Online Master of Science in Finance


Valuation and Value Creation Course Spotlight with Professor Emery Trahan

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Evelyn Liougas: Thank you for joining us for Northeastern University’s Master of Science in Finance faculty spotlight webinar. My name is Evelyn and I will be your moderator today. Before we begin, I would like to go over the logistics of this presentation and address some common questions.

To cut down on background noise, you are in listen only mode so you can hear the presenter but they cannot hear you. If you have any questions during the presentation, just type your question in the chat box in the right window of your screen and hit enter. Please feel free to ask your questions as you think of them but note that all answers will be held until the end of the presentation and will be available online for review. Within the next few weeks you will receive an email letting you know that the recording is available on our website.

The panelists for this webinar will be Emery Trahan, professor of finance and finance group coordinator, Rishi Sethi, enrollment advisor, and myself Evelyn who will be your moderator. Professor Trahan, I’m sure the attendees of today’s webinar are interested to learn more about your background. Tell us a bit about your educational background.

Emery Trahan: Sure. I actually started out in accounting. I have an undergraduate degree in accounting and worked for Pete Marwick Mitchell on their audit staff. They’re now KPMG and got my CPA designation. And then worked for one of their clients as a CFO. And then liked all that so much I went back to graduate school at the University at Albany in New York and got a Ph.D. in financial economics.

Evelyn Liougas: Great. And how long have you been with Northeastern?

Emery Trahan: I came to Northeastern actually from my Ph.D. program and I’ve been here for 25 years full-time where I teach and do some consulting work and research in finance areas.

Evelyn Liougas: Tell us one thing and one thing only that you personally like about Northeastern.

Emery Trahan: Well, there’s so many, but if there’s only one and I think I’m a little bit biased on this but I think it’s relevant to our discussion is that I really do like the faculty here in general and in the finance group. In 25 years, I’ve been able to contribute to recruiting faculty and helping develop the faculty and we’ve really been in an upward trajectory in terms of the faculty we’re hiring and what they’re doing.
But I really like them. I think we’ve got a faculty that does have strong academic research interest and records, but most of us also have some significant real world experience that we can bring to bear to research and to the teaching. And it’s a very collaborative group. They’re very committed to teaching and I think the faculty is really helped to contribute to the development of some unique online programs that we’re doing.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you so much. I would like to now turn over the presentation to Rishi, our enrollment advisor. Rishi?

Rishi Sethi: Thanks Ev. So, the online MSF program is actually really good for people looking to get a lot of depth in this industry. We’ve got two tracks of study, so you can do corporate finance or investment finance. On the investment side you’re looking at things like portfolio management, investment or commercial banking, security analysis, mutual funds and even personal financial planning. On the corporate site, you can look at financial reporting, budgeting and project decision making.

You can complete the degree in as few as 16 months, so it’s really flexible. You can take up to five years if you need to. The instructors have real world experience, so the faculty’s excellent, like Professor Trahan explained. So, again the program’s very flexible. Entirely online, so no residency required. And there’s a lot of overlap between the courses that we’re offering in the CFA. So, for people looking to do the CFA down the road, it’s good prep. And you can actually combine this degree with the MBA. So, for anybody looking to get even more depth out of it in a broader managerial degree you can definitely do that. Next one please.

So, we’re gonna take a quick poll question and that is what’s concerning you most about starting an online program? So take a few minutes just to get your answers.

Evelyn Liougas: So just to add, a poll should have popped up on the right hand side of your screen. You can select your answer there and then I’ll be sharing the results with you in a few minutes. Thank you. I would like to now turn it over to the professor.

Emery Trahan: Okay, well some of this we covered, but again, a little bit on my career path before coming to Northeastern. One of the things I do and I’m actually the department head right now in the finance group here and do teaching both on the ground and online and still try to keep some research going. And I’ve been fairly active in research over the 25 years and I’ve got a couple of recent projects here in publications and just talking those for a minute, but Rishi mentioned the investment track and I do some research that’s more on the investment side.

