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Application 101: How to Boost Your Commercial Awareness

For anyone interested in finance, reading books and news articles is a great way to follow financial events and expand your knowledge of financial terms and the markets. Whether it be reading the Wall Street Journal, The Intelligent Investor, or even the comical Monkey Business, there are a plethora of fantastic resources available to help you stay up to date with the latest financial trends. Commercial awareness is becoming an increasingly important prerequisite for candidates in recruitment decisions, and so, in this piece, I will be covering some of the best ways that you can become commercially aware, whilst continuing to learn more about finance and investing. (Of course, if you want to make sure you’re truly commercially aware, you should subscribe to The Student Investor, to get all of our posts automatically sent directly to your email inbox)!


Podcasts

With universities and schools heading back soon, as students, we are certainly going to go back to having busy academic and social schedules. What is great about podcasts is that you can listen to them on the go – whether you’re walking to campus, or finally doing your dishes – and their conversational, flowing nature, will allow you to learn about events that are impacting the markets without even realising that you’re learning. With this in mind, here are three podcasts that you should check out:


Bloomberg Business Week

Bloomberg is one of the most reliable news outlets, and even more so for financial news. This daily podcast is particularly great for keeping up to date with global events regarding technology, politics, and the economy.

Every day, hosts Carol Massar and Jason Kelly interview experts and company executives, whose industries and firms are impacted by current events. Given that most of the news has been heavily driven by the coronavirus pandemic over the last few months, this series has been an interesting way to see how different businesses are responding to the problems posed by the crisis. There have been leaders of the pharmaceuticals industry giving their perspectives and expectations of the future. And, in recent weeks, impacts of the virus on real estate, politics, and the cinema industry, have also been discussed.


Out of the three podcasts referenced in this article, this series is the easiest to listen to and the perfect way to stay commercially aware. By unpacking daily events and analysing their impacts on real industries, these 12-30-minute segments offer a refreshing and somewhat more thorough break-down, compared to a short news article.


Bloomberg Surveillance

Another great podcast from Bloomberg! This series boasts the likes of Tom Keene, Jon Ferro, and Paul Sweeney as hosts. Bloomberg Surveillance does what it says on the tin - it delves into what is shaping the markets, while having in-depth discussions on the economy and the investment sphere.


Similar to Bloomberg Business Week, the podcast hosts and interviews guests who are genuine experts. Here is a brief idea of recent topics that have been discussed:


  • Business Professor Nouriel Roubini explained why there is a great risk of a slow recovery if a coronavirus vaccine is not developed quickly.


  • BNP’s Head of Commodity-Markets Strategy justified why he thinks we will see a rally in the price of gold in the first quarter of 2021.


  • David Bailin, Citi Private Bank Chief Investment Officer, spoke of how he believes, despite recent gains, that investors should move their portfolios away from tech. He encourages exploring industries and markets where there could be a potential snap back, such as opportunities in Mexico, as a better long-term option.

As you can gather, this Bloomberg podcast is much more investment-oriented and a more serious listen, in comparison to Business Week. However, hearing the decision makers of high-profile banks assess market movements and future opportunities is a great way to learn how to formulate your own thoughts on events that are shaping markets.


Exchanges at Goldman Sachs

Very much like Bloomberg Surveillance, this podcast from Goldman Sachs analyses market activities. However, what makes this podcast original is the fact that it is comprised of the personal perspectives of general professionals and employees from the firm, rather than its top-tier management team.

Employees who come on the podcast are from a variety of departments, whether that be the Equities team or the Global Markets division. It is fascinating to hear how each department is affected by what is going on in the world at any moment. For example, not too long ago, Susie Cher of the Investment Banking division highlighted how they are positioned to capitalise from a potential IPO market rebound, as companies seek to raise public capital to combat the negative impacts that the coronavirus has had on their businesses.


Additionally, given that employees are being interviewed, you get an insight into the culture of Goldman Sachs and what they value in individuals who work there. Often, those being interviewed mention team dynamics, and how diversity, or certain skill sets, are helping Goldman succeed. Tips for junior workers are also mentioned by senior individuals, which is particularly useful given that graduate applications are opening soon.


This podcast opens a door into this prestigious institution, and it answers popular, stimulating questions, such as “What do you think Goldman Sachs should do better?” from the unique perspective of employees. So, if you are looking for a mixture of market analysis, advice, and learning about the culture of this renowned investment bank, I highly recommend this series.



Investopedia

Moving away from podcasts, Investopedia is another great resource for learning more about finance and even consolidating existing knowledge.


As I mentioned earlier, some of the analysis from experts in podcasts can be technical and complex. Therefore, you may need to look up definitions, or even just want to gain a more in-depth break-down with context. This is where Investopedia’s extensive dictionary comes in, and by signing up to word of the day, it is so easy to continue topping up your knowledge and understanding of financial concepts.









No matter the complexity, definitions for each term are clearly set out with contents, key takeaways, and videos to further explain concepts. Suggestions for other terms are also shown throughout the articles, as shown above with the guide to volatility. By showing you other related terms, this only helps you further comprehend individual areas of finance.


While many are already aware of Investopedia’s key definitions bank, their posts also explore trading strategies and analysis methods. These in-depth pieces are a great way to discover new techniques, and you can then take what you have learned to their virtual stock market. Without putting any capital at risk, this free platform allows you to build confidence and try out different strategies, serving as a steppingstone towards trading with real money.



Online Courses

Whether you are an economics major or not, online courses provide you with the opportunity to explore specific financial areas, such as financial modelling, and can demonstrate to employers your strong interest in finance. Some sites such as Investopedia charge a fee to enrol, but there are hundreds of other options available for free, which are still in-depth and delivered by industry experts.


Financial Markets by Yale University is a 7-8-week course, and one that I highly recommend from personal experience. It is surprising the amount you can learn in such a short space of time online! In this particular course, on top of lecture-based content, there were forums to discuss what we had learnt, mini tests, and opportunities to peer-assess work. An obvious advantage of most online courses is that they are flexible, so you can do as much, or as little as you want, in one session.


Websites such as Coursera and Course Hero offer a myriad of different financial and investing courses, from beginner to more advanced levels. Make sure to check them out if you’re interested in boosting your commercial awareness!



Other Options?

Apart from the aforementioned ideas, below, I’ve compiled a quick list of some other top resources to help you improve your commercial awareness:


Finimize – an app that provides readers with basic finance and investing lessons, as well as a daily markets update.


Financial Times – most universities offer their students a free subscription to this helpful resource, as long as you sign up using your student email address. Free content from one of the most respected news outlets - what’s not to love?


The Economist – well known and well loved, The Economist is easily digestible and is available both in print and digital form. Student subscriptions are available!


The Week/MoneyWeek – these weekly magazines provide roundups from the most interesting global [financial] headlines of that week. Student subscriptions are also available!


Hopefully, this article has given you a few more simple tips to keep learning about finance and investing. The importance of being commercially aware in this era cannot be stressed enough, and, if in doubt, make sure that you at least subscribe to The Student Investor!


If you have any recommendations for other ways to improve commercial awareness, we would love to hear your suggestions in the comments!








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