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UCLA Financial Engineering program

UCLA Financial Engineering program

Having completed an year in the program, I believe that I am now in a position to give an objective feedback. I will address each of the quarters in the program separately.

My background:
Undergraduate form one of the top engineering institutions in India, and with cumulative work experiences of three years in a BB and asset management.

Quarter 1: This quarter has "four building blocks" of our program: Financial Accounting, Econometrics, Stochastic Calculus, Investments.
Financial Accounting: This focuses on the fundamentals of reading (just reading) the financial statements of companies. The course did not, at any moment ,focus on the relevance of each of the concepts in valuation. I finished this course with the hope that the "Financial Decision making"(Corporate finance named fancily) would cover these. More on this later.

Investments: This course is taught by Prof. Chernov and the concepts covered key concepts involving valuation of financial market products, and the theory of asset allocation. The subject was taught well and the assignments were well designed to facilitate learning.

Stochastic Calculus: The course is taught by Prof Panageas, who teaches so well that a person with no background in advanced calculus or probability can get it. The assignments in this course were well designed to reinforce concepts dealt with in class. This course is however introductory only.

Econometrics: Professor Rossi is an excellent teacher and is an expert in this subject. However, I personally felt that this curriculum was similar to that of a STAT 101 course and more content can be included in the curriculum. Devoting 6 lectures (18 hours) to linear regression is definitely overkill.

Quarter 2:

Empirical Methods in Finance: This course builds upon our fundamental Econometrics course, and a large chunk of it was modelling of time series. This course was a good refresher for me, and professor Lars did an excellent job teaching it.

Derivatives: The course is extremely basic and is not a MFE level course at all. The curriculum is best suited for MBAs, and not suitable for someone who looks to trade/price these securities. Out of the 10 lectures, NONE of them was new to me, or to anyone who has attended the first quarter.

Fixed Income markets: This course is taught by professor Longstaff and is the best course of the lot. The course builds a good understanding the fixed income products and their pricing. Professor Longstaff has tremendous experience and does an excellent job in giving the right intuition. The homeworks are realistic and extremely well structured.

Corporate finance: This course was taught with a lot of animation and the classes were indeed a good break. The course however, like accounting, was poorly structured to meet the needs of an MFE.

Quarter 3:

Financial Risk Management: This course was taught very well by Prof. Haddad and the homework assignments were interesting and exciting too.

Quantitative Asset Management: This is the worst course in the curriculum and a complete misnomer. The course, like derivatives just repeats content and the homework assignments were even more pointless (at least that wasn't the case in derivatives). The outcome of this course is just frustration and not a solid understanding of portfolio management.

Data Analytics/Machine learning: Taught by professor Lars. Although the course is taught well, and there is zero redundancy, it speaks little on application of machine learning techniques to solve real problems and is just unfortunately just involves using basic R packages to "small data".

Computational Methods in Finance: Focuses on implementation of Monte carlo and other numerical techniques to derivative pricing. It is just a repeat, that develops little understanding of the techniques. The homework assignments were redundant and just served to induce boredom.

Other important aspects:

Co-students: A large chunk of students in the class have absolutely no quantiative background, to the extent that they haven't even heard of "Matrices", get intimidated by seeing the "integral" symbol, do not understand conditional probability even after completing two quarters, and have poor programming skills. Most of them are straight out of undergrad. Although the program offers a paltry introductory math course, I believe this course doesn't serve to improve their understanding.

The review below that strongly advocates for using "Accounting" and "Fama Macbeth regressions" to build trading strategies only serves to demonstrate that people are just unaware of the difference between: expectation and average & attribution and trading. I admire your confidence in betting and LOLing people.

Homeworks: While the majority of assignments are good, some are simply redundant and repetitive. In my opinion, these homeworks should be scrapped. Also, there must be a strong restriction placed on using libraries in homeworks (which defeats the purpose).

Exams: They are just too easy and I actually experience that my undergraduate exams were way harder. The program should acknowledge that correct grading, and a necessary spread in scores are important to enhance the credibility of your grades.

