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Financial Database Certification – Updated

Introduction

 

A useful means to improve the technical knowledge of students (and librarians) is to undertake Certification in financial databases, such as Bloomberg, Datastream and Thomson ONE.com. Recently, the certification scheme for Bloomberg, with the official title of ‘Bloomberg Essentials Training Program’ has changed – this revised post highlights these changes.

I have successfully undertaken certification for a number of financial databases over the last four years, which has helped me in my role in the Business Data Service. This gave me the authority to be able to stand in front of students in a training session, having gone through the process myself and therefore being in a position to answer any questions relating to certification.

This article sets out my experiences and thoughts on database certification, comparing and contrasting some of those available.

The certification process involves becoming familiar with content relating to a database. This is represented in a series of videos (Datastream and Thomson ONE.com) and help screens (Bloomberg) on which the examination(s) are based. Upon successful completion of the examination(s), a certificate is emailed to the candidate, which can then be added to their curriculum vitae.

A candidate is required to be a current student at the university offering the database, to be covered by the usage licence and therefore entitled to use the product and undertake certification, for which there is no charge.

I will consider Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters certification schemes.

 

Bloomberg Professional

 

Bloomberg Logo

 

 

 

 

The certification scheme has changed from 16th July 2015. As such, there is new content, display format (Help pages, rather than videos) and examinations. In order to keep up to date and be in a position to better advise students attending my Bloomberg Certification training courses, I successfully retook the examinations for certification (October 2015) – the changes are detailed below.

 

Access

Help screens are accessed at a Bloomberg terminal using the BESS function. Type BESS on the command line (top left) and press the Enter/Go button.

 

Flexibility

Having to be at a terminal to view the help screens and take examinations limits flexibility. This is because it restricts students to the opening hours of the buildings in which the Bloomberg terminals are located.

 

Help screens (Research content)

Enter the BESS [Bloomberg Essentials Online Training Program] function code on the command line and press the Enter/Go key. Then select ‘Instructions’ to get the screen below:

 

BESS Oct15

 

The Core Program includes: Getting Started with Bloomberg, The Bloomberg Excel Add-In, Bloomberg News and Research Functionality and Bloomberg Launchpad. The Market Sector program includes: Equity Essentials, Fixed Income Essentials, FX Essentials and Commodity Essentials. The screens assume no prior knowledge and develop a user to a moderate level of competence, covering numerous functions.

There are a huge number of functions (around 15,000) even after a large reduction following a recent review – this is reflected in the comment from Tom Secunda (Bloomberg co-founder): “A function that’s brilliant and never used is worth zero”. [1]

 

Examinations

Questions are based on the content within the help screens. There are no sample examination questions. A candidate would need to obtain a Bloomberg Personal Login and use this to log in to Bloomberg prior to taking the examinations. This means the system knows who is taking an examination and their name would appear on the certificate, when examinations have successfully been completed.

Obtaining a personal login is a quick process, taking a couple of minutes – which I normally guide students through after a training session or at a later date by arrangement. Examinations are started from the BESS screen.

It takes a minimum of two examinations (Core [25 questions, multiple choice] plus one Market Sector, e.g. Equity Essentials [25 questions, multiple choice]) to qualify for a certificate. The Core examination must be taken and passed prior to undertaking a Market Sector examination and the date an examination is attempted is at the student’s discretion. The pass mark is 75% or better and an examination can be retaken once only. Students could of course choose to take more than one market sector examination, for which they would receive further certificates and demonstrate a wider grasp of the Bloomberg Professional service.

There is no time limit, but an examination needs to be completed in a single session – it isn’t possible to get part way through and return the next day, as terminals are closed down when a library closes.

 

Certificate

After successfully completing a Market Sector examination, a dialog box gives a prompt to ‘Request Acknowledgement of Completion’ to confirm the email address to be used for sending the certificate. This is emailed as an image file attachment which can then be printed and/or saved.

 

 

Thomson Reuters

Print

 

Certification is currently provided in three areas: Datastream, Thomson ONE.com Investment Banking, and Eikon. Having undertaken the first two, I will deal with these, which follow the same format.

