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The CME Group Foundation Financial Innovation Laboratory in Ulster University Business School has marked its first birthday with a visit by its American founding funders and the US Consul General in Northern Ireland, Daniel Lawton.

Resulting from a strategic partnership between Ulster University Business School, CME Group Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the CME Group, and Invest Northern Ireland, the laboratory houses the most technically advanced software to provide students and visitors with hands-on experience of a dynamic trading environment, comparable to an investment bank.

Representatives of the CME Group Foundation travelled from Chicago to join Professor Marie McHugh, Dean of Ulster University Business School and Mr Lawton to hear about the many milestones achieved in the laboratory’s first year.

Professor Marie McHugh explains: “The launch of this facility was particularly timely given the ongoing expansion of the fintech sector within Northern Ireland.  Our goal through this collaboration with CME was to help develop a talent pool of highly skilled individuals to maximise those new opportunities.

“Our original aim was to run two Financial Services Academies but in fact we managed to populate three with a total of 54 students completing the training.  To date, 48 of these students have been offered full-time jobs within the Financial Services Sector.  All of the students took an examination with a 100 per cent pass rate in the most recent Academy.

“In addition, students are also offered the Bloomberg Markets Concepts course which provides an introduction to economics, equities, fixed income and foreign exchange.  We are absolutely delighted with the progress achieved so far and are already in advanced planning for the next series of Academies.  The facilities provided by the Laboratory have also had a significant effect on the number of applicants for our BSc Hons Finance and Investment programme which has more than doubled to 64 for the 2016 intake.

“Our partnership with CME has been invaluable, not only for the funding provided by their Foundation, but also for the practical and academic advice and guidance given by their local team.  It is particularly pleasing that student satisfaction levels have also increased with Finance at Ulster University continuing to be ranked in the top 6 Institutions in the UK by the National Student Survey.  We are now looking forward to the 2016/17 academic year when we would like to include additional companies from within the sector."

“We are pleased to see the exceptional results that the Financial Innovation Laboratory has generated in its first year,” said Alison Hamilton, Executive Director, Head of CME Group in Belfast. “Innovation is an integral part of CME Group’s DNA, and we are committed to supporting projects like this which help educate and develop talent. We look forward to being part of the Innovation Laboratory in its second year.”

Speaking at the event U.S. Consul General Daniel Lawton said: "I congratulate everyone who has contributed to the success of the CME Group Foundation Financial Innovation Laboratory.  This one-year-old facility has already helped strengthen Northern Ireland’s position as a financial services hub and as an attractive location for two-way Transatlantic trade and investment.  I wish the supporters, staff, and students of this strategic partnership continued success.‎"