A big factor that influenced my decision to do the M.S in Accounting at the McIntire School of Commerce is the pleasant academic atmosphere created by the professors and students. As an M.S in Accounting student you immediately feel part of a larger community, and one of the best examples of how our network spans far beyond just the accounting department, is with the elective courses offered in the program.
Tackling finance as an M.S. in Accounting student
Creating a schedule that includes more than strictly accounting courses, with students from differing majors, has been very refreshing. Also, studying among students with different perspectives is incredibly helpful as we prepare for careers in a wide area of business functions. I can say with confidence that accounting is not as cut and dry as I may have thought when I entered McIntire six short months ago, and I believe this shift in attitude is largely because of the elective courses I’ve experienced.
A great example is a finance course I took last fall with Professor Robert Webb called “Financial Trading.” The primary objective of the course was to introduce us to the various market factors which influence everyday price volatility in the market, including the psychology of participants in financial markets and the identification of profitable trading opportunities. Some of the most successful traders in the world were invited to speak to the class, including Paul Tudor Jones, Basil Qunibi, and Jason Beverage, just to name a few. Professor Webb taught a similar course at Darden for 20 years (1994-2013) as a visiting professor.
Professor Webb has an intriguing professional and academic background.
After completing an undergraduate business degree in finance, accounting and economics at University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, he went on to earn his M.B.A and Ph.D. in finance from the University of Chicago. Wanting to learn everything there was to know about finance early on, Professor Webb surprisingly did not have any intention of going into the realm of academia.
Nevertheless, his first position after leaving Chicago was as an assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s business school. Fascinated by the futures markets, and the attempted corner in the silver market, Professor Webb took a two-year leave of absence to work as a Senior Financial Economist for the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission in Washington. Following the election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1981, he accepted a position as Senior Financial Economist at the Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget, where he spent the second year of his two-year leave of absence from USC.
When his leave of absence was up in 1982, he joined the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) where he served as Senior Financial Economist and was responsible for designing new financial futures and option contracts. After a year working at the CME, he became a member of CME’s Index and Option Market where he traded on the floor for almost three years.
He started at the McIntire School of Commerce in 1986, however, shortly after arriving at McIntire he was asked to work for the World Bank, which required him to take a 15-month leave of absence from UVA. Professor Webb traded fixed income securities for the World Bank’s Investment Department. In 2009, he took a three-year leave of absence to accept a joint appointment with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology Graduate Business where he would teach in the fall in Seoul, Korea, and in the spring at UVA.
Opening my eyes to new job opportunities
I had a chance to sit down with Professor Webb and talk in preparation for writing this post. I was curious how practical finance courses, like the one which was offered for M.S. in Accounting students, is useful for those of us going into a variety of different business careers. From his finance connections still working in the industry, he pointed out that there is an entire investment area for people with skills in accounting, including hedge funds. He added that starting salaries for these types of roles tend to be two to three times higher than typical accounting positions. Not too shabby!.
I was fascinated to hear that people who worked in the finance industry were actually reaching out to him, sharing the fact that there was a lack of graduates, specifically accounting graduates, needed to fill these types of positions. After reiterating what Professor Webb had told me to my classmates, they seemed fascinated too. A competence of accounting skills is valued at McIntire outside of just the accounting department, and being here has really opened my eyes to a variety of possibilities.
-Written by Greg Boland