Tell me more about yourself – where are you from and what brought you to Westminster Business School?
I am originally from Ireland and I came over to England to train as an accountant. I then worked in practice, commerce and banking to gain practical experience but my aim was eventually to get into education. When I had done everything I wanted to do in my accounting roles I changed direction. Lecturing presented new opportunities for me and here I am at Westminster Business School where I have been teaching accounting and finance for 10 years.
Can you please tell us about the Financial Strategy module? What students should expect throughout the duration of the module?
People on the MBA come from different backgrounds and most don’t have a finance background. In fact many of the MBA students have a surprising fear of numbers. The Financial Strategy (FS) module has been included as an elective on the MBA to enable students to make up for their lack of knowledge of this important management skill. No matter what kind of organisation you end up working with – whether it is a profit or not-for-profit organisation – you are going to have money to play with and you have to decide where and how to invest spare cash or where you are getting the money from to fund projects. The FS module covers techniques to ensure that cash flow is healthy, the effects of decisions on the wealth of shareholders, the qualitative influences on share prices, risk management, shareholder value analysis and methods to highlight inefficiencies. MBA graduates should understand the concept of shareholder wealth. The module explains how the financial strategy of a company can return wealth to shareholders which can come in the form of dividends or increased share price or a mixture of both. You get to recognise what influences share price, what influences dividend policy hence what influences the wealth of shareholders.
The 30 hours contact time and teaching of the module guides you through the theory of Financial Strategy. You also get the chance to apply the theory through case studies and practical exercises. There are two lecturers teaching the module and from my side I seek to make students financially literate. Each class commences with a review of what has been happening in the world of finance in the previous week. We have a look at what caused certain share prices to change and often we find the movement is not directly to relate to profits. For instance the share price of Tesco increased by 2.6 % on the news that Philip Clarke was going to resign. Just the change of top management can have an effect on share price. By the end of the module, the students are able to carry out a shareholder value analysis using their new skills to make an informed decision as to how a company is performing.
If you think of MBA, would you recommend future students to come on to the MBA programme? Would you say it is valuable in terms of career progression?
There are some MBA programmes that are admitting students after they have done an undergraduate degree and with no work experience. I doubt they are good MBA programmes. What you need is a programme that takes in people who have been working already and a course which is AMBA accredited. The MBA at Westminster Business School fulfils both of these requirements. The MBA students bring their different knowledge and experience from their respective work places and they are able to share these with their fellow students and instructors while learning from the experience of others. The MBA is a great way to build up a network and we have a very active MBA alumni group here. It also gives the participants the opportunity to find out that they have strengths in areas that they might never have thought they had. I see this all the time on the Financial Strategy module; people challenging themselves to take the module despite their fear of calculations and finding that they actually enjoy analysing figures.
Thank you very much for the interview Declan. I am an MBA student with a background in languages and I was afraid of numbers and one thing the module has definitely shown me: I wrongly believed that I was not good with numbers. I really enjoyed the Financial Strategy module and I am reading financial accounts and share price movements now with all my attention.
You can read more about Declan McDonald in our blog Meet the Course Leaders – Declan McDonald, Finance and Accounting Msc