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How to Stay Competitive as a Financier? Prof. Elena Rogova Reports

The Master’s programme in Finance has been held at HSE University–St. Petersburg since 2009. The programme actively cooperates with small and medium-sized enterprises, and its graduates get jobs in large companies—Severstal, a well-known Russian steel company, among others. In this interview, we asked Professor Elena Rogova, Academic Supervisor of this Master’s programme, what skills are required to become a successful financier and how this programme can help to acquire them.

Elena Rogova, Academic Supervisor of the Finance Programme

Elena Rogova, Academic Supervisor of the Finance Programme
Photo from HSE University–St. Petersburg’s archive

—Will the profession of a financier be in demand in the future?

—Of course, this profession will stay in demand at any time. According to a study conducted by Rabota.ru and SberIndex for the year 2021, the salary level of financiers increased by 18%. I would say this increase is pretty substantial, many other professions did not get such figures.

However, in terms of the job requirements, there may be changes depending on the current economic situation. In 2020 and 2021, there was a high demand for specialists in the field of financial technology, international finance, as well as financial planning and financial modeling. This year, fintech specialists will remain in demand, as there is a need for professionals who can quickly make calculations using programming. Also, I think that the role of a financial manager who is responsible for attracting funding and planning budgeting will increase.

—In which areas financiers will remain essential experts?

—Well, first of all, financiers will be required by companies under sanctions, including those financed by the government. In such companies, financiers will be in charge of prioritizing investments, performing calculations and building financial models for projects. For companies which are out of sanctions, the tasks will be different—a financier’s main duty will be to find this kind of funding. 

Banks will need a lot of such specialists as well. And this will also be a new area for graduates of the 'Finance' Master’s programme, as before banking was not among their priority lists. Looking at the past years, we can see that fintech was taking over traditional financial services, while banks were aspiring to establish ecosystems which consisted of various products and services. I think this trend will continue, let's see how these ecosystems will develop. But anyway, the banking sphere will be on the lookout for specialist who can analyse big amounts of data.

There will be a need for financiers in startups as well. As new niche areas are emerging within the restaurant, retail, and the service sectors, entrepreneurs will have more space for launching businesses. And here comes the need for attracting investments, which means that startups will hire specialists who know how to do it. In our 'Finance' Master’s programme, we teach our students that kind of things.

—What skills are required to get a head start in the career in today's time?

—Well, among the most in-demand skills for today’s financiers I would name the following: working with data and machine learning, business analysis. Then there go financial modelling, calculations of investment, the ability to assess financing sources and risks. Of course, all these things can be learned on our master's programme.

In the programme’s courses, we will continue to focus on project financing, as I believe the government will be more actively involved in investment projects within the framework of private partnerships. This will help our graduates with employment.

—What are the benefits of the Finance programme?

—Within the programme, we are actively adding more opportunities for interacting with businesses. For example, for our current students, we have launched a special course named 'Finance from professionals', at which we invite business professionals, financiers, financial directors of enterprises. It’s a win-win system for both businesses and students. The former will get a chance to find potential employees among our students, while the latter will understand in which areas they could apply their knowledge more effectively.

Apart from that, our students are still able to get hands-on skills at BarCamp, a platform for the interaction of students and employers. 30-day project work at BarCamp is a great opportunity for Master’s students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in solving cases of companies in real-time mode. If a student did well on a project, the company may eventually offer an internship and employment. Actually, this is exactly how one of the programme’s foreign students successfully completed a project with the Freedom Finance company and got a job in Russia. The programme combining both theoretical and practical knowledge, our graduates have no problems finding employment. Many of our graduates find a job immediately after graduation or start working part-time in the first year of studies.

Besides, we always keep our students informed about various activities in which they can participate—case championships or summer schools from Sberbank and VTB bank. Taking part in such activities help students gain valuable experience. 

We are also proud to say that our programme has received a professional public accreditation. This allows our students to work as financial managers or risk managers, for example, in government-owned companies that require employees to comply with certain professional standards. 

What’s more, we encourage our students to do research and provide all conditions for building a successful career in science. Our students have publications in the first and second quartiles of Scopus. Some programme’s graduates decide to continue their academic careers by opting for postgraduate studies in economics or management. For Master’s students interested in science, from the new academic year the School of Economics and Management will open a research track. There they will get a chance to study advanced microeconomics and behavioural finance, delve into the theory of finance and investment analysis.

—What are the programme's partners?

—We cooperate with Gazprom and its subsidiaries. For example, Gazprom Invest company is holding a series of master classes during the programme, while its representatives will participate in our projects at BarCamp.

We have also collaborated with four major audit companies—Deloitte, KPMG, Ernst & Yourng, Pricewaterhousecoopers—and will continue this interaction with their legal entities in Russia.

Also, Severstal company—a wel-known Russian company mainly operating in the steel and mining industry—is actively offering our graduates internship positions within its leadership programme. We have graduates who have completed this programme and are now working in main board positions: for example, Veronika Buran, a graduate of 2019, completed training under the Severstal leadership programme last year.

—What is a typical applicant profile for this programme?

—Well, I think what unites all our applicants is their high motivation. Applicants enrol in the programme knowing exactly what they want to achieve and what we can give them. We don’t even have to remind them about the need to take part in career events or look for internships—they take care of that themselves.

Some applicants enter the Master’s programme immediately after getting a bachelor's degree, others—a couple of years later. Those who already had working experience in business sphere usually come to us with the goal to get skills which they lack in the current position. There are as well specialists who for some reason decided to change their professional trajectory. We had several students who started working in marketing and then decided to study with us. Having learned how to build an advertising budget or attract investment, some of our graduates went into finance, and some started their own business or got promoted.

As for the 2022 admission campaign, this year applicants can enter the programme either by taking part in an educational Olympiad or through entrance tests. If you are not among Olympiad winners and awardees, you can submit GMAT and IELTS certificates or take internal entrance exams similar to them.

Find out more information on the admission campaign and the programme's details on the Finance programme's official website.