 

Access

Videos are web-based: at Thomson Reuters Product Certification and it is a quick process to enter name and email address (university) each time when using a public PC, or details can be ‘remembered’ for seamless progression if using a private PC.

 

Flexibility

Having web access adds greatly to flexibility when preparing for examinations as viewing could be off-campus, in a hall of residence or private house, for example, and therefore not limited to library opening hours.

 

Training modules

Thomson Reuters takes a different approach to the videos, in terms of timing, with narrower topic areas and hence shorter times for each video. Format: screen shots with dialogue boxes and an audio commentary – plug in headphones to the computer base unit.

Datastream: Around 130 videos are available, totalling about 6 hours of content. These typically last between one and seven minutes – much shorter than those for Bloomberg (18 – 35 minutes). This means that if a student is looking for guidance on a particular area (e.g. exporting a chart as an image file), it is possible to go directly to a video for this area, rather than have to go through a much longer video. As with Bloomberg, they assume no prior knowledge.

Thomson ONE.com Investment Banking: Around 40 videos, between one and six minutes in length, for total content time of about 1 ¾ hours.

Click on the required option on the certification page (e.g. Datastream) and follow the prompts to view the videos.

 

Thomson Reuters Product Certification

Thomson Reuters Product Certification

 

Examination

Questions are based on the content in the videos. Three sample questions are available from the certification page (see above) for each product.

There is a single examination for Datastream and Thomson ONE.com Investment Banking. Format is 30 questions, multiple choice, with a pass mark of 80% or more. An examination can be re-taken once only. So a slightly higher mark is needed than with Bloomberg (75%), but with Bloomberg, a minimum of two examinations is required to get a certificate.

Time limit: 60 minutes. This certainly focusses the mind and makes undertaking the examination more stressful, compared to Bloomberg, which has no time limit.

As with the training videos, the examination can be taken from any location with web access. Click on the product option (e.g. Datastream) and a further option then becomes visible on the left hand menu: Step 2: ‘Ready to take the certification ?’. Once selected, this sends an email with a link within to begin the examination.

 

Certificate

This is emailed as an image file immediately after successfully completing the examination, which can be printed and/or saved.

 

Training provision

A 30-minute session covering the steps involved in certification for the database in question.

 

Evolution of training

Adapting to the reaction of students in the first training sessions, I added an introductory section in the middle, which covers searching and the type of information/data available within each database. This allows students to get an appreciation of the ‘look and feel’ of the product, rather than just concentrating on the key steps in certification. This definitely improved the training and resulted in a more rounded course and better student attention.

 

Student demand

Responding to this is a bit of an art … what other commitments and events can reduce demand or result in students who have booked a place not attending? Reading week is to be avoided – most undergraduate students have gone home. Other factors include jobs fairs which are promoted at short notice and end of year examinations (April/May), when demand for certification training is markedly reduced.

 

Learning options

In the training sessions I suggest a couple of potential approaches to preparing for certification examinations. First, spend a few hours each week building familiarity gradually. And, secondly, waiting until directly after the end of year examinations and putting in a concentrated effort to complete certification – seven days, for example.

 

Certification benefits – students

 

Employability: an additional qualification which can help to set students apart from other candidates – who may otherwise have very similar qualifications.

Database overview: certification gives an overview of searching techniques for a database, meaning they can make more effective use of the content available from a database. For example, completing Datastream certification would mean an MSc student on a finance-related course would be fully prepared to search for quantitative data in support of their dissertation.

Flexible Working: students can progress at their own pace and choose when to take the examination(s).

 

Certification benefits – library staff

 

Builds technical knowledge: to improve capabilities when answering student research enquiries.

I did this by effectively summarising the certification content. This involved compiling comprehensive notes on areas I felt I needed to memorise (from the videos in Bloomberg) and developing a certification manual (for Datastream and Thomson ONE.com Investment Banking). This gave me familiarity with the content and when completed, a quick reference source to consult. Once the examination(s) were completed, I developed a training course to guide students in the certification process, thus passing on my expertise.

Flexible working: I could progress at my own pace, taking into account other work commitments. Hence, the preparation for certification could extend over many months. This is reflected in my certification completion dates: Bloomberg (November 2011), Datastream (February 2013) and Thomson ONE.com Investment Banking (January 2014).

