In this profile, Jolande Bot-Vos, Senior Teaching Fellow in Accounting, gives her take on the value of MSc Finance & Accounting, key trends in the accounting and finance sector, the future of women in the industry, and the benefit of a truly international education.
What students can expect to learn on MSc Finance & Accounting: Students learn how to understand the financial position and performance of a company, record economic events and prepare financial statements. The first part of the programme focuses on learning the language of financial accounting, and basics like the mechanics and workings of bookkeeping. Students then apply that knowledge to prepare financial statements and address specific areas like bonds and leases. By the end of the programme, students are skilled to understand a financial statement, what it means, and how they can assess a company’s financial performance and position.
Learning the skills to be successful in the finance and accounting industry: Students learn how to prepare for an economic event, predicting its effect on the books of the company and how to record it. It’s an important skill to be able to read and understand the accounts of a company and make sense of that big document to know where to look for specific information. The numbers in a financial statement are aggregated so the programme really helps students understand what happens behind those numbers.
How to know if accounting and finance is for you: I always tell my students that if, after putting together a financial statement, the balance sheet balances and you get a buzz from that, then this is the industry to go for!
But even if an accounting career is not for you: Accounting is the language of business. If you understand accounting, you can really understand what’s going on in a business. In management consulting and project management, accounting is a core skill as you will need to make a budget and offset cost and revenue. Accounting is an essential skill to have if you want to be successful in business.
The career paths graduates go into: Students from MSc Finance & Accounting usually move into either investment banking, consulting or accounting. Outside of that, students tend to work for a large company in the accounting or finance department.
Key trends in the finance and accounting sector: The constant of the accounting and finance world is changing because of automation and big data. There’s a lot of calculating in accounting and finance which can be done by computers so certain tasks are shifting over to automation. Huge tasks like internal auditing that used to be a human process are now carried out by computers. Automation creates big data and information, and there’s opportunities in the industry now for accounting and finance professionals to create “value added surplus” to that data.
Although there’s a lot changing in the industry right now, the massive power of computers means that you can use data analytics to develop better customer products. Students are trained in improving customer processes, including the risks of those processes, which is a much more interesting product offering to the customers.
Humans are still important: The creative part is still important: a computer cannot do that. A computer can complete a repetitive task but it can’t add value. That’s the human, creative part. What we teach students is that by understanding the language and the processes computers use in finance and accounting, they are the ones who can be creative with the outcome. Added value is being able to tell your clients what they can do with that information, and how they can improve their processes or their performance. In fact, I think accounting and finance is becoming more interesting because the dull, repetitive tasks have been taken over by computers!
On the attractiveness of a finance and accounting career for women: It’s a fast-paced, international and interesting sector to work in – and it’s changing a lot. If you’re a woman you can really make a difference and stand out. Our female students perform exceptionally well on the programme and women are clearly well skilled to do the job. Women are clearly well skilled and suited to the job, so I would encourage women to enter the industry, show their expertise and excel in it.
On the low number of women in senior positions in finance and accounting: In the past women were viewed as too emotional and not serious enough to have a strong position in business, especially in accounting and finance where a lot of money is going around. But, after the financial crisis, this image is changing. More companies recognise that perhaps women are better stewards of finances in a financial sector where men are perceived to be driven by greed and “macho-ism”. A lot of companies are aware of the gender imbalance. It’s interesting for graduate women today to step into that possibility, really make a change and move into more serious positions.
What needs to change: It’s twofold and lies with both the female graduate and the company. Women: don’t underestimate your own capabilities and don’t get deterred by a male dominated environment. Focus on the job itself and on your qualities. If you’re able to get an MSc Finance & Accounting from Imperial, then you have something to offer. You should be proud of that and make that the starting point of your career.
For companies, there needs to be a concerted effort to treat women as equal. There are prejudices and unconscious biases that need to be dealt with in companies. If a company wants to be serious about making talented women successful, they need to put in place procedures to limit prejudices and biases in the system.
A truly international education: We offer you an international learning environment as well as a high-quality programme that really gives you the skills and knowledge to be successful in the finance and accounting industry. A lot of people from all over the world are educated on the programme so students have the opportunity build an international network.
We’re located in London, close to Canary Wharf and several major financial services companies and banks who are looking for talent to source for their UK and world-wide local offices. It’s a great opportunity to start an international career and, if you’re an international student, to go back to your home country and start your career there with an international company. London is a truly international city. I’ve lived in Chicago, Amsterdam and Brussels, and London is more international compared to other cities in the world. Imperial has really incorporated that in the College. Both the student and faculty cohorts are extremely international.
To finish: MSc Finance & Accounting is a great education because it gives you a solid set of skills. You will learn how to manage accounts and how to evaluate a company. You get a thorough set of hard core business skills which are very valuable and can be used in any industry and sector.
About Jolande: Jolande has an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She worked as a Management Consultant for 10 years at Arthur D. Little in the Netherlands, specialising in IT and telecommunications. Jolande’s consulting projects varied in type from valuations and overhead reduction, to strategy and pricing. Later, Jolande joined a hospitality management business school as Finance Director, overseeing a restructure programme, before moving to The Hague University of Applied Sciences as Programme Director for Finance and Control. She joined Imperial College Business School in 2016 as Senior Teaching Fellow in Accounting.
We are currently accepting applications for MSc Finance & Accounting.