Since 2005, the Marquette University Applied Investment Management program has been a national leader in experiential financial education. The program boasts more than 400 undergraduate alumni who can be found in leading asset management firms and investment banks throughout the country and the world. As technological disruptions have begun to change the way investment research and management is conducted, the AIM program curriculum is facing one of its most significant upgrades since its inception.
Changes in technology are rapidly influencing the finance and investment management industries. As the Financial Times reported in November 2019, the investment research business is going through a profound reshaping. Investment analysts are increasingly turning to cutting-edge data science to better sift through both traditional and unconventional information sources to glean fresh insights.
“New investing strategies, regulations, commercial pressures and technology are forcing a rethink of what analysts do, how they do it and the ways their work gets distributed to clients.”
In response, AIM is re-imagining its curriculum, integrating investment technology more deeply into the student learning experience. AIM Director Dr. David Krause is committed to ensuring that the curriculum is poised to prepare the next generation of AIM alumni with the skills needed to be successful.
“We have always prided ourselves on being strong in conducting traditional fundamental investment research and analysis,” Krause said. “Moving forward, we realize that this is not enough — our students need to have the skills to search for insights from non-traditional, unstructured data sources in order to identify trends before this information is reported or contained within published research. Therefore, we are adding, as I like to call it, a heavier ‘Investech’ component.”
Adding various “FinTech” topics into the curriculum as early as 2015, AIM students have already been provided with exposure to blockchain, big data analytics and the R programming language. The program has also been utilizing the experience of seasoned executive co-teachers to help enhance the student experience. For instance, a research director of an international investment management firm, who utilizes social media text scraping to monitor market moving geopolitical news, has co-taught classes and supported the students’ applied learning experiences.
The program is now poised to integrate even more investment technology elements into student learning. Besides scraping unstructured data and text from Amazon reviews, Twitter posts and Google Trends, AIM students are also learning how to use artificial intelligence techniques, such as natural language processing, to evaluate Security and Exchange Commission annual 10-K filings and quarterly earnings call transcripts to analyze management sentiment.
The way students report on their investment research, which has remained unchanged since 2005, is also under the microscope. “We understand that we have to deliver interactive content,” Krause said. “Gone are the static, analog student stock reports that were sent out as email attachments, and in their place are web-based research reports with Tableau-linked interactive tables that allow the reader to self-analyze the information presented.”
In addition to the students’ presentations being presented live and archived on the AIM YouTube channel, all the student reports are currently accessible through the AIM program’s web and social media sites.
“We have to adapt not only our research methods, but also how the investment industry wants to receive and consume it,” added William Walker, adjunct instructor in the AIM program. “Rather than pushing out static investment reports, the students’ stock research content is now made public and is usable by the reader — something the industry has been long seeking.”
The progressive and forward facing approach of the AIM program reflects its deep commitment to providing a high quality undergraduate education. AIM was the first program in the country to partner directly with the CFA Institute to ensure it aligned with changes in the industry. AIM was among the first in the country to utilize exchange traded funds and international equities within the $3 million-plus student-managed AIM portfolio — which is a part of the university’s endowment portfolio—to support applied learning. It was also the first program to offer a standalone investment ethics course, maintaining its commitment to developing ethical, well-rounded students in Marquette’s Catholic, Jesuit tradition. AIM is proud to continually be identified as a beacon of best practice in investment education. (See 2019 article in Managerial Finance, featuring the program.)
In this vein, the program’s evolution is poised to meet the demand for proficient and ethical research analysts by adding more “Investech” components into the curriculum.
Krause says he is excited about the future of the program: “The AIM program and its curricular evolution will help us continue to maintain our leadership position as one of the best undergraduate financial research programs in the country. We eagerly look forward to meeting the future demand for proficient and ethical research analysts who posses the skills to succeed.”