One of them is actually a couple of papers that we’ve published over the last couple of years on Jim Kramer. You may be familiar with him, he’s a fairly popular show on CNBC about stock picking and investments. And we thought he’s kind of a popular controversial guy and we thought it would be interesting to do really kind of a scientific study on how his show impacts the stock market and what kind of portfolio returns you might get if you follow his advice. So, we publish these papers and I have to say some of the research that we do in academics, it doesn’t get read by a lot of people, but these papers were very widely read. They were cited in the Wall Street Journal, in the New York Times and the Atlantic. And my co-author and I were interviewed on National Public Radio about the work. Jim Kramer actually talked about us on his show for about five minutes about the research.

So this was interesting and important research. It was of interest to academics and it was of interest to the investments community and analyst and what was fairly well received. And we had presented this at a conference, a practitioner conference out in Chicago and there were a lot of Morningstar People there and we made a contact with their director of research at Morningstar and we’re sort of doing a similar analysis now using some Morningstar data that’s interesting.

And just another recent project, a lot of my work is more in the corporate finance area, looking at companies and corporate financial decisions. And I’d been interested there over the last few years, there’s a lot of talk and controversy about companies focusing on this objective of maximizing the value of the company to the shareholders and what does that mean for society and for other stakeholders in the corporation? So, we did a paper that looks at if you’re objective is to maximize shareholder value as a corporate manager what does that mean for the employees of the corporation?

And what we find is that companies that treat their employees well and have good records and reputations of treating employees well actually do better for their shareholders. So there doesn’t seem to be a disconnect there and there’s actually a common interest in what’s good for the employees of the company is also good for the shareholders.

So that’s a couple of recent research pieces. And I, as all of our faculty, try to keep active in the research area. In terms of my specific interest in both teaching and research, I’m really more on the corporate side in terms of my teaching, but I do corporate finance and general valuation, mergers and acquisitions and some work on how new information impacts the stock market and shareholder value. And that’s reflected in some of the, like for example, the Kramer paper.

I can talk a little bit about one of the courses I’m teaching in the program. There’s a spotlight here in the valuation and value creation course. And this has been a pretty popular elective that I’ve done for a number of years in our on the ground program and then in the online program as well. This is a course, it’s an elective course in the MSF, so it builds on some of the early required courses. And I do teach one of the foundation courses as well. So, I’m kind of familiar with what’s covered in the foundation. And this is an elective that builds on the foundation. It covers some analysis and valuation and how you value companies or pieces of companies. And then really focuses on not just the mechanics of the valuation, but understanding the decisions that you make and whether they make sense or not from a strategic and a value creation standpoint.

So, for example some of the things we do in this course are analyze and negotiate a private equity deal, develop strategies to increase a company’s value and talk about ways of implementing those strategies, valuing and acquisition target. The emphasis of the course is very much in applications. There are some new theory or new financial concepts or extensions of concepts from other courses that we get into within the course, but the main focus is really on applying the concepts and there’s a lot of applications and financial model building and spreadsheet work and so on.

I think in the online format, there’s really some kind of neat online learning tools embedded in the course to help teach modeling and spreadsheet modeling and so on. This is a course, I’ve developed it over many years, there’s no textbook for the course. It’s some individual readings. There are lectures in the online program, there are online lectures. And then it kind of gets brought to life with a variety of consulting projects that are worked on in the course.

And many of these are group projects. And there is an opportunity in this course to work in teams and to discuss the analysis with other students and then to have interaction with the instructor for the course. And the way our programs are formatted you do work kind of on a day to day basis with an instructor who works for me. And then I’m, as the lead faculty, also available to work with you and answer questions on a daily basis if needed. And also we have a weekly chat time where we can interact.

And as I look at this course over the years, I mean students have kind of used this – some of them have gone into investment banking jobs. I have a student who got a job at a valuation firm, a private equity firm, some with consulting firms. I would view this as more as a corporate finance course, but it is also one of the courses in the investments track and over the years a lot of the students have found it very useful to do equity analysis and security analysis as well. So, it kind of bridges both the investments in the corporate side. So, that’s a little bit about one of the courses in our program. And again, this is an elective course that is available in the program.

In terms of, there’s a slide here on career outcomes and this slide, there are a lot of bullets here and sort of specific jobs that an MSF degree might be helpful in helping you prepare for and grow into. And I think it would make sense to skip onto the next slide to talk a little bit more general about the MSF and how it fits into the industry.

