Students are getting Wall Street experience without leaving the UNC campus. The new Capital Markets Lab at UNC Kenan-Flagler provides access to the same information technology and financial data used on real trading floors.
“The gap between what we’re doing here and what happens on trading floors on Wall Street is as small as it can be without us working on Wall Street during the day and coming here and teaching in the evening,” says Robert A. Connolly, lab director and associate professor of finance.
In the lab, physically structured as a trading floor with computers and a wall with monitors and a ticker, students gain real-world experience using the Reuters, FactSet and Bloomberg data services, with special focus on the analytical and computational features of these systems.
“Until you get this capacity, you really cannot teach a capital markets course that prepares our students to function in a working capital markets setting. Literally, you really can’t teach the right stuff without it,” Connolly says. “Now you can run a class where students get a firsthand, hands-on, experience that mimics precisely what is done in practice. This is what allows us to get to the point where we’re doing professional practice as opposed to a theoretical activity.”
A gift of $800,000 from an anonymous donor and other gifts funded the $1.2 million in construction costs. Dean James W. Dean Jr. and finance area chair Greg Brown dedicated the facility in August and are raising money for an endowment to support the learning lab in perpetuity.
The lab, which accommodates 50 students at a time, will be used by students for finance electives and to support the BSBA and MBA student-management investment funds program, Connolly says.
Now students have real-time data feeds from financial markets around the world through Reuters, FactSet, and Bloomberg, combined with their extensive built-in computational and analytical capabilities.
What’s better for students also is better for faculty. Connolly’s principal task as the Lab director is to develop lab-based applications for finance courses throughout the curriculum. “This is why the Lab will prove to be important in educating all of our students with an interest in finance, instead of being a nice-looking showcase with little practical impact, it will be fully integrated into the curriculum.”
“From the faculty’s perspective, this is the kind of stuff that makes a monstrous difference in terms of our productivity,” Connolly says. Faculty members now can focus on instruction instead of organizing software programs and tracking down up-to-date data. “It’s the real deal on a regular basis,” he says.