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The Best Business Schools for Finance

Faculty and Coursework at Chicago Booth

Chicago Booth has long been considered a powerhouse in terms of its finance faculty and coursework. With approximately 40 finance professors on staff, Chicago Booth offers students interested in financial services careers access to a wealth of research, expertise, and course offerings in this area.

Nobel Laureate and Chicago Booth Professor Eugene Fama

Faculty members include the distinguished Eugene Fama, who is known as the “father of modern finance” for his research on markets and market efficiency and holds the 2013 Nobel Prize in Economics. There’s also Steven Neil Kaplan, a professor of entrepreneurship and finance who ranks among the top 60 in paper downloads and paper citations on the SSRN (Social Science Research Network). Other finance professors bring experience as executives of major investment banks, board members of public and private companies, and members of the Federal Reserve Board.

In terms of coursework, Chicago Booth’s MBA curriculum is known for its flexible structure. To fulfill disciplinary requirements, students are able to select one of 14 options to tailor their studies to their interests, objectives, and current level of knowledge.

Under the Foundation Courses element of the core, Chicago Booth students take one course each in “Financial Accounting,” “Microeconomics,” and “Statistics.” Students can select a Fundamental Course in each of these areas or select from a list of Advanced Alternatives if they already demonstrate a sound foundation in the subject.

In addition to enrolling in three Foundation courses, Chicago Booth students can choose one of 14 areas of specialization. While not required, students usually choose between one and three concentrations to develop the tools and analytic skills relevant to areas of particular interest.

Chicago Booth students who hope to enter investment banking might choose to concentrate in both Accounting and Finance. Through the Accounting concentration, students learn how to assess a firm’s financial health while making investment decisions. The Finance concentration, meanwhile, covers both corporate finance and investments, preparing students to make decisions at the business and market levels. Among the courses offered as part of the Finance concentration are “Advanced Investments,” which picks up where the introductory “Investments” class leaves off, examining the activities of top financial institutions and the changes in asset pricing over the past 20 years. Other courses include “Financial Instruments,” which examines the pricing of de­rivatives with a pointed focus on managing risk, and “Financial Markets and Institutions,” which delves into studies of financial institutions, financial crises, and the design of financial contracts.

And students seeking a very deep grounding in finance theory and practice could also complete the Analytic Finance concentration, which will equip them to apply sophisticated quantitative tools to complex financial questions in a range of contexts.

Faculty and Coursework at NYU Stern

While top-tier business schools across the board boast star faculty and fantastic foundational courses in finance, NYU Stern sets itself apart in terms of the array of specializations offered that are especially relevant to students interested in financial services.

Nobel Laureate and NYU Stern Professor Robert Engle

Of its 25 specializations, seven in particular—Banking, Corporate Finance, Finance, Financial Instruments and Markets, Financial Systems and Analytics, Quantitative Finance, and FinTech—fall into this category, and Stern students can take up to three. Stern also offers a number of individual courses focused on the investment banking field, including “Law and Business of Investment Banking,” “Investment Banking,” “Private Equity in Entertainment and Media” and “Entertainment Finance.”

As for its finance faculty, in addition to more than four dozen full-time faculty in the field, there are also more than 50 adjunct faculty members and visiting professors. This combination of leading academics and practitioners includes NYU Stern Finance Professor Robert Engle, who won the 2003 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on statistical modeling of time-varying volatility, as well as Professor Edward Altman, who was named one of the “100 Most Influential People in Finance” by the Treasury & Risk Management magazine in 2005.

Faculty and Coursework at Wharton

At Wharton, there are approximately 40 standing finance faculty, which doubles when you include the secondary, affiliated, and emeritus faculty. This offers Wharton MBA students the opportunity to learn from professionals with a wide range of specializations from international banking to corporate investment and financing.

Wharton Professor Michael Roberts

As for the leading practitioners at the school, there are many professors that stand out. For example, Michael Roberts has won more than 30 awards over the course of his teaching and research career including the 2004, 2006, and 2008 Excellence in Teaching Award at the Wharton School as well as the Jensen Prize—for his first-place paper on corporate finance and organizations published in the Journal of Financial Economics 2016. There’s also Robert P. Inman who has consulted for various esteemed organizations around the world, including the World Bank from 1994 to the present and the Republic of South Africa from 1994 to 2000. And it’s hard to think of finance at Wharton without Professor Jeremy Siegel immediately coming to mind. In addition to teaching at Wharton, Siegel comments extensively on the economy and financial markets in regular appearances on networks including CNN, CNBC, and NPR.

When it comes to coursework, Wharton MBA students enjoy a flexible core curriculum that includes 19 majors and nearly 200 electives. Of those majors, students can choose between Accounting and Finance for their specializations. The Accounting major includes classes such as “Cost Management” and “Corporate Valuation,” all of which prepare students for a career in financial accounting. As for Finance, there are courses on “Corporate Finance,” which serves as an introduction to modern financial theory, as well as “Financial Derivatives,” which covers derivative securities within the modern financial architecture.

