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Financial analysis and decision making

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Drawing upon realistic examples and scenarios, this module will help you to understand effective financial decision making within organisations. You'll learn how financial capital can be raised and allocated, how to evaluate investment projects, as well as how to value stocks, bonds and real estate. You'll also explore the advantages and disadvantages of the most commonly used derivative instruments. If you have, or plan to pursue, a managerial position either in a private or public organisation or simply want to understand more about how to plan your personal finances and invest wisely, this module will provide a solid foundation for the decision-making challenges you may face.

What you will study

The module consists of the following six units, each of which lasts between two and three weeks:

Unit 1 – Organisational goals and financial decision making
In this introductory unit, you'll be provided with a broad overview of the various types of organisations that feature in today’s economy. You'll appreciate how they differ in terms of their overall purpose and, therefore, in some aspects of their operations. In exploring the financial management environment, you will learn about the role financial managers play in helping organisational strategies succeed. Finally, you'll consider the responsibilities of financial managers and the major decision areas that confront them. 

Unit 2 – Organisations and the financial system
In this unit, you'll be introduced to the main sources of finance available to organisations, such as bank finance, crowdfunding and venture capital. You'll also consider the related specific opportunities and constraints in an accessible and contextualized manner. The key features of the ‘financing mix’ available to the various types of organisations will be elucidated, along with the relationships that can be built with capital markets. Finally, you'll discover the different ways in which organisations can allocate the financial resources raised, such as capital expenditure, share repurchase and mergers and acquisitions (M&As).

Unit 3 – Time value of money and cost of capital
In this unit, you'll be introduced to the concepts of risk, time value of money and cost of capital. Although it is impossible to exactly calculate the effects of uncertainty on investment projects, tools for quantifying risk are available. You'll cover the quantitative techniques that are the building blocks of the financial literature on risk and discount rate estimations. The unit will also discuss the Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC), which gives the base discount rate that a company should use for investment appraisal. 

Unit 4 – Investment appraisal 
In this unit, you'll focus on making financial decisions for long-term investments using investment appraisal techniques and will build on the concept of time value of money. In particular, you will be introduced to the four most commonly used investment appraisal techniques, namely: Payback, Accounting Rate of Return (ARR), Net Present Value (NPV) and Internal Rate of Return (IRR). The advantages and limitations of each of these methods will be discussed, as well as their relevance to analyse the economic viability of long-term projects. Upon completion of the unit, you will be able to answer questions such as: should the business launch a new project or invest in a new machine? You will also look at some practical examples and touch on other issues in investment appraisal, such as non-financial factors. 

Unit 5 – Asset valuation techniques
In this unit, you'll consider the most popular approaches to equity valuation, such as net asset value, dividend- and cash flow-related techniques, as well as relative valuation approaches. Understanding the forces that drive the price of equity is of great practical importance since it allows stock market investors to determine whether a particular company is a good buy. Furthermore, it informs managers on how best to follow strategies that maximise shareholder value. As will be illustrated, the valuation techniques covered here could also be successfully employed in the context of bonds and real estate. 

Unit 6 – Risk management
In this unit, you'll be introduced to the most commonly used derivative instruments, their contractual characteristics and payoff structure. When used correctly, these instruments can provide cheap insurance for companies and investors alike. The design of hedging methods, which are intended to mitigate or eliminate risk, will be elucidated. Even if derivatives are an invaluable tool in risk management, they can be dangerous when used for speculation purposes. This unit will illustrate these dangers and provide examples of massive losses that have been made by some imprudent market participants. 

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements to study this module, but as it requires an aptitude for analytical and quantitative methods to engage with theories of finance and their applications, it’s very important that you are comfortable with:

  • basic mathematical operations, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division;
  • powers of numbers, including square roots;
  • using your scientific calculator effectively for the above;
  • simple mathematical equations;
  • negative numbers and fractions;
  • drawing and interpreting simple charts and graphs;
  • use of Excel to perform basic calculations.

This self-assessment quiz can help you check your understanding of the numerical skills required to study this module. Your final score will indicate whether you would benefit from any further preparation before tackling the numerical parts of the module.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

All materials and tuition are available via the module website.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve
  • guiding you to additional learning resources
  • providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part. If you want to participate, you’ll likely need a headset with a microphone.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying B294 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Financial analysis and decision making starts once a year – in April. This page describes the module that will start in April 2025. We expect it to start for the last time in April 2027.

Course work includes:

2 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment