The financial industry is undergoing a digital revolution, sparking a growing need for professionals with a talent for quantitative finance, a discipline that draws on mathematics, computer science and statistics to work with financial markets.
In quantitative finance, complex mathematical models are used to value assets, assess risk, and predict market developments.
According to the Economist’s Intelligence Unit, 77% of banking executives believe that technologies like AI will be a major factor in their business’ success or failure.
But entering the world of high-tech finance requires a very specific skill set, and business schools have an important role to play in training the next generation of finance professionals.
At Nanyang Business School (NBS) in Singapore, the provides young professionals with the toolkit they need to thrive in high-tech financial roles.
BusinessBecause met with two MFE graduates to find out how the program has helped them start a career in quantitative finance.
Become a managerial position — Eng Siong Ang
Eng Siong Ang is the Risk Director at OCBC Bank’s Shanghai, China subsidiary, a position he was offered less than ten years after graduating from MFE at NBS.
An economist by training, Eng Siong began his career with the Monetary Authority of Singapore forecasting economic variables in sectors ranging from real estate to financial services.
When the 2008 financial crisis hit, economic uncertainty prompted him to upgrade his skills.
“There were questions about how banks should move after the crisis and how finance jobs might change,” he recalls. “With all this uncertainty in the front of my mind, the MFE made a lot of sense.”
Eng Siong was drawn to the thoroughness of the NBS program, which offered a solid foundation in computer science alongside more traditional financial topics. One of the highlights of the program was studying for a semester at Carnegie Mellon University in the United States.
For six weeks in the United States, Eng Siong’s cohort studied topics such as financial informatics, simulation methods and advanced risk management.
“We worked with statistical software to solve real world problems, such as pricing a combination of options,” says Eng Siong.
“There was a lot of hands-on work, and we really had to apply what we had learned in the program to these challenges. “
The MFE also led Eng Siong on his current career path in risk management. After the financial crisis, risk management positions were in high demand and he was able to leverage the programming skills he learned at NBS to excel in the field.
But technical skills were only one side of the coin. The ability to extract business insights from large volumes of data and present it convincingly to stakeholders is another skill he practiced during the MFE.
“Over the years, as I progressed into higher roles, I found it more and more relevant,” he explains.
When he graduated, Eng Siong joined OCBC Bank as a managing partner, and the rest is history. In his current role as Chief Risk Officer in China, he oversees all aspects of risk management, including credit risk, asset liability and market risk.
“The world, and the banking industry in particular, is undergoing a digital revolution, with technologies like AI and cloud computing all transforming the way we do business,” he said.
“The skills I learned at NBS have provided me with a good foundation for navigating this new world.”
Get the job of your dreams – Sihan Yu
Sihan Yu first entered the world of finance “by accident”, but it turned out to be a huge passion.
After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, Sihan joined PwC as a consultant specializing in technology projects. But after being assigned to a financial risk analysis team, she quickly developed a deep interest in the subject.
“Over the years, I learned a lot about financial markets and derivatives, but after a while it was difficult for me to learn more on my own,” she says.
If she wanted to pivot her career and join the highly competitive field of quantitative finance, she would need a new toolkit. This is where the MFE came in.
“It offers everything you need to be successful in this field, covering math, IT and finance,” says Sihan.
For Sihan, the fact that much of the program was project-based was a real highlight. This allowed him to hone his communication, teamwork and leadership skills while gaining technical prowess.
One project forced Sihan and his team to act like an investment bank, designing a structured product from scratch. It involved everything from structuring and pricing to hedging.
“We even created a company logo and presented our proposal to our professor who played the role of managing director in a hedge fund,” she says.
Throughout these projects, Sihan relied on the expertise of his teachers, who provided advice and guidance without offering all the answers, mimicking a real work environment.
When she graduated, she was able to transfer these skills to her new career. Today, she is a quantitative analyst — known in the industry as quant — at Standard Chartered Bank, working primarily on the pricing and valuation of derivatives.
“I’m a front office, which means we design and implement complex mathematical models that allow financial companies to value and trade securities,” she explains.
Quants like Sihan work directly with traders, providing them with the pricing and trading tools needed to make smart decisions.
“I would say that I use 80% of what I learned in the MFE in my daily work. It is an essential entry point for quantum careers.
“People in industry call us ‘the rocket scientists of Wall Street’,” Sihan laughs. “It’s my dream job.