Funds Academy – Strengthening and Protecting the Funds Industry in Ireland
For more information, please visit our website at www.fundsacademy.ie
John Casey – Project Lead – South East Technological University
Aisling O’Mahony – Project Lead – Munster Technological University
Figure 1: John Casey and Aisling O’Mahony at Alter Domus, Cork
Provide a short description of the project
The Funds Academy is an exciting new academy set up to enhance the initiatives available to members of the investment fund community in the South East and South West of Ireland. As the regions continue to thrive as centres’ of excellence for financial services, we are keen to support this from an educational perspective and to strengthen the regional offering to the funds industry.
The Funds Academy is collaboration between South East Technological University (SETU) and Munster Technological University (MTU), the goal of the academy is to strengthen, enhance and contribute to the already thriving funds industry in the South-East and South-West, by delivering, amongst other initiatives, a brand new Masters in Investment Fund Administration. The programme was developed in close collaboration with industry partners BNY Mellon and State Street. This Masters has the ability to deepen existing industry members’ understanding of a variety of areas, including fund governance and regulation, asset management techniques, data analysis and management and leadership.
Our other activities include a newly developed level 8 Certificate in Regulated Investment Funds for those considering careers in the industry or for recent joiners to the sector. In addition, other initiatives include a seminar series, the It’s FUNDamental podcast and Funds 101. We also act as a point of contact between the local fund administrators and the universities, in particular, promoting careers within the industry and raising awareness of the sector amongst the full time student population. Through the Funds Academy’s activities, we have fostered a significant number of industry partnerships, thus strengthening the connection between the educational institutions and fund industry.
Figure 2: Investment Fund Administration – Careers Showcase Day
Highlight interesting collaborations / partnerships
The partnership between SETU and MTU has developed and evolved into a strong and mutually beneficial relationship for both institutions. From the very beginning of programme development, both institutions have worked closely together to ensure that the strengths of each institution contributed to the establishment of the strongest and most sustainable programmatic structure possible. Considerable effort goes into ensuring consistency in programme delivery, collaboration and coordination in relation to all Funds Academy events and to share expertise and resources. There is also collaboration between MTU and SETU’s e-learning technologists to ensure a streamlined student experience regardless of which learning management system is used.
A number of industry partnerships have been developed and curated over the lifecycle of the project. The core initial industry partners, BNY Mellon and State Street, have been a support from the pre-development stage (facilitating the gathering of data to assist with finalising proposed modules, timetables etc.), to module development stage (where they reviewed the intended modules), to governance of the overall programme. We have also had extensive engagement from the entire regional fund administration industry – organisations have been supportive at the marketing stage of the programme and have circulated information to their employees as well as being advocates for our programmes and have provided guest speakers and other support.
Figure 3: Funds Academy lead Aisling O’Mahony sitting in as an observer at meeting of International Sustainable Finance Centre of Excellence
There has also been significant collaboration between the Funds Academy and external partners such as the South East Financial Services cluster and the IFS forum of Cork Chamber. Some examples of the benefits of these relationships are a number of new industry partner connections which have led to offers of work placements and graduate opportunities for our graduates and undergraduates, industry speaker connections which has led to industry experts delivering guest lectures on our programme and also the opportunity to pitch our programmes to a very targeted audience.
We have also had some very interesting interactions with a range of guests through our seminar and podcast speakers – notable inclusions have been author and Financial Times journalist Owen Walker, and former Goldman Sachs MD and author Jamie Fiore Higgins (who was voted one of the Financial Times’ Top 25 Most Influential Women of 2022).
Figure 4: Funds Academy industry breakfast at MTU with keynote speaker Simon Barry, economist
Provide a brief summary of the project’s key enterprise engagements
Pictured: A conference (It’s FUNDamental 2023) was hosted in Hotel Minella, Clonmel, this May to bring together over 60 industry representatives and both MTU and SETU Masters of Investment Fund Administration cohorts. Senior speakers from industry highlighted key topics such as ESG, digitisation and outsourcing in the funds sector.
- Development of the Masters in Investment Fund Administration following a period of deep engagement with industry to understand their needs
- Building on the learnings from the validation of the Masters award, a second programme was developed: the Certificate in Regulated Investment Funds is for individuals who are looking to transition into the industry with this programme providing some of the foundational knowledge required for entry-level roles.
- Funds industry careers showcase events: feedback from our enterprise partners highlighted their recruitment challenges. Many regional fund administration companies have numerous open positions that they are finding difficult to fill. The Funds Academy hosted a series of careers showcase events on campus – all the regional fund administration companies came onto campus to meet with students.
- Gender initiative: when we first went to market with our Masters in December 2021, we were concerned to note that we received less interest from female applicants. We addressed the gender gap issue to ensure gender diversity in our next cohort of students. Following research and an industry focus group intervention, a number of initiatives were proposed: changes to the marketing of the programmes, emphasising the flexible nature of the programmes and the commitment of female leaders in the industry to putting their support behind the programme by gently suggesting the programme to their female staff.
- A number of podcasts have been recorded and made available online, with a wide range of industry speakers. These are deeper dives into some of the issues impacting on the industry.
- Breakfast briefings: a series of in-person events for industry representatives. Meetings have been held across the regions with more to follow. The purpose of these meetings is to promote the Funds Academy, to discuss the needs of the industry and to discuss the impact of topical events.
Figure 5: Some of the participants at a female leadership in investment focus administration focus group: also included are John Casey, Aisling O’Mahony and Neill Wylie from the Funds Academy.
Youtube: Funds Academy MTU & SETU – YouTube (embedded on website)
Figure 6: It’s Fundamental Podcast Episode with Jamie Fiore Higgins
Last updated: Monday 24 April 2023