Career services: You are pretty much on your own.
I will try to make this review as comprehensive, accurate, and objective as possible, so that anyone considering UCLA's MFE program will have a clear idea of what to expect.

About me: pursued MFE right after undergrad, main strength in programming before entering program, graduated December 2019.

Overall description of program:
Courses are very condensed. A combination of math (stochastic calculus & statistics / probability), programming, and finance (equity & fixed income, derivatives, numerical methods, accounting & corporate finance) with some courses structured to be similar to PhD courses where you go through academic papers (but definitely not nearly as rigorous as PhD courses). Overall, a quantitative program, but not as programming-intensive as computational finance programs such as CMU and Georgia Tech I believe. Definitely much, much more quant than general MS in Finance degrees.

Pros:
- Faculty is world-class. Peter Rossi, Ivo Welch, Francis Longstaff, they are all very well known within academia. Levon Goukasian is amazing in lectures. UCLA's finance department has an incredible history.
- Courses are well-designed. I find myself continuously referring back to course powerpoint slides, as well as recommended readings, whether during my internship or preparing for full-time interviews.
- Students are diverse, smart, and hardworking. I really enjoyed getting to know everyone. Also, many of my peers already had full-time work experience in finance, so I learned from them as well.
- I’ve been able to meet MFE alumni who were very willing to help, and very nice. However, I may be biased, as the ones I am able to meet are obviously ones who are willing to help, so keep that in mind.
- Los Angeles is a great place to be, enough said.

Cons:
- MFE office is very disappointing. Executive director does not care about the program at all. I’m inclined to believe she cared before, but not anymore. It is hard to get in touch with her or ask for her help. Also, when the MFE office makes mistakes, she does not have accountability. She sent us a very unprofessional email regarding our behavior during a trip, even though she was not on her best behavior either. I can go on and on about her, but I don’t want to make it personal. The main takeaway is that there is a lack of strong and effective leadership in the MFE office, and sometimes we feel like it is them against us, when we really should be on the same team.
- Career services is lackluster at best. Not all the blame is on the career office, executive director should be more helpful too. There is a dedicated career services group, and we get weekly lists of job / internship positions to apply for. However, career services have made mistakes here and there. A clear contrast is the career services group for the MSBA program at UCLA Anderson, were their career services group is much more aggressive and effective. I don’t think MFE’s career services is bad, they try to help you and are there for you, but I expected much better, especially given the fact UCLA’s MFE program has been established for a decade, whilst the MSBA program only existed until recently.
- Most of the faculty are from academia, with no or limited industry experience. It would be great to have lecturers who might not be PhDs or full professors, but very established practitioners.
- Most courses are taught in R, with one taught in MATLAB. I hope they can shift to Python, not because it is better (that is arguable for different applications), but because most workplaces are asking for Python fluency.

Final Verdict
If we are only talking about the educational experience and rewards, I believe UCLA’s MFE program is competitive with the best MFE programs out there. Our professors are seriously impressive, the coursework is comprehensive and rigorous, and the students are competent. If not for the mediocre MFE office, I would give this program a much higher rating.
  • Anonymous
  • 3.00 star(s)
As a recent graduate of the UCLA MFE program, I came across the previous review and thought the need to chime into the discussion.

The executive director and career service can help you only as much as you want to help yourself. You have to work hard to be ready for interviews to get the job. Of course it doesn't help if the executive director doesn't put her head into the game, that shouldn't be the reason you like or don't like the program.

UCLA Anderson is a prestigious school, the professors here are the best in this country. I truly appreciate the time here in Anderson and I have learnt a lot from the professors, especially professor Lars who guided our Final Year Project.

For those who have learnt quantitative finance/math/stats, you would probably feel this program is too easy, but I have definitely picked up new knowledge and skill set. I would highly recommend the program to those who want a change of career into finance.

There are a lot of things you need to learn outside the curriculum to be able to get a job, thats just the reality unfortunately. So you shouldn't expect to be able to find a job very easily upon entering the program, especially when the career service is not helping much.