Database promotion: a means to promote the use of Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters databases to students, emphasising the benefits to be had.

 

Conclusions

 

The provision of the certification schemes by Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters is a great benefit and represents a worthwhile investment of time for both students and library staff.

By providing certification training to guide students and promote success in the certification process, the library is helping achieve a university goal – to improve the employability of students.

In setting the level of difficulty, Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters have struck the right balance – sufficiently rigorous to be seen as having value by employers, but not so difficult that only a few can pass the examinations.

The certification training sessions provided within the library have been successful, with continuing demand over a number of years.

 

[1] Edgecliffe-Johnson, A. Bloomberg service in $100m revamp. Financial Times. 27 February 2012, p.1.

[Back]

Student webinar sessions from Thomson Reuters

3 February 2015 Leave a comment

Thomson Reuters logo Thomson Reuters provides student training resources, specifically Question & Answer sessions in the form of webinars.

The products covered are Datastream and ThomsonONE.com, although they also cover Thomson Rueters Eikon (which we do not have at The University of Manchester).

Theses sessions are free to current students of an institution that is a Thomson Reuters customer. You simply need your University email address to sign up.

Upcoming dates:

  • Thomson ONE: Wednesday, 11 February 2015, 2pm to 3pm (GMT)
  • Datastream: Tuesday, 17 February 2015, 10am to 11am (GMT)

Thomson Reuters Student Training Resources website

Financial Database Certification

25 September 2014 1 comment

Introduction

An updated post is available, posted 16/10/2015.

Through the many posts by Mark Greenwood in this Business Research Plus blog, useful solutions to technical problems have been provided – how to gather data from a specialised financial database, for a dissertation, for example. Another way to improve the technical knowledge of students (and librarians) in such endeavours is to undertake Certification in these financial databases.

I have successfully undertaken certification for a number of financial databases over the last three years, which has helped me in my role in the Business Data Service. This gave me the authority to be able to stand in front of students in a training session, having gone through the process myself and therefore being in a position to answer any questions relating to certification.

This article sets out my experiences and thoughts on database certification, comparing and contrasting some of those available.

The certification process involves becoming familiar with content relating to a database. This is represented in a series of videos on which the examination(s) are based. Upon successful completion of the examination(s), a certificate is emailed to the candidate, which can then be added to their curriculum vitae.

A candidate is required to be a current student at the university offering the database, to be covered by the usage licence and therefore entitled to use the product and undertake certification, for which there is no charge.

I will consider Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters certification schemes.

Bloomberg Professional

Bloomberg Logo

Although the certification process for Bloomberg Professional is commonly known as ‘Bloomberg Certification’, the official title is ‘Bloomberg Essentials Training Program’, which appears on the certificate (when the examinations have been successfully completed).

Access

Videos are viewed and examinations taken at a Bloomberg terminal.

Flexibility

Having to be at a terminal to view the videos and take examinations limits flexibility. This is because it restricts students to the opening hours of the buildings in which the Bloomberg terminals are located.

Videos

Enter the BESS [Bloomberg Essentials Online Training Program] function code on the command line and press the Enter/GO key to get the screen below:

Bloomberg BESS screen

Bloomberg Essentials Online Training Program

This displays the four core and four market sector videos, which range in length from about 18 to 35 minutes, for total content time of around 3 ½ hours. They assume no prior knowledge and develop a student to a moderate level of competence, covering background, searching, content available and numerous functions. The format is screen shots from Bloomberg, with a text commentary on the right side plus an audio commentary, listened to through headphones (socket at rear of the keyboard) or speakers in the keyboard.

There are a huge number of functions (around 15,000) even after a large reduction following a recent review – this is reflected in the comment from Tom Secunda (Bloomberg co-founder): “A function that’s brilliant and never used is worth zero”. [1]

Examinations

Questions are based on the content within the videos. There are no sample examination questions. A candidate would need to obtain a Bloomberg Personal Login and use this to log in to Bloomberg prior to taking the examinations. This means the system knows who is taking an examination and their name would appear on the certificate, when examinations have successfully been completed.