Faculty and Coursework at Cornell Johnson

Johnson Professor Maureen O’Hara

Cornell Johnson is another powerhouse of finance. With approximately 22 finance professors on staff, Johnson offers students interested in banking careers access to a wealth of research, expertise, and courses in this area of study. Faculty members include Maureen O’Hara, who has authored books on market microstructure and high frequency trading and more than 100 articles in the field of finance. Her most recent book and course deal with finance and ethics (Something for Nothing: Arbitrage and Ethics on Wall Street). There’s also Professor Murillo Campello, whose work has been cited by the Federal Reserve chairman, mentioned in Congressional hearings, described in the “Economic Report for the President,” and used to advise the U.S. Supreme Court.

As for coursework, Johnson is known for its flexible two-year and one-year MBA programs. As part of the core courses, MBA students are expected to take “Financial Accounting,” “Microeconomics for Management,” and “Managerial Finance” in their first semester. In their second semester, students can choose between eight immersion experiences, three of which deal with the finance industry.

The Corporate Finance Immersion (CFI) teaches MBA students to apply theory with hands-on experience. Students who choose CFI gain a comprehensive understanding of the issues that CFOs encounter and take courses and practicum sessions that give them a competitive edge in the industry. There are also two other Immersion options for students including Investment Banking (IBI) and Investment Research and Asset Management (IRAM). In IBI, MBA students analyze actual transactions and develop new business pitches for CEOs. In IRAM, students acquire critical financial modeling knowledge, analytical tools, and hands-on experience. Some of the courses offered in these immersion experiences include “Financial Statement Analysis,” “Financial Modeling,” “Valuation,” and “Corporate Financial Policy” and “Financial Distress, Bankruptcy, and Restructuring.”

In their second year, MBA students at Johnson can choose from four concentrations to go in depth into a specific area of study including Asset Management, Corporate Finance, Investment Banking, and Private Equity & Venture Capital. Students can also spend a semester at Cornell Tech taking theoretical and applied courses in FinTech.

Where Within Investment Banking Do Recent Grads Land?

When it comes to investment banking and brokerage, NYU Stern is the clear frontrunner, sending a whopping 26.2 percent of its Class of 2018 to work in this field. By comparison, the other four schools all sent between 10 (Chicago Booth) and 19 (Cornell Johnson) percent into banking.

New York City's Goldman Sachs a coveted recruiter of MBA grads in banking

New York City’s Goldman Sachs a coveted recruiter of MBA grads in banking

But beyond the sheer volume of grads heading into the field, the prestige of the firms where they land is also an indicator of the relative strength of the various MBA programs. Where are graduates from a given school getting jobs in investment banking? Historically, the term “bulge bracket” has been used to refer to the elite banks—harkening to a time when the names of top-tier banks appeared first and largest on financial industry advertisements. But in recent years, the terminology has shifted toward tier-one, tier-two, and tier-three banks.

While there is not absolute consensus about which banks fall into which tiers, a 2018 release from research firm Coalition identified the tier-one banks as including JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Citi, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch (in that order). It went on to list tier-two investment banks as comprising Deutsche, Barclays, Credit Suisse, and HSBC, respectively. In our examination of leading MBA programs for finance, we’ve chosen to zero in on which schools help grads get into these firms.

JP Morgan Chase & Co., another leading MBA recruiter for banking

At Columbia, Goldman Sachs was the top finance employer, hiring 16 graduates. Morgan Stanley hired 6 graduates, Citi 8 graduates, and JP Morgan 9 graduates. In total, 40 graduates earned a position with a tier-one bank (including five at Bank of America Merrill Lynch). Notably, Columbia’s Board of Overseers includes at least three members with deep connections to Morgan Stanley: CBS Dean Emeritus and Professor Meyer Feldberg (MBA ’65), who is a senior advisor at the firm; R. Bradford Evans (MBA ’70), also a senior advisor, and James P. Gorman (MBA ’87), chairman and CEO.

Chicago Booth sent most of its MBA graduates in finance to the JP Morgan (12 graduates) followed by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley (7 graduates each), and Citi (6 graduates). In all, a total of 42 graduates headed to a tier-one bank.

NYU Stern, Wharton, and Cornell Johnson are more guarded with their employment stats. NYU Stern notes companies that hired more than three graduates, but not how many more. An asterisk denoting three or more hires appeared beside every tier-one and tier-two bank for the Class of 2018 save HSBC.

Cornell Johnson, likewise, does not provide specific number of hires, sharing simply that all tier-one and tier-two banks recruit and hire at the school. And Wharton denotes the following top-tier banks as having hired more than two graduates: Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and Morgan Stanley.

Investment banking took a severe hit in the aftermath of the financial crisis as strong students following a traditionally clear and safe path suddenly found themselves with nowhere to land after graduation. For several years following the crash—subsequent MBA classes avoided IB like the plague, fearful that they too might graduate jobless, or that jobs they did get could disappear when the next “too big to fail” bank went under. Case in point, 33.1 percent of Columbia 2007 MBA graduates went into investment banking and brokerage. By the Class of 2012, that number had fallen to 21 percent.

As evidenced above, investment banking has rebounded some at some schools from those darkest days, but not to its pre-crash levels. This means MBA students who in the past followed scores of others like them along the IB route now are exploring other paths. For some, that’s meant consulting or technology. But others have looked for ways to put their financial prowess to work on the buy side. This diversification within financial services is why all of the schools we’ve highlighted here still report sending a third or more of their graduates into finance.

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