Long story short, great place to learn, but you are very much on your own when you are on job hunting, which I would say that it is not a completely bad experience, because you can probably find better job opportunity than the career service can find it for you.

Just my 2 cents
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
A master of electrical engineering with 7 years of working experience in various disciplines of engineering (research, design, implementation, testing).
I studied full-time in the program from 01/2009-12/2009.

Did you get admitted to other programs?
No.

Why did you choose this program (over others, if applicable)?
I was on the "on hold" list of UCB and I gave up pursuing UCB once I received admission from UCLA.

Tell us about the application process at this program
It was an inaugural program, the online application was short and easy, and collected only the basic info. I saw the second year application it was considerably more formal. The phone interview came about 3 weeks after completing the application, and the final decision was about 1 week after the phone interview. The phone interview was 30-minute of soft-questions (why UCLA, why MFE, why then, etc)

Does this program offer refresher courses for incoming students? What do they offer and how much it costs?
The only thing available for us at the time was a Matlab refresher during the first week of the program. I did not attend so I cannot comment on it. The program faculties constantly polled the class for ideas of refresher classes for future students, unfortunately being in the first class I did benefit from them.

Tell us about the courses selection in this program. Any special courses you like?
The courses selection is modeled on the UCB curriculum, but minus the electives. The professors work with one another to make sure there are little overlaps and as much info was presented as possible. Most core infomration and difficult classes were front-loaded in the first two quarters before our internship, and the last quarter was relatively more managable. I wish I had a little more flexibility in the last quarter for electives, after acquiring the core info and completing an internship. I liked the ungraded seminar class, experts in the industry were invited to give a talk on a quantitative finance topic once a week. I did not enjoy every speaker, but it was informative to hear the other perspective from non-academic practitioners.

Tell us about the quality of teaching
I liked most of the professors in terms of teaching, and most of them were very accessible after class. I appreciated that the school for hiring reputable experts from other universities for some classes (Giesecke from Stanford, Jorion from UCI), even though there are other capable teachers at UCLA. The TA's were certainly very helpful for our learnings. There were quite a few PhD students from the finance or economics departments with quant finance master, and they were very capable and willing in helping us.

Materials used in the program
Most materials were professors' personal notes. None of the classes closely followed a particular textbook.
References suggested: Asset Pricing by Cochrane
The Econometrics of Financial Markets by Campbell
Stochastic Calculus for Finance by Shreve
Options, Futures and other Derivatives by Hull
The Handbook of Fixed Income Securities by Fabozzi
Fixed Income Securities Tools for Today's Markets by Tuckman
Quantitative Equity Portfolio Management by Chincarini
Value at Risk by Jorion
Financial Risk Manager Handbook by Jorion

Programming component of the program
Other than the accounting, corporate finance and intro to investment classes, heavy programming was required for all school work. The program did not teach programing, and did not have any requirement on the language chosen, as long as we could get the work done. The most common tools we selected were Matlab, Excel and SAS.

Projects
About 80% of all school works were done in groups. Most projects required understanding the objective, setting up and executing (usually require programming), and producing a light report.
Examples of individual projects:
Pricing various options computationally Examples of group projects: Empirical and statistical analysis to confirm findings of some famous papers/studies
Constructing and backtesting equity portfolio with various kinds of properties
Calibrating term structure models and pricing fixed income derivatives
Building intensity-base and structural models and assess default probabilities and CDS value at risk

Career service
A career office designated for the MFE students. Various kinds of workshops are provided (resumes, cover letters, networking, interview workshop, personal coaching, etc). The career office also reached out to potential employers on behave of students and worked in line with students personal goals. A couple professors with industry connections also helped bring in opportunities.

Can you comment on the social interaction between students of different ethnics, nationalities in the program?
60% of the class are international students. No doubt people grew up from the same countries tend to be closer, but there isn't an obvious barriers between ethnic groups. Overall the whole class engaged with one another very well without conflict.
The program assigned study groups some what randomly at the beginning of the year, people of all races were mixed together. I was not aware of any problem among the groups, and we chose to stick with the original groups til the end of the year.

