Leveling the playing field in finance

MBA students tend to come from a variety of different industries, which can sometimes lead to a knowledge gap between students in certain modules. For students who might not have business knowledge or experience, it can lead to doubts over their suitability for the program.

NEOMA Business School tries to cater to this by taking these knowledge gaps into account. María Ruiz García is a Professor of Finance at the school. She told us that she evaluates her students’ progress based on their backgrounds.

“The way that I evaluate candidates in my financial reporting and analysis class is first I have a minimum requirement of knowledge and understanding of the material,” she says. “Then I also take into account their background. The way they progress in my class is going to be different from someone with an engineering background to someone who went to business school 10 years ago.” (00:11)

“I always assume they don’t know anything about financial accounting or financial analysis or finance in general,” she adds. “Even if they do, they will learn something from me, they will have a different perspective, they will have a different coloring.” (01:03)

Getting people interested in finance

But in a module such as finance, making sure that students are evaluated fairly is only part of the challenge. María admits that another obstacle for her is encouraging students to engage with the subject, and ultimately get them interested in finance. That’s easier said than done.

“There is always a certain number of students that don’t like finance, don’t like numbers, don’t like financial accounting…this is a challenge for us because we have to get them interested,“ she says. (00:51)

For this reason, finance modules at NEOMA are a little more interactive than your typical finance class. Maria explains that by combining practical knowledge with real-life case studies, the school tries to bring the subject to life and keep students engaged.

She explains, “Part of the assessment is going to be an oral presentation in a multi-sector context. Another assessment is going to be writing an investment report. They need to be able to issue an opinion: would you buy shares of a company? Would you sell them? Would you just hold them?” (00:34)

Why you shouldn't be afraid to ask questions in your MBA

A big part of the learning experience is knowing when to ask questions. But for many MBA students, it can be difficult, even embarrassing, to admit you don’t know the answer to something. After all, business schools demand excellent test scores, work experience, and personal qualities to be admitted. Being accepted into business school and then realizing you lack knowledge in some areas can be tough to take, especially for students who are used to being at the top of their class. 

However, Maria actually enjoys being asked questions and challenged by her students. She believes it is simply a continuation of the student-to-professor relationship that can help her learn more as well.

“I love it when students challenge me because even though sometimes it is embarrassing if you don’t know the answer to the question, it enables you to think about the question, exchange with them and even learn more yourself,” she says. (01:19)

In its simplest form, an MBA is designed to give students a grounding in the business fundamentals – the likes of management, leadership, marketing, analytics, and finance. As a student, it’s important to acknowledge your shortcomings in any of these areas and work on them. If finance is one of those, it should inspire you to work even harder to plug the gaps in your own knowledge. You’ll become a better businessperson in the process.