Enabling students for the rapidly evolving challenges of the financial sector

UCT’s African Institute of Financial Markets and Risk Management (AIFMRM) continues to strengthen its talent base with the appointment of a new senior lecturer.

In its continued drive to address scarce skills in the finance sector and produce qualified graduates who are ready to take on real-world demands, AIFMRM recently engaged the services of Dr Abhik Mukherjee as Senior Lecturer on the MCom in Risk Management of Financial Markets.

Abhik hails from India and has a PhD from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. With research interests that span banking, macroeconomics, monetary policy, and corporate finance, he is bringing his extensive knowledge of the global business environment to bear on what he terms the “very dynamic financial sector where changes, particularly in emerging markets, occur rapidly and unexpectedly”.

“In this particular field, people must be agile and able to think on their feet to design new solutions and effect constructive changes,” he says.

Though he has only been active at the Institute since mid-March, Abhik says he has dived into the deep end with lecturing and research. He says it is exciting to be involved in a programme that is working so closely with industry to develop industry-ready students. “It is stimulating to experience the actual extent of that collaboration,” he says. “I find it vital to prepare students for the many, and rapidly evolving, challenges of the sector.”

AIFMRM offers two degrees; an MCom in Risk Management of Financial Markets and an MPhil specialising in Mathematical Finance. Both are designed to provide students with extensive opportunities to engage with industry practitioners and financial services companies including AIFMRM’s corporate sponsors. Students are encouraged to develop critical thinking and analytical reasoning, considered essential for operating in the volatile financial industry in South Africa and on the rest of the continent.

“Students are acquiring additional skills not only regarding technical knowledge, but also in their ability to ask questions, and probe deeper into issues – this is essential if our graduates are to be able to make the transition from the Institute to the real financial world. Imparting analytical and critical thinking skills is the cornerstone of our curriculum design.”

Abhik comments that graduates of the programme have spoken about how it has eased their passage into the industry. “We seek to ensure that the transition is not the chasm it so often is in many parts of the world, but a relatively easy step because of the solid foundation they receive at the Institute.”
In addition to his teaching commitments, Abhik is exploiting the many advantages the Institute offers, such as the flexibility of research and the amount of coaching work. He is also an advisory member of the African Collaboration for Quantitative Finance and Risk Research (ACQuFRR), the research arm of AIFMRM, and his research aims to determine the most productive financial policies to promote economic growth – of vital importance to South Africa’s currently shrinking economy.

“It is not always immediately obvious, what impact various regulatory, political, social issues and events exert on the economy and its growth,” he points out. “The challenge is to quantify the effects and gain a better grasp of potential outcomes and in so doing, to contribute to improved policy-making. The biggest hurdle is obtaining good data and then drawing the causal link between the elements.”
Currently, his research is focused on two themes: 1) The interactions between the financial sector and the real economy – specifically, how regulations and monetary policy affect different parts of the financial sector and consequently the economy; and 2) international capital flows via the financial sector and its impact on emerging economies.

“Much of this has not been undertaken before in South Africa,” he says. “The landscape is rapidly evolving in this space, and my research aims to further the understanding of these complex interactions and contribute to the policy debate.”

Beyond this, Abhik’s goal is also to enhance the visibility of the Institute, which he points out is the only one of its kind in Africa. “In many ways, we are at the forefront of research in Africa and South Africa, and we need to promote the many opportunities that are available so that we can attract influential researchers from all over the world.”

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