Obtaining a personal login is a quick process, taking a couple of minutes – which I normally guide students through after a training session or at a later date by arrangement. Examinations are started from the BESS screen.

It takes a minimum of two examinations (Core [30 questions, multiple choice] plus one Market Sector, e.g. Equity Essentials [17 questions, multiple choice]) to qualify for a certificate. As noted in the screen shot above, the pass mark is 75% or better and an examination can be re-taken once only. Students could of course choose to take more than one market sector examination, for which they would receive further certificates and demonstrate a wider grasp of the Bloomberg Professional service.

There is no time limit, but an examination needs to be completed in a single session – it isn’t possible to get part way through and return the next day, as terminals are closed down when a library closes.

Certificate

Again, this option is on the BESS page, under the cryptic description of ‘Acknowledgment of Completion’, or to put it more simply: send me my certificate. This is emailed as an image file attachment which can then be printed and/or saved.

Thomson Reuters

Print

Certification is currently provided in three areas: Datastream, Thomson ONE.com Investment Banking, and Eikon. Having undertaken the first two, I will deal with these, which follow the same format.

Access

Videos are web-based: at Thomson Reuters Product Certification and it is a quick process to enter name and email address (university) each time when using a public PC, or details can be ‘remembered’ for seamless progression if using a private PC.

Flexibility

Having web access adds greatly to flexibility when preparing for examinations as viewing could be off-campus, in a hall of residence or private house, for example, and therefore not limited to library opening hours.

Training modules

Thomson Reuters takes a different approach to the videos, in terms of timing, with narrower topic areas and hence shorter times for each video. Format: screen shots with dialogue boxes and an audio commentary – plug in headphones to the computer base unit.

Datastream: Around 130 videos are available, totalling about 6 hours of content. These typically last between one and seven minutes – much shorter than those for Bloomberg (18 – 35 minutes). This means that if a student is looking for guidance on a particular area (e.g. exporting a chart as an image file), it is possible to go directly to a video for this area, rather than have to go through a much longer video. As with Bloomberg, they assume no prior knowledge.

Thomson ONE.com Investment Banking: Around 40 videos, between one and six minutes in length, for total content time of about 1 ¾ hours.

Click on the required option on the certification page (e.g. Datastream) and follow the prompts to view the videos.

Thomson Reuters Product Certification

Thomson Reuters Product Certification

Examination

Questions are based on the content in the videos. Three sample questions are available from the certification page (see above) for each product.

There is a single examination for Datastream and Thomson ONE.com Investment Banking. Format is 30 questions, multiple choice, with a pass mark of 80% or more. An examination can be re-taken once only. So a slightly higher mark is needed than with Bloomberg (75%), but with Bloomberg, a minimum of two examinations is required to get a certificate.

Time limit: 60 minutes. This certainly focusses the mind and makes undertaking the examination more stressful, compared to Bloomberg, which has no time limit.

As with the training videos, the examination can be taken from any location with web access. Click on the product option (e.g. Datastream) and a further option then becomes visible on the left hand menu: Step 2: ‘Ready to take the certification ?’. Once selected, this sends an email with a link within to begin the examination.

Certificate

This is emailed as an image file immediately after successfully completing the examination, which can be printed and/or saved.

Training provision

A 30-minute session covering the steps involved in certification for the database in question.

Evolution of training

Adapting to the reaction of students in the first training sessions, I added an introductory section in the middle, which covers searching and the type of information/data available within each database. This allows students to get an appreciation of the ‘look and feel’ of the product, rather than just concentrating on the key steps in certification. This definitely improved the training and resulted in a more rounded course and better student attention.

Student demand

Responding to this is a bit of an art … what other commitments and events can reduce demand or result in students who have booked a place not attending? Reading week is to be avoided – most undergraduate students have gone home. Other factors include jobs fairs which are promoted at short notice and end of year examinations (April/May), when demand for certification training is markedly reduced.

Learning options

In the training sessions I suggest a couple of potential approaches to preparing for certification examinations. First, spend a few hours each week building familiarity gradually. And, secondly, waiting until directly after the end of year examinations and putting in a concentrated effort to complete certification – seven days, for example.

Certification benefits – students

Employability: an additional qualification which can help to set students apart from other candidates – who may otherwise have very similar qualifications.