And as Rishi noted, there are two tracks in our program: there’s a corporate finance track and an investments track. The corporate track is really dealing more with managing the financial activities and capital decisions within a company or corporation. It could be a large or small company. The corporate stuff is also very relevant to careers in investment banking and private equity firms. It might be leading to director of business development or chief financial officer, those kinds of positions.

And then on the investment side, it would be more preparing for careers in money management, valuing different financial instruments, stocks and bonds and derivative securities. And then building and analyzing portfolios of securities. And these two tracks are by no means mutually exclusive. It’s all finance and if you’re in a company, you’re managing the company with the objective of improving the value of the company. If you’re on an investment’s firm, you’re looking at investing in companies or assets that are going to go up in value. So, in some ways these two tracks are two sides of the same coin. And many of our elective courses, they’re not unique to one of the tracks. Many of them bridge the two tracks.

But on the investment side, Rishi noted earlier too, the chartered financial analyst, the CFA designation is becoming almost a requirement to work in the financial services industry and money management industry. And that’s something that we’re not a prep program for the CFA designation, but our program helps build a very strong foundation that would support taking the CFA exam and I’m a CFA charter holder and we have a couple of other CFA charter holders on our faculty that teach in the program. So, we’re very familiar with that designation and have worked with students to help them prepare and be successful at that.

In fact, I just heard from – I worked with a bunch of students over the last several months preparing for the June exam and I heard from two of them yesterday and they both passed. So, I haven’t heard from all of them, but we’ve generally had pretty good success with people getting started and getting through level one of the CFA exam.

Rishi Sethi: It can be a real nail biter waiting a couple of months for that decision.

Emery Trahan: Right, right. And it’s a tough exam. The pass rate for level one, someone sent me the letter was 38%. So, it’s not an easy exam, but I think having Charter holders on the faculty and developing some of these courses, it helps build a good foundation for studying and preparing for the exam. So that’s a little bit, I think about the industry and the two tracks and how they map into different types of opportunities and jobs in the finance industry.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you professor. Before we go on, I would like to conduct one more poll. What types of webinars would you be interested in attending in future, program information ones, application process, student or alumni spotlight, faculty spotlight, a particular industry topic or other, please specify? Again, please take a moment to select your answer and I will share the results with you in a minute. Now, I would like to turn it over, back to Rishi who will share some additional information with you about the program.

Rishi Sethi: Thank you. So, a little bit about our university. The school’s been around for over 100 years. The business school itself has been around since 1922. So, we have a long standing history and it really is a history of excellence. If you look at our professors that are teaching this program, the MBA program, the MS finance program, these are all our online programs. But they also teach on campus, so that’s really important to know. You can look at our faculty description page and just see a little bit about the type of work that they do, not just at the school, but also in industry.

As far as accreditation is concerned, AACSB in most cases is the standard that people are looking for. So, we certainly meet that accreditation. It is a testament to adhering to a very strict standard for education. The alumni network for this program is quite extensive so for the whole business school it’s over 40,000. The university itself has an alumni network of over 200,000 people. So, where you’re really gonna see a lot of value initially in the class, even though you’re doing an online program, there’s a great degree of interactivity with other students. You’ll be engaging in discussions both in the forms and in the weekly sessions with your prof and your course facilitator. So, there’s a lot of connectivity with some very, very bright people.

We’re quite choosy about the people that get accepted to this program. It’s not just do we wanna make sure that do you have certain set of qualifications that you’re gonna be able to do the work, but how are you going to interact with other students and how are you going to benefit each other. That’s also something that’s very important.

In terms of getting this done and really this is why most people are looking at an online program, all of you are working, you need a way to further your education, sharpen your skills a little bit – well, in this case it’s sharpen your skills a lot. But you have to keep in mind that you’re working full-time so how are we gonna manage work and school and life? So, the program is highly flexible. You’re taking one class at a time. You’re looking at a time commitment of somewhere around 20 hours per week.

So, not to say that you’re just gonna be able to kick your heels up and push through the program, you are going to have to work. It’s going to challenge you, but our goal is to challenge you academically and not for your time management skills. When you start a class, everything’s gonna be laid out for you. From the beginning there’s no surprises. Unfortunately, we won’t give you the questions that will be on the test, but everything else we will give you. So, you’ll be able to see all the deliverables that are required of you, what is due, when it’s due and you’ll have a very clear understanding of what is expected of you and you can plan your time accordingly.

