graduate Program Application. For more information, visit economics.uwo.ca/MFE/.

Students from the inaugural Master of Financial Economics (MFE) program listen as officials announce the public launch of the program Monday.

Students from the inaugural Master of Financial Economics (MFE) program listen as officials announce the public launch of the program Monday.