Database overview: certification gives an overview of searching techniques for a database, meaning they can make more effective use of the content available from a database. For example, completing Datastream certification would mean an MSc student on a finance-related course would be fully prepared to search for quantitative data in support of their dissertation.

Flexible Working: students can progress at their own pace and choose when to take the examination(s).

Certification benefits – library staff

Builds technical knowledge: to improve capabilities when answering student research enquiries.

I did this by effectively summarising the certification content. This involved compiling comprehensive notes on areas I felt I needed to memorise (from the videos in Bloomberg) and developing a certification manual (for Datastream and Thomson ONE.com Investment Banking). This gave me familiarity with the content and when completed, a quick reference source to consult. Once the examination(s) were completed, I developed a training course to guide students in the certification process, thus passing on my expertise.

Flexible working: I could progress at my own pace, taking into account other work commitments. Hence, the preparation for certification could extend over many months. This is reflected in my certification completion dates: Bloomberg (November 2011), Datastream (February 2013) and Thomson ONE.com Investment Banking (January 2014).

Database promotion: a means to promote the use of Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters databases to students, emphasising the benefits to be had.

Conclusions

The provision of the certification schemes by Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters is a great benefit and represents a worthwhile investment of time for both students and library staff.

By providing certification training to guide students and promote success in the certification process, the library is helping achieve a university goal – to improve the employability of students.

In setting the level of difficulty, Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters have struck the right balance – sufficiently rigorous to be seen as having value by employers, but not so difficult that only a few can pass the examinations.

The certification training sessions provided within the library have been successful, with continuing demand over a number of years.

[1] Edgecliffe-Johnson, A. Bloomberg service in $100m revamp. Financial Times. 27 February 2012, p.1. [Back]

Interested in finance? Test drive a database

23 September 2014 Leave a comment

Your interest in finance and financial markets could start with your university course, your career aspirations, intellectual curiosity, or a combination of all three. Whatever the reason, take one of the specialist financial databases for a quick test drive and get a glimpse of the world from the perspective of a finance professional.

Current students, and staff, at the University of Manchester have access to Bloomberg Professional from Bloomberg, Thomson ONE.com from Thomson Reuters, and Capital IQ from Standard & Poor’s.

Bloomberg Professional is a great database for getting the professional experience – you just have to think of a large, quoted company, find it and start to browse around. Bloomberg is only available on specific PCs so you have to go to the library.

Once you have Bloomberg running, type the company name in the command line, select the auto-matched series, and choose DES (description) for your command. The screenshot below shows the result for Samsung.

Bloomberg overview description of Samsung (click to enlarge)

Bloomberg overview description of Samsung (click to enlarge)

If you are unsure where to go on your test drive there are various Bloomberg posts that could give you inspiration.

Thomson ONE.com from Thomson Reuters is not quite as eye-catching as Bloomberg but it does have a web interface, so you can use it from any PC where you have Internet Explorer as your browser and can run the VPN software to access university resources.

Use the search box to find a large, quoted company by name and you get a standard overview report. Explore the different sections of the report and then the different tabs. The following screenshot is for Amazon.

T1com-Amazon

Thomson ONE company overview of Amazon

There are various Thomson ONE.com posts to give you tips. In addition, you can also use one of our library guides to help get started.

Capital IQ, like Thomson ONE.com, has a web interface – you need VPN and a special username and password. Getting started is the same – search for a large company by name and start with the default overview report. With Capital IQ the large list of options to explore appears as a list of headings on the left.

capitalIQ-walmart

Capital IQ company overview of Wal-Mart (click to expand)

This screenshot is for Wal-Mart Stores (who own the Asda in the UK).

When exploring any of these databases it is best to start with a large company as more information will be available, in general large, quoted US companies as the most studied by professionals are the best.

Bloomberg for Education Symposium

25 September 2012 3 comments

BloombergLast Thursday (20th Sept) I attended the Bloomberg for Education Symposium at Bloomberg L.P. Finsbury Square, London.

The theme of the day was the skills that graduates need for a career in finance, and how Bloomberg can help Universities to equip students for the world of work.

One key message is that you don’t have to do a finance/business degree to get a graduate position in finance.