To apply to the program, it’s actually really straightforward and simple. So, first of all we don’t require a GMAT. All applications are considered on a case by case basis. So, even if you’re worried that you think you may not have a certain qualification, speak with an enrollment advisor and they can better advise you as to whether or not you would make a reasonable candidate for the program.

The baseline requirements are an undergraduate degree with a 3.0 GPA. We’d like to see some quantitative skills demonstrated either on the academic side or on your resume through whatever work you’ve done in your career. So, if you’re putting together an application we require five things. We need the application form, we need your current resume, we need a statement of purpose, we need transcripts from all the schools you’ve attended after high school and three professional recommendations.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you. I would also like to let everyone know that the D’Amore-McKim School of Business also offers the following online business programs: MBA with eight specializations, the MS in finance MBA dual degree, a master of science in taxation and most recently a graduate certificate in supply chain management.

We would like to now begin the question and answer period. Just a quick reminder, if you have any questions simply type in your question in the chat box on the right hand corner of your screen. So, the first question is for the professor. What’s involved exactly in the MBA, MSF dual degree? For example how many more courses, length, time and cost?

Emery Trahan: The dual degree is – if you do the MBA it’s actually – and you take the right courses, it’s four additional courses get you the dual degree. So, I guess it works the same way. If you do the MSF, you can get the MBA and you’re really doing just four additional courses. So, out of the 10 courses for the MSF, six of them are counting towards that MBA degree.

Rishi Sethi: The total would be 18 MBA courses, or 18 courses is normal for the MBA and then you add the four on and then you would be using the elective courses from the MBA to count towards the MS in Finance courses. So, yeah it’s four additional courses. And that’s what the price which is, it’s currently $1,385 per credit.

Emery Trahan: And that’s something, to my knowledge, you don’t have to decide up front on that. So, you can start an MSF program and then as you get closer to the end of it, you can decide do I wanna finish the MSF or do I wanna continue on and go into the joint degree programs? So, there’s some flexibility there. You don’t have to make that decision up front.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you. Professor, next one’s for you as well. How do you find the interaction works in an online course? Is it more challenging to interact with your peers and your professors or is it easier?

Emery Trahan: Well, it’s different, but one of the things I really like about our program and I think it’s somewhat unique is with the setup of small class sections with a lead faculty and then with an instructor working with smaller subgroups of students, there’s a lot of resources to help facilitate interaction. And I know in my and really both of my courses there are case projects and consulting projects where students collaborate and work in teams. There are weekly discussions where they get on in post discussions and those are moderated by the instructor. So, it’s not a program where it’s just a bunch of canned material and one instructor and many students and you’re just reading and taking exams.

The design of the program really does a very good job at simulating the classroom discussion element of the education in an online setting. And I think most of the MSF students, they tend to be very well prepared, serious students. They’ve got significant work experience and are pretty tech savvy. Where today, working collaboratively with people not in the same room seems to be something that many people are used to anyway. And I think as Rishi said – I want the student’s time to do the academic stuff. I don’t want them spending time figuring out how to get into a chat session and things like that. But I think you guys do a great job really freeing up the student’s time so that they’re available to do the coursework. And with the Blackboard platform and the support, I think it works pretty well. Again, it’s a little bit different than showing up for a class and sitting in a room, but I think it’s really a very good substitute the way the program is structured and with the technology that we have available.

Rishi Sethi: I’m a student in the MBA program myself and I’m nearly done. And actually before I came to Northeastern it was one of the concerns I had about doing online learning. Having completed my bachelor’s degree on campus, I tend to have presence in a classroom. So, I was worried that in this environment I’m gonna lose a little bit of that ability. And what I found was the communication across all students actually improves in the online program.

So in a classroom if someone tends to be dominant or if there are a few people that tend to have a dominant presence, those are the people that tend to carry the conversation. In this environment what I find is the communication is designed in such a way that you get a very good amount of participation from everybody. So, you’ve taken away that ability to be domineering by certain people which, unfortunately I was one of those people. But it’s helped me to get a better understanding of the subject matter because everybody takes a little bit of a different viewpoint on things and together you collectively get a better understanding of the subject matter.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you.

