'UC really is a springboard in many ways...'
Bachelor of Commerce in Economics and Finance
Financial Product Analyst, Jade Software
Despite all of his accomplishments, when Akmal first came to UC he wasn’t sure what he wanted to study. However, after following academic advice and enrolling to complete a Commerce degree, Akmal found he had a profound passion for Finance.
‘The great thing about UC is there is always the freedom of choice and plenty of advice when you need it. The first year in a BCom exposes you to a good range of subjects which give an idea of what areas one may choose to major in. The environment, clubs and societies and facilities on campus give students what they need to develop their inner potential, no matter what that is. Since I’ve been here, I have not once doubted my decision. UC really is a springboard in many ways.’
Originally from Sri Lanka, Akmal certainly made the most of his time at UC. One particular highlight was his time as the Club President of the Economics and Finance Society of Canterbury (EFSoC), during which he transformed the small club into one of the more renowned organisations on campus, gaining a nomination for a Clubs Award from the UCSA.
Since Akmal exercised his entrepreneurial skills, EFSoC has quadrupled its membership numbers and holds events with up to five times more people attending.
‘A lot of the practical skills that gave me the confidence to step up and do what is needed came from the education and exposure I gained at UC,’ he says.
It is through this work that Akmal received the Good Citizen Scholarship from UC’s Economics and Finance department (ECON_FINC) in recognition of his contributions to the student community. Akmal also received the International Students’ High-Achievers Scholarship to contribute to his studies.
ECON_FINC harbours some of the leading economics and finance academics in New Zealand, and is home to New Zealand’s Economics Experimental Lab (NZEEL).
‘The department is on the forefront of research, and has a good track record of its graduates gaining employment in leading financial institutions such as the Reserve Bank. The master’s programme that I am studying towards is a new qualification that exposes students to practical applications and skills that are directly transferable to jobs in the industry – this is one of many initiatives taken by the department and UC to produce “work-ready” graduates.’
Akmal also worked at ECON_FINC putting together an internship course and helped with occasional tutoring, as well as working with a local financial advisor to create a database that compares Kiwi Saver funds.
Akmal enjoyed the growing challenge of studying towards a MAFE. ‘As I started studying the more advanced topics in finance and economics, the level of conceptualization and intuitiveness required to grasp concepts really kept me engaged,’ he says. ‘Different theories in finance start to get introduced in mathematical models, and I’ve found these to be really intriguing.
‘As students of finance, we use a range of computer modelling tools as part of our learning, and it is very interesting to see what you learn in theory during classes come into practical applications when building models.’
His master’s has been a big benefit towards his current role at Jade Software as a Financial Product Analyst, determining effective product solutions for clients.
However, Akmal finds the most important skill he has gained from study is his ability to adapt to potential career paths, and his willingness to latch onto new opportunities to expand his strengths.
‘What I have learnt during my first year in the workforce is that time spent at university is not just about the technical skills you learn, but also about the personal skills, and connections you make during that time,’ he says. ‘It’s important to not be fixated on doing one thing, and to be involved in a variety of roles. Modern day career paths are no longer limited to conventional job descriptions, and being moulded into an individual who is capable of handling change, and learning to learn, is probably the most important life-skill my time at UC has given me.’
Akmal advises potential commerce students to keep their eyes open for opportunities they wouldn’t normally consider fitting, as preparation for life outside uni. ‘A job in finance can be rewarding in ways that many may not see. Finance is a field which fuels an industry that essentially oils the cogs of a nation’s economy. The work that a qualified graduate will be exposed to here will give that person opportunities to help real businesses reach their goals, encourage output and uphold the capital markets, a vital component - the backbone if I may say so - to an economy.’