Finance Education in Myanmar: Demand Grows as Capital Market Develops

financial education in Myanmar

A student takes notes during a Bloomberg Terminal course at the Myanmar Institute of Business, August 2016/ Courtesy of the Myanmar Institute of Business)

Traditionally, the small number of domestic investors in Myanmar have constructed investment portfolios primarily centered around cash, real-estate, commodities or currencies via position-trading. That’s beginning to change as Myanmar’s first stock exchange began trading earlier this year and more of the general population is being exposed to the financial services industry.

This could be an interesting development for rugged international investors seeking frontier-market level returns less correlated with the recently murky and volatile developed markets, but not for the traditional reasons one may think. Myanmar, which emerged from a 60-year military dictatorship in 2011, has had a lack of public education development focused on finance, creating an intriguing market for private education focused on finance partly evidenced by the boom in investor education events and financial literacy programs around Yangon.

Although trading volume on the Yangon Stock Exchange (YSX) has dwindled over the past few months, the public interest level surrounding the stock exchange, investing, trading and finance in general seems to be growing. The increasing demand for financial knowledge, driven significantly by Yangon’s expanding network of young professionals interested in the financial services industry, has resulted in YSX, companies and institutions developing various courses, seminars and events revolving around financial and investment literacy. Their new program frameworks could serve as interesting examples for foreign investors contemplating an entry into the private education market in Myanmar.

YSX has been making strides towards becoming one of the prominent destinations for investment education in Yangon.
“Due to little [experience] by the Myanmar investors, education is very important for the Myanmar stock market,” says U Thet Htun Oo, Executive Senior Manager of the Administration Department at YSX.

“Currently, we are conducting a stock exchange tour program every Wednesday, inviting students to visit from various schools in Yangon,” adds U Thet Htun Oo. “We have had over 1,100 students attend the program so far.”
Additionally, YSX is in the process of developing two different one-month finance courses that they are hoping to launch sometime before the end of the year.

“One course will be an introductory course covering topics such as “what are shares, what is a stock exchange, what is an investment”, topics like that,” according to Mr. Kensuke Yazu, an adviser to YSX. “The second course will be more advanced.”

Securities companies such as CB Securities, AYAtrust Securities and KBZ Stirling Coleman Securities (KBZSC) have been regularly implementing education initiatives of their own. While securities companies predominantly provide advisory services for investors with brokerage accounts, they have begun providing educational material for both current investors and potential investors, as more educated investors means better business for the securities companies.

“We are holding seminars at UMFCCI as well as in Mandalay,” says U Thaung Han, Managing Director at CB Securities. “We also have many talks on television regarding investor education and knowledge sharing. We do it frequently, as do the other security companies.”

Arguably the best example so far of tapping into the growing private finance education market is the Myanmar Institute of Business (MIB). Since opening its doors at Myanmar Plaza in May, MIB has generated a great deal of interest among young professionals and students throughout Yangon. In fact, it has generated enough interest in its first few months to already have plans to build a stand-alone building in the near future.

The institute offers certificate and diploma programs in finance, entrepreneurship and leadership. MIB even plans to begin offering Masters (M.S.) of Finance courses, taught by faculty from CIFF Business School in Spain, within the next few months.

“Most of our students are working professionals already working in the financial services industry,” says Mr. Min Mg Mg Thant, executive director of MIB. “They want to learn more about finance, they want to invest in the stock market. So they come here.”

Besides offering certificate and diploma courses, MIB has organized a number of educational seminars, workshops, and events ranging from Bloomberg Terminal tutorials to lectures from international investment professionals. The institute even hosted a currency trading challenge on August 5th, with Khun Walter taking home the $500 USD grand prize after making some impressive trades.

“With events like the trading challenge, I think we will get more attention with the Myanmar people,” adds Mr. Min Mg Mg Thant.

Khun Walter is a prime example of Myanmar’s new-age, tech-savvy learners who are venturing into the field of finance and driving the demand for private finance education. He has a B.A. in Law from Myanmar and an ITE Certificate in Tourism from Singapore, with no formal training or educational background in finance. Yet while working as a travel agent and café waiter in Singapore, Khun became interested in finance, so he decided to teach himself forex trading and technical analysis.

“Trading was attractive to me as I believed I could do it without having to get an MBA or a finance degree,” says Khun. “I was able to learn by reading fundamental and technical analysis material from various gurus online.”

Now back in Myanmar, Khun says he’s always on the lookout for seminars or events similar to MIB’s trading challenge around town. He even plans on opening his first trading account this week since returning to Myanmar.

As Myanmar becomes ever-increasingly connected to the rest of the world, more young people like Khun throughout the country of 53 million will presumably take a larger interest in finance as the access to information and educational resources expands. If Yangon’s active investing focused Facebook groups, which have over 31,000 members, indicate anything, it’s that the access to educational resources is rapidly increasing, contributing to this growing demand for financial education.

“Investing and the stock market are new things here [in Myanmar],” one Facebook user from the Yangon Stock Exchange Investors Club tells me. “I’ve seen the stock market in movies and the news. It seems exciting and interesting. I want to become an expert and make a lot of money,” she adds.

Though some may end up disappointed to find that they can’t simply become Yangon’s “Wolf of Wall Street” overnight, Myanmar should still see a significant increase in demand for finance education as the country continues to open up. The public education system is in no position to meet this demand anytime soon, leaving an appealing slice of the private education market for experienced foreign and repatriate investors who have the means to provide first-rate financial education to an emerging populace of learners hungry for change.

Author: Christopher Markey

Chris has a Master of Science in Agricultural Economics from Texas A & M University. The above article is part of a research project on the evolution of the financial market in Yangon that Chris was involved in as part of his internship at Consult-Myanmar Co Ltd in Yangon.

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