Emery Trahan: And we also have as part of the program too, just to close that, we have at least two hours of week of chat time, the instructor has one hour a week of scheduled chat time and the lead faculty has an hour a week of chat time. So that there’s also that opportunity to – if you wanna be on, there’s also a video component where you can see the person talking and everyone can hear the conversation. So, that sort of simulates – it’s an open discussion usually and we can’t require everyone to show up at the same time. But if you can’t show up at that time, they’re recorded, so you can go on and review them later. But if you do wanna talk to people once in a while and hear someone else’s voice or see their video on the screen that there’s at least a couple hours a week built into the course of that opportunity.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you. Next question is there – for the professor – is there a lot of group work involved?

Emery Trahan: Well, it depends on the course, but I know in my two courses there is group work. It’s not all group work. The exams are individual. There are some individual projects, but there’s at least a couple of projects that are group projects. And we have a lot of experience with that in our on the ground programs as well as online. It’s always been a big part of the business school here at Northeastern. And it generally works very well. You know, in theory a group brings together people with different skills, different viewpoints and you get a better end result when you bring together a group of people rather than a bunch of individuals working on a project and that’s kind of how most decisions work in the real world.

So, we really get pretty high marks from people who employ our students that it’s something we’re very good at is developing people who can kind of hit the ground running and work as part of a team. So, I think it’s not just my course. It won’t be every course here, but it’s part of the culture here, I think that most people do have group work in some of these graduate courses.

Sometimes there are frictions. Sometimes somebody isn’t pulling their weight or – again, ideally, I think it makes – if the group is functioning well, it actually makes you more efficient. You can spend less time and get more out of it. But sometimes there are frictions in groups and I think that’s part of the learning process and I think those are – the majority of the time, I think the people find the group effort works well and increases the learning and makes things more efficient. And we try to do what we can to minimize the frictions and work with them and we usually allow students to evaluate other members of the group to kind of give everyone an incentive to contribute to the group projects. But there’s a fair amount of it, I guess bottom line, there is some of it anyway, some group projects and –

Rishi Sethi: I find that, and I’m not sure if it’s because it’s online or because of the demographic in the program, it could be both, but in my experience with the MBA program and I use it interchangeably with the
MSF because they are similar demographics and obviously the platform is the same. I haven’t experienced group friction at all since I’ve been in the program. I’ve got one more class. The attitude that I find of people in the program is very good and the people are always willing to kind of go that extra mile to really make a great project together. It hasn’t been a problem for me whatsoever.

The attitude is good and really part of the reason for that is when we interview students initially, I think we were putting a lot of energy into trying not just to, like I said before, identify people on paper that have a good set of skills. But we’re also trying to identify how you’re going to interact with other people and this is exactly one of the reasons why because we wanna make sure that your educational experience, though it is online, is an excellent one. That is going to give you a complete set of skills that re going to help you in your careers.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you. The next one is for the professor. Aside from the optional chats you just mentioned, are there any other specific times that you have to be online?

Emery Trahan: No. The program, just because of people’s schedules and people in different time zones, it’s totally asynchronous. And again, the chats are not required either. The way we designed these, it’s not mandatory that you show up for a chat. So, they’re really for most people like faculty office hours. We’re there, we’re available during that time. Some people will have – if no one’s there even I do this once in a while, they’ll record something, have a discussion with themselves but maybe lay out the week or summarize the week before and then students can go back and listen to the recording of that chat.

But there’s really no required time where everyone has to be available at the same time. You know even with exams, we have a window for the exam, so it might be – an exam is open Saturday and Sunday and once you log in you may have two or three hours to take the exam, but it’s not like everyone has to take the exam on Friday from 2-4 eastern time. So, I think as Rishi said, we try to make it a flexible program, just realizing people are in different places, they’re traveling, they’re in different time zones, they’re on different schedules and it’s really difficult to ask everyone to be in the same place at the same time.

Evelyn Liougas: What type of school work will I be doing each week and for how many hours?

Emery Trahan: Well, it depends on the course. I think most courses, there is some reading. There’s a textbook or some other kinds of readings. And then we have online lectures. And I think the quality of those online lectures is very strong. The people like me, the professors are really the subject matter experts and kind of designed the course and the curriculum and the materials. But then Pearson Embanet developers really take it and kind of bring it to life in these, I call them online lectures.