What do you like about the program?
I enjoyed the small class size, diversified student backgrounds, and the fact that a lot of our work were done in groups. Overall it was a great environment to not only learn from school but also from each other.
I liked the cares and willingness shown by the administrative and career service directors to work personally with individual students. They were prompt in helping us and answering questions during the application process and throughout the year.
I also appreciated their continuous communications with the student organization to get our feedback and their effort in improving the program.

What DON’T you like about the program?
There were times it showed that the school was not fully ready for this new program. E.g. some career service workshops came in the last quarter but we could have benefit more if they were presented earlier, professors were not very clear on what speed and difficulty they should be teaching at, and one class was taugh by multiple instructors and it lacked continuity.
Another thing I would like to see improvement is the flexibility of the curriculum. The curriculum was fixed and there was no elective to choose from.

Suggestions for the program to make it better
I would work harder to promote the program and the MFE. I want to see more effort and result in promoting it to the industry. Financial engineering is not new, maybe some HR representatives understand what is MFE about, or UCLA MFE just didn't have a reputation.
It seemed to me that we were never being considered for positions that were traditionally held by MBA, even though we might be qualified. It bothered me a bit.
My personal experience with Deutsche Bank (I have friends working there who spoke to the HR) -- I was rejected for their analyst internship because I over-qualified, and I was rejected for their associate internship because I wasn't a MBA nor PhD. So where do we stand?

What are your current job status? What are you looking for?
I am current still seeking opportunities. I prefer to work in portfolio analytics and management or trading strategies R&D.

Other comments
A lot of the details of how the program is run are very likely to be adjusted a lot in the first few years. Experiences from the first year students may not be very applicable for future reference. Changes I'm observing (but was not told directly): Refresher classes are coming 2nd year students have more working experience, the reason could be a different pool of applicants or a different selection criteria Career service office is now better prepared and beginning to have some relationship with certain recruiters
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
PhD, worked in logistics and management consulting for 2 years, GRE (2250), GMAT (710)
I studied full-time in the program from 01/2009-12/2009.

Did you get admitted to other programs?
I only applied to UCLA MFE as I was based in LA

What alternative sources of info you used to learn more about the program?
Quantnet, Global Derivatives, Vault, lots of online research on MFE programs in general as this was a new program and not much information was available

Tell us about the application process at this program
Application packet submission (including GMAT scores, essays, transcripts etc) followed by telephone interview

Does this program offer refresher courses for incoming students? What do they offer and how much it costs?
They didn't offer one when we started - however, I know that there was one in the pipeline for the next incoming class

Tell us about the courses selection in this program. Any special courses you like?
Credit Markets, Computational Methods, Fixed Income Markets, Quantitative Asset Management. My personal interest was in credit markets as well as asset management. These courses were well-organized with lots of information, assignments and practical examples

Tell us about the quality of teaching
We were lucky enough to have some of the finest minds in finance such as Francis Longstaff and Eduardo Schwartz as teachers. They have not only produced great research but are fine teachers as well - well-organized, lucid and give a very nice bird's eye view of the field. Another teacher deserving special mention is Kay Giesecke, who came down from Stanford to teach Credit Markets - he was able to take some very complex subject matter and make it very accessible for us.
A couple of teachers weren't so well-organized - hopefully these could be attributed to teething troubles for them in the first year of the program.

Materials used in the program
Most of it was standard to MFE curricula everywhere - Shreve for Calculus, Fabozzi for Fixed Income etc. We got excellent notes from Schwartz, Longstaff, Giesecke and Lustig for their classes which were invaluable.

Programming component of the program
Mostly Matlab, although most of us had some C++ familiarity. No dedicated programming course (seems a waste of time and money in an MFE no? ). We spent a lot of time programming - all our assignments required significant amounts of progamming

Projects
Lots of derivatives pricing, interest rate modelling, CDS models and pricing. Both individual and group. We didn't have industry mentoring, however we did have industry practitioner seminars and our internships

Career service
We have a dedicated career services professional exclusively for the MFE program. We had on campus interviews and interviews scheduled through the career office. However, given that the program was brand new and given that our career services person had previously not worked in finance recruiting, our career services were certainly not as good as they could have been

What do you like about the program?
I liked that it was based in a business school - our faculty teach MBA curricula and consult in the industry - so they have a very good combination of theoretical knowledge and real world wisdom. I really liked our class - we were a small class and hence it felt very close knit. Everyone was always sharing their knowledge and skills with others.

What DON’T you like about the program?
I don't like the price tag - we paid business school prices for the program, we would have paid a lot less if the program was based in any other department. Also, given that we were the introductory year, a lot of the rough edges hadn't been smoothed out - the lack of a prep course for instance.

Suggestions for the program to make it better
Organize a prep course - programming, statistics, and advanced calculus. Organize more industry networking opportunities. Less emphasis on programming and modelling and more emphasis on the big picture in finance (this is a personal peeve of mine - there's way too much emphasis on the engineering and not enough on finance in MFE programs)

What are your current job status? What are you looking for?
Working for a distressed debt hedge fund

Other comments
My advice would be think beyond merely being able to code fixed income models efficiently and think of the ways in which they work. Think beyond being a glorified programmer and develop an interest in finance as a field (way too many refugees from the physics job crisis in quant finance - people who don't really care about finance and obsess over coding and modelling)
Disappointing

What do you think is unique about this program?
Class & Anderson Faculty, lots of practical hands-on projects, possibility to do one rigorous applied finance research project with a topic I'm truly interested in, some networking opportunity.

What are the weakest points about this program?
Disappointing standard of integrity, career service, have never seen any good effort to link students with employers. internships somehow work out but full-time placement is really disappointing. Also they offer $5k as tuition remerbursement to some unpaid internships to make them 'paid'. Absolute zero contact with big banks/wall street firms. Classes are good but not all of them. No variation, everyone takes same classes. Some faculty have absolute no interest in teaching (one even submitted final grade one month after the deadline in the final quarter, yes after commencement & everything was over). Do not market your truly great faculty & their life long research for MFE program/brochure rather try to market your students/placements.

Career services
Whats career service? one comes to b-school to make direct contact with the recruiter & pays high fees. Our career director send out online links for us to apply which many of us consider as spam.If online application works, then no point to come to a good school. Most of option pricing/ interest rate calibration/models including codes are available online why pay $54k for that? career director needs to understand what computational finance is & where potential opportunity lies. Above all, she creates major confusion. 50% of the class secures paid internships (mostly in LA/SF area), rest not worth of mentioning. Full time placement is even worse. There are some big shots in the industry body but what they do regarding career placement is highly questionable.
So before you spend that huge money for tuition, think twice about your other options.

Student body
Mostly international (who will pay $54k for a degree with such a little market value).

This review was submitted anonymously
What do you think is unique about this program?
The faculty at UCLA Anderson is truly great. Most of the courses are very hands-on, you learned a lot of techniques and skills in solving real-world problems. Many professors come with an industry background, so it's interesting to hear them talk about how what we learned in the class could be applied to real world. I especially enjoyed the Fixed Income class given by Professor Francis Longstaff. His class got me interested in the world of fixed income, and the class material proves to be pretty practical and useful when it comes to my current job in short term interest rate trading.

The Quantitative Asset Management class given by Professor Jason Hsu provides the most up to date material in the asset management industry, including the research method they employed and the latest trend in the industry, as the professor himself works as CIO at an asset management firm. The Computation Finance class is a good combination of learning the derivatives pricing theory and the techniques of pricing those options and mortgage backed securities, which is the critical part to financial engineering. All in all, I was really satisfied with the organization of classes and the quality of the faculty.

The fact that UCLA MFE program is housed under Anderson school is one of the reasons why I chose this program against others, because being in business school gives you more resources in terms of job search, networking with alum and learning finance from a more business world point of view. The guest speaker sessions arranged by school, conversation on finance, and the NY Wall Street orientation street are all very good resources in helping you understand more about the finance industry, and that's something you can only find at a business school.

