Finance Dissertation Topics

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We have provided a selection of example finance dissertation topics below to help and inspire you.

Financial Markets

The ever-changing financial markets provide a consistent source of current topics that can be researched for your dissertation. Below are some ideas to get you started.

Example financial markets dissertation topic 1:

According to Barrett (2011), ‘one of the financial instruments of mass destruction, commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS for short) were at the toxic heart of the credit crunch, providing a fast route to cheap debt… but now, there are hopes that the real estate securitisation markets could creak back into life’ – a critical appraisal.

The credit crisis has indeed left a trail of destruction in financial markets, but opportunities to learn from the mistakes of the past abound. This study undertakes an extensive literature review of commercial mortgage-backed securities and considers whether there is a strong future for the product, whilst taking note of the lessons of the past decade. Additionally, the study utilises a primary research method, with the analysis of one-on-one interviews with five leading figures in the City. Finally, it concludes with recommendations for how this market can act responsibly in the future.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Baum, A. (2009) Commercial real estate investment: A strategic approach. London: Estates Gazette.
  • Brealey, R. and Myers, S. (2008) Principles of corporate finance. London: McGraw Hill.
  • Brueggeman, W.B. and Fisher, D.D. (2008) Real estate finance and investments (13th edn). London: McGraw-Hill.

Example financial markets dissertation topic 2:

Quantitative easing: The controversial approach of the Bank of England

Even within the Bank of England itself, the approach of quantitative easing to the current financial crisis has been riven by controversy. This study examines the methods by which the Monetary Policy Committee arrives at its decision, and takes a particular interest in the views of the former member of the Committee, Professor Andrew Sentance, who was a vociferous opponent to the rounds of quantitive easing undertaken by the Bank. The author will seek to interview Prof. Sentance (currently at the University of Warwick) to gain a greater understanding of the dilemmas faced by the Committee.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Joyce, M. (2012) ‘Quantitative easing and other unconventional monetary policies: Bank of England conference summary’, Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin. London: Bank of England.
  • Joyce, M., Tong, M. and Woods, R. (2011) ‘The United Kingdom’s quantitative easing policy: Design, operation and impact’, Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin. London: Bank of England.
  • Sentance, A. (2011) ‘The UK’s inflation problem: Selling England by the pound?’, Speech given by Andrew Sentence, at the Institute of Economic Affairs, State of the Economy Conference, London, 17 February 2011.

Example financial markets dissertation topic 3:

Given the on-going effects of the global recession, what measures should be enacted to regulate credit rating agencies so as to minimise the potential for previous mistakes within the sector being repeated?

Advancing three interlocking hypothesises, this dissertation assess each with reference to existing academic literature upon the subject area and through the collation of primary research. First, to what extent can the credit rating agencies be blamed for giving investment grade credit ratings to toxic securities? Second, as no mathematical model exists that accurately predicts the risks inherent in such types of derivatives, is it appropriate to suggest that the credit rating agencies should not have given credit ratings to mortgage-backed securities? Third, because there was no sectoral incentive to ensure that the credit ratings given were of high quality, what regulatory measures can be enacted to safeguard against such an approach being adopted in the future?

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Ashcraft, A.B. and Schuermann, T. (2008) Understanding the securitization of subprime mortgage credit. Hanover, MA: Now Publishers Incorporated.
  • Gupta, V., Mittal, R.K. and Bhalla, V.K. (2010) ‘The role of the credit rating agencies in the financial market crisis’, Journal of Development and Agricultural Economics, Vol. 7, pp. 268-276.
  • Hunt, J.P. (2009) ‘Credit rating agencies and the ‘Worldwide Credit Crisis’: The limits of reputation, the insufficiency of reform, and a proposal for improvement’, Columbia Business Law Review, Vol. 1, 2009, pp. 109-209.

Example financial markets dissertation topic 4:

An analysis of the motivational factors encouraging British nationals to become expat workers in Spain

This is a dissertation that seeks to be primarily focused on the collection of new data. Though there is a need for all research to be grounded in existing academic opinion and literature this dissertation uses such literature purely as a theoretical backdrop. Accordingly, the majority of the research revolves around interviews with 150 British expats and their motivation for living and working abroad. Issues such as cultural diversity, climate and economic rewards are discussed as well as issues pertaining to financial governance and taxation.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Brewster, C. (1995) ‘Effective expatriate training’, in Selmer, J. (ed.), Expatriate management: New ideas for international business. Westport, CT: Quorum Books.
  • Deshpande, S.P. and Viswesvaran, C. (1992) ‘Is cross-cultural training of expatriate managers effective: A meta-analysis’, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Vol. 16, pp. 295-310.
  • Dowling, P.J., Welch, D.E. and Schuler, R.S. (1998) International human resource management: Managing people in a multinational context. Cincinnati, OH: South-Western College Publishing.

Corporate Finance

Corporate finance is a popular module taken as part of many finance degrees, and it’s an area that students regularly choose to focus on for their dissertations. Take a look at our topic suggestions we’ve listed to guide you in selecting your own dissertation subject.

Example corporate finance dissertation topic 1:

Lines of credit in corporate finance: A post-global-crisis case study

This dissertation evaluates the decision making factors that lead organisations and firms to use either cash or bank lines of credit in corporate liquidity management. In so doing issues relating to viable liquidity substitutes are investigated as well as the need for firms to maintain high cash flows.  The dissertation suggests that firms need to maintain high cash flows if they are to remain compliant with covenants, and that banks restrict access to credit facilities where firms are found guilty of covenant violations. This is a highly topical dissertation that can be moulded to a number of global arenas.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Demiroglu, C. and James, C. (2011) ‘The use of banklines of credit in corporate liquidity management: A review of empirical evidence’, Journal of Banking & Finance, Vol. 35(4), pp. 775-782.
  • Sufi, A. (2009) ‘Bank lines of credit in corporate finance: An empirical analysis’, The Review of Financial Studies, Vol. 22(3), pp. 1057-1088.

Shipping Finance

Thinking of tackling a shipping finance subject in your final year undergraduate or masters dissertation? It’s a fascinating area to choose, and we’ve gathered some brilliant shipping finance dissertation ideas to help you on your way.

Example shipping finance dissertation topic 1:

Shipping finance in Singapore: A case study of current options

Singapore is an international shipping hub, and ship-building remains a profitable activity on the island. This study examines the options for ship owners based in Singapore who seek to finance new builds as well as reconstruction projects. Banks remain a predominant source of funding, even in the wake of the financial crisis, which has seen numerous banks seek to reduce their exposure to shipping firms. This dissertation undertakes interviews with three ship owners in order to break through the discreet world of shipping finance, and presents a synthesised analysis of not only how they arrive at financing decisions, but an objective view of their best options.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Menkhoff, T. and Evers, H-D. (2011) The governance of Singapore’s knowledge clusters: off shore marine business and waterhub. Unpublished thesis, Munich University.
  • Zeng, Y.Y., Gong, S. andYe, H.Q. (2010) ‘Ship financing practices in Hong Kong: What changes has the financial tsunami wrought?’, International Centre for Maritime Studies, IFSPA 2010, 15-18 October 2010, Chengdu, China.

Example shipping finance dissertation topic 2:

Financial risk management in maritime finance

The volatility of the maritime industry is well known, and this volatility has been further affected by changes in the financing of ships as banks become more cautious lenders. This study considers how shipping finance is likely to become increasingly involved in loan securitisation, which will bring new risks to ship owners. This study considers the measures ship owners will need to undertake to prepare themselves for such changes, with particular regard to financial risk management. It evaluates maximum levels of risk, and how such levels can be determined, and speculates how this will change shipping investment and new build rates.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Albertijn, S., Bessler, W. and Drobetz, W. (2011) ‘Financing shipping companies and shipping operations: A risk-management perspective’, Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Vol. 23(4), pp. 73-82.
  • Idelhakker, B. and Hamza, F. (2011) ‘Risk management of oil maritime transportation’, Energy Systems, Vol. 2(1), pp. 67-82.

Financial Risk Management

If you’re looking to focus your degree on a subject that you’re sure to have covered in-depth in your degree, then as a core topic on many courses, financial risk management is a brilliant option. We’ve listed some topic suggestions below to assist you in generating ideas for your dissertation.

Example financial risk management dissertation topic 1:

A critical discussion of the use, for investment purposes, of standard deviation as a risk indicator

Risk is a critical component of investing, and within the field of investment analytical tools are used to guide investment decisions. Chief amongst these, historically, has been the use of standard deviation. This has been used because it can illustrate the volatility of a potential investment, and the correlated inherent risk associated with it, that can be correlated to its volatility. Using predominantly secondary sources this dissertation charts the development of the standard deviation over the last forty years and evaluates its on-going appropriateness as a mechanism by which to evaluate risk in the post credit crunch era.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Konno, H. and Yamazaki, H. (1991) ‘Mean-absolute deviation portfolio optimization model and its applications to Tokyo Stock Market’, Management Science, Vol. 37(5), p. 519-531.
  • Merton, R.C. (1973) ‘On the pricing of corporate debt: The risk structure of interest rates’, American Finance Association, December 1973, p. 1-35.
  • Tobin, J. (1958) ‘Liquidity preference as behavior towards risk’, Review of Economic Studies, Vol. 25(1), pp. 1-26.

Example financial risk management dissertation topic 2:

An analysis of the extent to the most important risk that international banks face in cross-border operations is political risk

As Garrett, Mahadeva and Sviridzenka note, ‘systemic risk among the network of international banking groups arises when financial stress threatens to criss-cross many national boundaries and expose imperfect international co-ordination’ (2011: 1). This paper considers this phenomenon and evaluates methods by which international banks may determine and mitigate risk in a global climate that is no less stressful today than it was ten, twenty or one hundred years ago. Political understanding is a key component of managing risk in this environment and must be evaluated carefully in order to contain risk. This study conducts interviews with a representative of the Bank of England and well as financial figureheads to develop a wider understanding of the problem.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Nolle, D.E. and Kelly, H.C. (2003) ‘Cross-border outsourcing and risk management for banks’, Capco Institute Journal of Financial Transformation, Vol. 8, pp. 63-72.
  • Garrett, R., Mahadeva, L. and Sviridzenka, K. (2011) ‘Mapping systemic risk in the international banking network’, Bank of England Working Paper No. 413, London: Bank of England.

Corporate Governance

If you’re keen to learn more about the rules and regulations that control companies, then corporate governance could be the subject for your dissertation. The following are just a few topic suggestions in this area to get you started.

Example corporate governance dissertation topic 1:

With reference to the Dutch banking sector and contemporary developments within corporate governance: To what extent is there now a closer correlation between the expectations of internal and external auditors?

The introduction of a new Dutch Corporate Governance code from 1st January 2009 has ushered in a new era of corporate governance within the Dutch banking sector. Underlying the reforms was a desire, as a consequence of the global credit crunch, to restore trust in the system. The reforms have centred upon three specific aspects: increasing governance within banks, audit, risk management, and remuneration policies. Three years into this new system this dissertation seeks to evaluate the extent to which the reforms have realised their creators’ intentions and does so via reference to the auditing and governance arrangements presently in existence within four Dutch banks. Accordingly, this dissertation supplements existing academic knowledge through conducting interviews with a number of senior banking officials so that this study advances understanding within the field.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Code Tabaksblat (Frijns, J., ed.) (2008) De Nederlandse corporate governance
  • Code. Available at: [accessed 27 May 2012].
  • Friesland Bank (2010), Financieel jaaroverzicht 2010, Friesland Bank: Leeuwarden, pp. 1-163.
  • Glover, S.M., Prawit, D.F. and Wood, D.A. (2008) ‘Internal audit sourcing arrangement and the external auditors’ reliance decision’, Contemporary Accounting Research, Vol. 25, pp. 193-213.

International Finance

Researching finance from an international perspective is a fantastic way to find a unique subject to cover in your dissertation. From covering global multinationals to the World Trade Organization, here are a few of our ideas we’ve put together for your inspiration.

Example international finance dissertation topic 1:

Since 2010, has the IMF done enough to overcome its perceived institutional illegitimacy and inefficiency?

According to its then Managing Director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the IMF agreed in 2010 to ‘the most fundamental governance overhaul in the Fund’s 65-year history and the biggest ever shift of influence in favour of emerging market and developing countries to recognize their growing role in the global economy’ (IMF, 2010). This was done in partial response to previous claims by, amongst others, Coffey and Riley, (2006), that the IMF lacks legitimacy and is inefficient. Using Strauss-Kahn’s pronouncement along with the academic opinions of Coffey and Riley this dissertation evaluates the post 2010 reforms to the governance of the IMF.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Coffey, P, and Riley, R. (2006) Reform of the international institutions: The IMF, World Bank and the WTO. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.
  • Seabrooke, L. (2007) ‘Legitimacy gaps in the world economy: Explaining the sources of the IMF’s legitimacy crisis’, International Politics, Vol. 44, pp. 250-268.
  • Suchman, M. C. (1995) ‘Managing legitimacy: Strategic and institutional approaches’, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 20, pp. 571-610.
  • Thatcher, M. and Stone Sweet, A. (2002) ‘Theory and practice of delegation to non-majoritarian institutions’, West European Politics, Vol. 25, pp. 1-22.

Example international finance dissertation topic 2:

A critical assessment of the role of the WTO in world trade. To what extent can it be argued that the organisation, in its institutional operations, is designed primarily to advance the interests of developed nations?

This dissertation seeks to evaluate the extent to which the five underlying principles noted still guide the work of the WTO. First, it examines the principle of non-discrimination. Secondly, the study reviews the issue of transparency (in both operations and internal governance). Thirdly, it considers the principle of fairness and equitability within trade negotiations and agreements. Fourthly, the dissertation explores the principle of reciprocity, and finally the extent to which preferential trade treatment is still enshrined within the workings of the WTO so as to support the infant industries of developing nations. Through an analysis of various policies and protocols adopted by the WTO over the last fifteen years this dissertation offers a range of comments and analysis as to the extent to which each of these underlying principles still shapes the workings of the WTO in this decade of the 21st century.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bowman, G.W. (2011) ‘Of haves and have-nots: A review of developing countries and the multilateral trade regime: The failure and promise of the WTO’s development mission’, Trade, Law and Development, Vol. 3(1), pp. 242-265.
  • Hanegraaf, M., Beyers, J. and Braun, C. (2011) ‘Open the door to more of the same? The development of interest group representation at the WTO’, World Trade Review, Vol. 10, pp. 447-472.

Example international finance dissertation topic 3:

Corporate strategy and capital structure: An analysis of the linkages between them

Long-term capital structure decisions help determine corporate flexibility and the advancement of strategies that may be utilised in the face of external or internal pressures. Given this, capital structure decisions are a complex function, influenced by, amongst other factors, institutional structures, liquidity constraints, tax regimes, and liquidity constraints. Within this context the link between corporate strategy and capital structure becomes paramount. Accordingly, this dissertation answers three questions: first, how the decisions made in developed and developing countries differ with regard corporate financial leverage. Secondly, it addresses the implications of cultural diversity between countries upon individual policy makers within firms. Thirdly, it considers the extent to which there is a similarity between the cross-sectional variability of individual countries’ capital structures. The dissertation can be moulded to suit a range of individual countries.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • DeAngelo, H., DeAngelo, L. and Whited, T.M. (2011) ‘Capital structure dynamics and transitory debt’, Journal of Financial Economics,Vol. 99(2), pp. 235-261.
  • Kovenock, D. and Phillips, G.M. (1997) ‘Capital structure and product market behaviour: An examination of plant exit and investment decisions’, Review of Financial Studies, Vol. 10(3), pp.767-803.
  • Titman, S. and Wessels, R. (1988) ‘The determinants of capital structure choice’, Journal of Finance, Vol.43, pp. 1-19.

Example international finance dissertation topic 4:

15) Islamic banking: A matter of semantics?

A popular presentation of Islamic banking is that it does not charge interest. This study challenges that view and suggests that the reality of Islamic banking differs little from conventional banking, other than in terminology. It undertakes a comprehensive analysis of the mechanisms of Islamic banking and compares them to traditional banking, taking note of papers such as those by Zaman and Movassaghi (2002) and Chong and Liu (2009). Further, the paper considers how much the presentation of Islamic banking is a propaganda tool of the resurgence of Islam globally.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Chong, B.S. and Liu, M.H. (2009) ‘Islamic banking: Interest-free or interest-based?’ Pacific-Basin Finance Journal, Vol. 17(1), pp. 125-144.
  • Siddiqui, M.N. (2001) ‘Islamic banking: True modes of financing’, New Horizon, pp. 15-20.
  • Zaman, M.R. and Movassaghi, H. (2002) ‘Interest-free Islamic banking: Ideals and reality’, The International Journal of Finance, Vol. 14(4), pp. 2428-2443.

Investment Banking

Look no further than investment banking for a fascinating angle to write your dissertation on. Below are a handful of recommendations for areas that you can cover in this field.

Example investment banking dissertation topic 1:

Investment banking: Global multinationals or regional players?

This dissertation applies the ideas espoused by Li and Rugman (2007) to investment banking. As a consequence, this thesis posits that within the investment banking sector it is more appropriate to view such firms not as global multinationals but rather in terms of their regional dominance and predominance. This contention is explored within this study not only via reference to the work of Li and Rugman but also through an analysis of the importance of individual investment banks to individual economies and the specific nature of banking regulation within individual countries.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Li, J. and Rugman, A.M. (2007) ‘Real options and the theory of foreign direct investment’, International Business Review, Vol. 16(6), pp. 687-712.
  • Smith, R.C., Walter, I. and DeLong, G. (2012) Global banking (3rd edn). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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