MSc in Investment Banking & Capital Markets: A look back at an innovative online hackathon with Refinitiv

June 19, 2020

In the context of the recent lockdown linked to the Coronavirus pandemic, IÉSEG recently organized an innovative online learning project for students from its MSc in Investment Banking & Capital Markets. 15 participants were given the opportunity to apply, through an online hackathon, everything they had learned during their program to real-life business issues/challenges that they could face in their future careers. In partnership with Refinitiv, one of the world’s largest providers of financial markets data and infrastructure, they worked remotely in teams of 3 to develop concrete proposals to three topics put forward by the company. We recently talked to Professor Renaud Beaupain, the Program director, and Alida Hafiz from Refinitiv about the hackathon, and what it brought to both the students and the company.

What was the objective of the hackathon?

Renaud Beaupain: The hackathon, organized this spring, was the conclusion to the different courses that the students from our MSc in Investment Banking and Capital Markets had attended over 2 semesters. It has been developed as a transversal project where students must work collaboratively on a concrete business-related project. They were expected to make use of all the methods, tools and data they had explored during their MSc to propose solutions to a series of topics/issues. This project was therefore by nature very tangible and applied to business, as it aimed to propose a workable solution to a series of problems identified by Refinitiv, one of the partners of the program. The themes proposed this year were specifically related to M&A deals, ESG indicators and portfolio monitoring.

Alida Hafiz: The universe of academia is very important to Refinitiv; therefore, the hackathon was a great opportunity to work on a new interactive project with students. The aim was to have the students rethink our solutions from the point of view of the end user.

Both data and technology are 2 key topics in many industries, especially in finance. Helping bright students to discover the professional world in this context is very inspiring for us.
It is also interesting to see how the next generation sees finance and searches for tomorrow’s ideas.

Can you explain how the online tools were used to enable to teams to work on these themes?

Renaud Beaupain: Our initial aim had been to run a traditional hackathon made of a series of physical activities and meetings between participants and with Refinitiv. The COVID-19 measures, however, changed the context of the project and we decided to develop and innovate with a fully online hackathon. It has been a real success thanks to the reactivity and commitment of Refinitiv and the engagement of the students. We used a mix of online solutions, including Zoom for videoconferencing and Miro for online collaboration between participants. The Refinitiv team kicked off the meeting in April 2020 and subsequently met remotely with our students to provide support as well as intermediary and final feedback on the prototypes they had developed.

Alida Hafiz: At first, we started organizing regular face-to-face meetings, but the pandemic situation forced us to adapt. Thankfully, our products are available from home.

I made sure all of the students were using our Eikon Web Version, and I quickly realized that many of them had already downloaded our platform onto their laptops. It was easy for us to plan remote meetings to assist the students, provide them with the data they needed, and guide them.

We are currently launching a new product called Refinitiv Workspace, which has a lighter product footprint and an improved workflow. With greater mobility and a seamless experience, we believe that the launch of Refinitiv Workspace could not come at a better time, as it accommodates all virtual office set-ups.

What were the outcomes of this hackathon?

Renaud Beaupain: Each team developed innovative solutions to the themes identified by Refinitiv. I was impressed by the level of involvement of the students throughout this complex period, by the quality of their final prototypes, as well as by their ability to apply the knowledge that they acquired since the start of their program. Several teams, for example, developed interesting financial technology proposals, made extensive use of the Python code (learnt during the program) and retrieved their data through the Eikon API.

Alida Hafiz: We had some brilliant propositions, which may lead to further discussions with our legal team and product managers. We believe that several projects could be valuable for our clients. This is very impressive because it means that, in only a few weeks, most of the students understood not only the product, but also the needs of the market. They developed powerful and useful tools to answer real needs.

How has the initiative helped the MSc students and Refinitiv?

Renaud Beaupain: Students have developed a 360-degree view of managing a FinTech project. They have learnt how to deliver a business solution within a specific timeframe, how to manage group relations (including remotely) and in some cases, how to collaborate across time zones. They have invested their time and their energy in their own projects, and they have applied what they learnt in their courses. They have also developed listening skills to understand the needs of a client and to adjust to feedback. For me this was the perfect conclusion to the program!

Alida Hafiz: The students were curious, smart and full of energy. It was refreshing to work with them, and we enjoyed their sharp minds and fresh eyes on our products.
Hackathons mutually benefit both schools and Refinitiv. I look forward to taking part in this experience again.

*Refinitiv is one of the world’s largest providers of financial markets data and infrastructure, serving over 40,000 institutions in approximately 190 countries. It provides leading data and insights, trading platforms, and open data and technology platforms that connect a thriving global financial markets community – driving performance in trading, investment, wealth management, regulatory compliance, market data management, enterprise risk and fighting financial crime. For more information, visit: www.refinitiv.com

IÉSEG