What you do need is to demonstrate enthusiasm for working in the financial sector: your degree can do this but it is by no means the only way. Talent is useful, but remember that there are a large range of types of jobs and correspondingly a large range of appropriate talents. [I would struggle to get most jobs at Bloomberg because they and looking for business fluency in at least 2 languages and I don’t think English and Latin would be sufficient.] Finally, recruiters are looking for a willingness to work hard, since no matter how closely your studies match your first job you will always have lots to learn.

How can Bloomberg help?

You can use  Bloomberg Professional to demonstrate your interest in a career in finance. Using the same system used by professionals gives you a greater understanding of how professionals monitor financial information, and helps to bridge the gap between academic theory and current practice. Functions BU (Bloomberg University) and CHEAT (Cheatsheets) are good starting points for self-study.

Bloomberg are also promoting the BAT (Bloomberg Assessment Test). This is a standardised test that provides aspiring financial professionals with a measure of their strengths and weaknesses compared with the global average in a range of topics: economics, financial markets, verbal skills, analytical reasoning … There is also an optional feature that allows recruiters to search for matching candidates based on their scores in the various topics.

BAT website screenshot (click to enlarge)

In terms of using  Bloomberg Professional, Bloomberg choose to highlight the Bloomberg Industries (BI) function. This provides users with an industry view including key drivers, company comparisons and industry specific data. (See previous post on Mobile phone industry data on Bloomberg.

Researching companies for your career

17 September 2012 1 comment

remember nothing impresses an employer more in the job interview than hearing a candidate speak knowledgeably about their company (cjbsinfo, 2011)

At the welcome presentations today, it was clear students should start thinking about their career plan as early as possible. A good opportunity then to mention how library company information resources can help.

Company profile – for example use Business Source Premier and the Company Profile link.

Business News – for example use Factiva to find about recent press items about specific companies.

Market Research – for example use Keynote (UK cos) or GMID (Global Market Information Database) to research key market developments.

For more detail: Careers help online (Apr 2012), How to target and research potential employers (Jun 2011), from Careers category.

Refer to the shiny new University of Manchester Careers Blog – a great place to start learning about the support available from the University Careers Service like the Finance Business and Management Fair on 18th Oct 2012.

References

cjbsinfo (2011) “Pre-interview database checklist” University of Cambridge, Judge Business School, Information and Library Services blog. Available at: http://www.jbs.cam.ac.uk/infolib/2011/06/10/pre-interview-database-checklist/ [Accessed 17 Sept. 2012]

Linkedin – Engaging new App for iPad

3 July 2012 1 comment

 As part of our commitment to supporting you with all your research needs, over the last year we’ve been recommending some useful business apps for you to download to your tablet devices, some of which are for accessing our databases and some which are for useful external sources.

The professional social network Linkedin has released an iPad app in an effort to encourage more users to engage with the service. Despite recent password protection issues the site is going from strength to strength and this new app will dazzle their competitors.

This app is designed like a personal assistant, with features such as calendar integration and a focus on Linkedin’s personalised news feed, which shows what news articles are popular among friends. Their mobile platform is the fastest growing consumer service on Linkedin and they are aspiring to be the site which every professional visits throughout the day, hence their new interactive app.

Although Linkedin’s 150 million members make it one of the world’s most popular social networks, only a third of users check the website daily. In comparison, more than half of Facebook members use the site more than once every 24 hours.  

The iPad app is an attempt to increase engagement with the site by adding bonus features and benefits.

Key features of the new app include the chance to:

• Find and connect with more than 161 million members worldwide.
• Stay up-to-date with people in your network.
• Sync your calendar to get LinkedIn profile information about the people you’re meeting with.
• View and save recommended jobs.
• Read the latest industry news.
• Keep up-to-date with your groups.
• Share content with your network.

The app is free and designed for both iPhone and iPad devices.

Remember if you’re using an iPad make certain to add the MBS Library Service page to your Home Screen for easy access to all the Resources we have to offer you for your research. Simply open our page then tap the arrow in a box symbol next to the top URL line and then select “Add to Home Screen”. You can even edit the name of the Web Icon, after you’ve done this – tap the “Add” button.