Lousier Business School Or A Better Engineering School (Singapore)

My question is more towards a Singapore context and I'll try my best to fill you in on my context.

My passion is in investment. Thus, I would like to go into an AM, hedgefund or ER career.

In Singapore, there are 3 big universities, NUS, NTU and SMU that are recognised by the civil service.

But my A levels grade are not good enough for any of the business schools. My only option is an Engineering degree (Mechanical. Electrical, Civil, etc) in NTU. My plan if I go this route is to get a CFA concurrently and either go straight into finance or work a few years in the Engineering industry to get any sort of industrial knowledge and hopefully use that as a leverage to get into AM or ER that are geared towards manufacturing.

But the problem is in NTU, it is flooded with Chinese and Indian students and I'm sure everyone knows how good they are in maths and science. The chances for me to get any sort of respectable honours and GPA is quite slim.

The next route available is to go to SIM Univ. Of London Accounting and Finance/ Banking and Finance. The problem is SIM is a private university that offers UOL satellite degrees. Word is that it is recognised in the private sector. But how well regarded it is, I'm not too sure. It is also not recognised at all in the civil service.

There is a belief that SIM is for students that are not able to make it into local universities, which is my case.
I have reasonable faith that I should be able to get a good GPA and honours in there. Thereafter, I will try to obtain my CFA and an accounting certification (either CPA or ACCA) if I take Accounting and Finance.

I'm just wondering which path is a better choice for me. I do not want to study engineering as I do not have any interest in it and if I do, i am stuck with it for 4 years. But for practical reason, it is the most practical path as I have an enigneering degree to fall back on when the economy turns sour.

I hope you understand where I am coming from and if there are any Singaporeans in here, please give some advice. I guess the only parallels I can draw with an US context is a target school and a non target.

Thank you.

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Comments (6)

Apr 14, 2014 - 7:46am

Comparing NUS/NTU/SMU vs SIM to target vs non-target may not quite be completely accurate; it is possible to get into BB IBD from a non-target, but I have yet to hear of a single BB IBD Analyst coming from SIM.

I would say to go with the Engineering degree, BUT only if you feel that you can maintain a decent grade. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it does have to be decent if you want to get into one of the more competitive firms. Your next best alternative is to come out and work for a bit and try to do well; if you're good enough at your job, nobody will care where you came from. Well, maybe not nobody; this is Asia, after all. You can certainly make do, though; I know graduates from places like SIM, Curtin, UoL etc. who've made it reaaaaaally big.

Apr 14, 2014 - 8:04am

I would say that NUS/NTU/SMU are more like semi-targets.

I am going to concur with Angus on this too. Do engineering, especially if you want to do finance. I had the opportunity to speak to a HF PM and he mentioned that he does hire engineering/quant majors from the local unis.

I'm guessing you're a Singaporean too, and I'm sure you understand the perspective others have of local uni grads vs private uni grads. However, if you are keen on doing accounting as a career (instead of finance), then the SIM option may be more appropriate.

If you do decide to do engineering, make sure you do internships/get decent grades.

Apr 14, 2014 - 10:09am

Just FYI, to have the exit opportunities you are looking for when you are in Singapore's civil service will almost certainly require you to be a scholar and have 1st Class Honours.

On the note for the selection of degree/school, I would personally go with Engineering. Like some others have said, it is extremely difficult to enter a decent firm as a fresh graduate from SIM - unfortunate but true. Fortunately, Singapore's high finance is slightly more forgiving in terms of a prestigious background if you are willing to set your sights at the less well-known/capitalized firm (but these guys also pay way below market/street). I do know that Engineering will help you build a strong foundation in the quantitative discipline and so as mentioned above, you may have a shot at a trading spot if you can prove yourself. Not sure if it is possible to get a research role fresh out of undergraduate (possible but realistically very difficult), but you could possibly look at working in a certain industry for a short time whilst doing a CFA and the transition would be a lot more likely.

I would think that the CPA is rather irrelevant in research (both equity and credit), AM and HF investment roles. Also, I believe the system is shifting towards something called the SQP - so no point wasting resources on that.

With respect to good grades, they are the same everywhere. Good grades help you (to a pretty large extent) in getting the interview. Period. Regardless of the discipline of your degree.

Apr 15, 2014 - 12:11pm

In my opinion, I would try to resit the A levels as a private candidate if possible. If not, I would choose the NTU option due to its alumni and career services.

Just to share some of my own opinions:
1. Those who got into BB IBD from the 3 local universities are really the cream of the cream of the crop. Most of the people I spoke who wants to do IBD ended up going to big 4 corporate finance / boutiques (bulk of the people) / MM firms / IBD in HK / Go straight to the buy-side.

2. It is true that you are required to have first class if you want to work in the investment side of the public sector (GIC, Temasek).

3. Smaller firms / firms with no formal training programs are much more particular about the discipline of your degree compared to the larger banks.

4. The part by thecoldburns about how it is extremely difficult for a fresh graduate from SIM to enter a decent firm is true.

5. I would recommend you to start you own portfolio to have a feel of it first before deciding whether your passion lies in investment.

6. Do not rank the universities in Singapore as Singaporeans are very sensitive about it.

Apr 16, 2014 - 10:37pm

Thank you guys. I think after weighing all the pros and cons, Engineering may be the best option for me. But that of course comes with the fact that I'm going to spend 4 years studying something that I may not enjoy.

To resit A Levels as a private candidate may be very troublesome as I also have my NS obligations to fulfil.

I'm thinking of using the later part of my NS to get some useful skills in. What do you guys think are the skills that will be of good value to me aiming for AM or ER? I'm currently thinking about basic accounting, reading financial statements and learning about financial modelling through WSP.

What do you guys think are not relevant and what else should I consider adding?

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