So, in a typical week – and the whole course is laid out for you up front. Week to week is laid out for you up front, but they’ll be assignments and maybe go read an article, a teaching note. And then walk through the online lecture. They’re often interactive activities in those online lectures. The course I described, they’re actually annotated Excel models where they kind of walk you through building a spreadsheet model. So, there’s sort of a core of material reading in these online lectures.

And then typically there’s taking that and applying it. So, you may have a case study or some kind of project that is laid out for you and that’s related to that reading and that online lecture material. So, you’ll take some time maybe reading the case, thinking about what the issues are. If it’s a group project and you’d be reading it and then getting into a discussion with other people in the group and there may be a deliverable, a short write up on the case with some analysis.

Sometimes it’s not uncommon, so you’ll turn in an analysis and then all the groups will post their case analysis. There may be two or three or four groups in the course and you might look at some of the other group’s analysis and then get into a discussion and post some comments of what you think of what the other groups did and what you did and so on.

So, it’s really a variety of materials. We try to have different materials and different deliverables. But it’s very much like a classroom. There’s some reading to prepare, some lecture that in this case is delivered online and then some application, some kind of case study or project within application and then some discussion of that. And then there may be one or two, depending on the course that usually – I think in my foundation course there’s a couple of exams. One at the end of the third week and then one at the end of the fifth week. In the elective course that I described, there’s just one exam at the end of the fourth week. So, I think most of the finance courses, there’s probably at least one examination that gets built in there.

Evelyn Liougas: How is this program and degree received by others, specifically potential employers?

Emery Trahan: You know, it seems to be pretty well received. And again with the work requirements, we’re not taking people into this program right out of an undergrad program or without some meaningful work experience. I think most of the people coming in have some significant experience. Many of them are in some kind of finance industry job now. Some of them are looking to change careers, but they’re fairly mature students and have developed other skills that we’re honing and enhancing in the program.

But from our standpoint, the degree you get in this program is a master of science and finance from the D’Amore-McKim School at Northeastern University. It’s the same degree that someone going through the on the ground program in the MSF would get. There’s no distinction in the program or on your diploma. We try to make it a comparable experience to the on the ground program in terms of the courses and the curriculum. So, if you go through this program you should be as well trained and get the same degree as someone who went through an on the ground program.

I certainly see the students going through the program. Some of them are already in interesting jobs and some of them have advanced or gone into new jobs after the program. So, I don’t know that it’s the case that no one ever kind of looks at this and says, gee you went to an online program, but I don’t have any evidence that it’s counting against people either. It seems like our alumni are getting value from this degree.

Evelyn Liougas: How do I receive my course materials?

Rishi Sethi: So I guess course materials come in two parts. So, there’s the actual lecture component and all the classroom stuff which is presented to you through one location, which is called Blackboard. So, that’s your portal to your classroom, to your lecture slides, to your assignments and all course related work. The supplementary materials, which are your textbooks and case studies, anything like that, are available through the NEU bookstore and they’re all digital. If you don’t want something in hard copy you don’t have to order it by hard copy, you can just get the digital textbook and download it directly onto your computer.

And that’s something that student services will help you with. So, as you move forward in this process and let’s say you apply and you’re accepted to the program, they’re going to have actually two phone calls with you before you get started on class to make sure that you’re prepped and ready to go. And one of the things that they cover is how do I go about registering for classes, how do I order my course materials among many other things to make sure that you are properly prepared.

It’s a very high touch program. This demographic, even though you’re away from the school, we don’t want you to feel as though you’re isolated. So, there’s a lot of involvement from your enrollment advisor initially when you’re inquiring to the program. Student services, there’s 24/7 tech support. You reach out to your prof, you reach out to your course facilitator. The turnaround time for communication with faculty is generally very good. I haven’t encountered a program where it is this good. It’s designed to make you as comfortable as possible. So, I know I kind of expanded a little bit there, but the course materials, yeah just right through the school bookstore, right onto your computer, no problem.

Evelyn Liougas: If you would like to contact an advisor immediately, you may reach us at this information on the slide. Thank you everyone for attending. This concludes our webinar. Have a great day.