Although many business students see finance as it is portrayed in the movie Wall Street, the study of finance is much more than learning to be a young high-power stock trader or greedy corporate raider. For one, finance impacts everyone on a day-to-day basis. Whether you are getting your first mortgage or credit card, buying life insurance, or planning for retirement, most people are faced with financial decisions that play a very important role in their lives. Furthermore, the majority of careers in finance are not in financial markets; rather, business students who study finance are in high demand in financial services and corporate finance. While the study of finance helps prepare business students for a career in one of these three fields, financial information is often relevant in personal and business decision-making, and understanding how to prepare and use financial information is important for both individuals and all business students a like.
1. Financial Markets: The goal of efficient financial markets is to ensure that capital goes where it is needed. Imagine a company needed to borrow one million dollars for a new project. Before, owners of the company would use personal networks to either secure government loans or grants or to procure new investors. Today, while many companies still raise money this way, they now have another option: financial markets. Financial markets are simply a platform which savers and investors are connected with borrowers - individuals and companies who need capital. Borrowers can raise money by appealing to a larger selection of investors, and savers have a wide range of investments to choose from. Financial markets are supported by financial institutions, intermediaries such as banks, who take individual, government and corporate savings and then trade or lend these funds out in exchange for financial securities such as stocks or bonds (which represent ownership or a promise to repay).
2. Financial Services: Financial services institutions include banks, trust companies, investment dealers and brokers, financial planners, mutual fund companies, life and property insurance companies, mortgage brokers and real estate companies. These institutions are overseen by regulators such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and involve the participation of professional bodies such as Chartered Accountants, Chartered Financial Analysts and Lawyers. This branch of finance looks at how financial products are designed and delivered to individuals, businesses and governments. For example, a bank may take personal savings in the form of deposits from its over-the-counter bankers and use these savings to provide you a mortgage for your house.
3. Corporate Finance: Finance plays an important role in both the day to day and long-term decision-making in a business. Daily financial activities include ensuring enough cash is on hand to maintain operations. This includes decisions such as extending credit, collecting receivables, buying inventory and paying suppliers. Long-term financial activities include capital budgeting as well as planning and forecasting the business's need for cash and financing. Preparing and using this financial information is the job of a financial manager. Financial managers look to make decisions that maximize the value of the firm to its shareholders. This distinction is important. While there exist many financial goals in organizations (such as maximizing sales or profits) maximizing the firm's value to shareholders should be the overarching goal of any successful financial manager. Today, because of the paramount role that financial managers play in decision-making, we see many CEOs and top executives in corporation coming from careers in financial management.
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