Villanova Leads on Data Skills for Finance

The Villanova School of Business

The Villanova School of Business

Flashing stock tickers, dual-screen monitors and expensive financial software programs have become staples of the state-of-the-art investment labs now prevalent at many leading business schools in the U.S. Yet the learning curve associated with mastering the software can be steep, and the labs are often under-utilized by students, becoming costly showpieces for the school.

“If you visit business schools, you’ll often see these labs half-empty or sometimes fully empty, depending on the time of day or if you’re there on a weekend,” says Dan LeClair, executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, one of the leading business school accreditation agencies.

That’s a scenario that David Shaffer, an associate professor and chair of the department of finance at the Villanova School of Business, was determined to avoid at his school’s Applied Finance Lab, which boasts 20 Bloomberg Terminals, in addition to FactSet, Argus and other valuable financial data services. His school’s Applied Finance Lab is buzzing these days because for the first time this fall, Villanova is requiring all 411 of its freshmen business students to take a self-directed online course that will allow them to get Bloomberg-certified in about six to eight hours, Shaffer says.

CERTIFICATION COMBATS FEAR OF TECHNOLOGY

The certification will allow students to easily navigate the Bloomberg Terminal and access its wealth of financial and market data, taking away the “fear and intimidation factor,” that often comes with using the software, Shaffer says. He believes Villanova is the first undergraduate business school in the country to require all of its students to get the certification.

“This is an ambitious program,” he says. “Not that many schools have this many terminals and you need a large amount of terminals to certify the entire college.”

At other leading undergraduate business programs that have Bloomberg Terminals, certification is not required and students generally have access to just a handful of work stations. For example, the undergraduate college at New York University’s Stern School of Business has four Bloomberg Terminals in the building, but students are not required to get Bloomberg certified, a school representative says. Likewise, undergraduate business students are not required to get the certification at The Wharton School, though they can access Bloomberg Terminals at the school’s Lippincott Library, the school says.

KUDOS FROM BLOOMBERG

Villanova first opened its Applied Finance Lab in 2005 with one Bloomberg Terminal and a host of other financial software and services for students. The school added a second terminal after professors noticed the Bloomberg Terminal was popular with students. Bloomberg informed the school shortly thereafter that they were one of the top five universities in the nation in terms of students obtaining Bloomberg certification.

“We had no idea. This was important validation for us,” Shaffer says. “It meant our lab was getting used and our resources were getting used.”

Villanova's Applied Finance Lab

Villanova’s Applied Finance Lab

The news spurred Shaffer and his team to expand the number of terminals in the Applied Finance Lab to 16. Fast forward to today and the school now has 20 Bloomberg Terminals, and is considering adding four more, Shaffer says. The school originally planned to make the certification requirement just for finance majors, but then realized it made sense to expand it to other majors as well, Shaffer says. The certification is now required in the school’s Information Technology Class, a class all freshmen are required to take.