Career services
In terms of career service, we have a dedicated career director at UCLA MFE. The program works really hard in helping placing every student for summer internship and full time. Given that the program is still pretty young, not many bulge-bracket investment banks would come all the way to LA to set up an on campus recruit for our MFE students, but we have very good connection with local buy-side firms in LA, and the network and reputation is starting to build up.

But no matter how strong the school's brand name is, in the end, job search still comes down to whether you have a solid enough resume to catch hiring manager's attention. As far as I know, we had many classmates who got interviewed by investment banks and big asset management shops, so getting interviews is not a concern. The harder part falls on whether you are well prepared for interviews, and that's something that can only be done by you.
UCLA Anderson has a great finance faculty, who along side a good career service provide a great help in defining your ambition and rigour.

What do you think is unique about this program?
Faculty is great and very focused. Secondly, owing to part of management school, the program provides a overall grooming quite well. It is more like Finance MBA with a great deal of quantitative focus- in my view.

What are the weakest points about this program?
Too many courses in shorter time but this going to be changed from 2013 as the new program will be probably 14/15 months long.

Career services
It is quite good and after talking to seniors and comparing with our opportunities- I feel that placement service has become a lot better and and there is lot more visibility for this program on both- east coast and west coast.

Student body
Through career services predominantly. Moreover various events/trips are organized by career services, which help in building networks. Moreover, since this program is in business school- there is no dearth of networking. This is quite useful.
Good program but still needs a lot of work

What do you think is unique about this program?
Anderson finance faculty is simply great. I agree with all past reviewers...classes are of high quality (except a few).

What are the weakest points about this program?
Poor visibility of the program to the recruiter, zero interaction with MBA Finance students, almost no elective course offered.

Career services
Very poor. students are mostly on their own to find a job or internship. Career services director is of no use.Also the facts about employment posted on the webpage not true, all very windowdressed.

Student body
80% -chinese, rest is a mix of Indian/domestic.
Very good program though a bit young.

What do you think is unique about this program?
World-class faculty. Most courses are hands-on. You learned many techniques that could be actually applied in your future job.

What are the weakest points about this program?
The program is a one-year program, and is very intense. You need to work very hard. But on the other hand, you can get your MFE degree in just one year.

Career service: Career office does a very good job to provide opportunities, workshops, guidance and networking to help students find internships and full time jobs. Getting interviews are not problems. Btw, most job opportunities are in California. If you want to work in California in future, this is a great choice.
Most classes are great, while the bad ones are really bad. Good program to lead you to the door, but you have to finish the score by yourself. Career service need improvement to worth the B-school price tag.

What do you think is unique about this program?
UCLA Anderson has great faculty in finance, we have classes from UCLA Anderson faculties as well as non Anderson or even non UCLA members.

Most classes taught by Anderson Faculty is generally of high quality, some of them have industry experience and very accessible and willing to speak frankly. Class taught by former CS stat arb trader may be one of a kind in MFE program and that is the one I enjoyed most, along with Jason Hsu's Quant Asset Management class.

Holger Kraft's credit class is tough but one can learn a lot from that rigidity (I wish he also told us the class Stochastic Calculus early in the first quarter in replace of current teacher who give a very short-changed SC class that is not enough get us through the job interveiws. If we were told by him, the placement could be much better IMO.)

Accounting and Corp class in the frist quarter have limited value in finding quant positions IMO but they are very good class taught by great Anderson Faculties. It is better to be elective rather than required for MFE student. Plus MFE student could also have class with MBA or even PhD students with no additional cost and there are some really interesting ones.

Faculty from math department seems to be less genuine in the interest to teach finance student. Teaching assistant hired from math grad program lacks interest of helping "money oriented" student, but TAs from Finance and Econ do great job.

The risk management course is absolutely the worst (Previous reviewer mentioned the teacher even does not bother to give grades in time, course and homework were at best poorly designed. ) But the faculty is not from UCLA,(by no means fits Anderson quality), and I do not expect her teaching for future classes given the unpopularity she had this year.

More works can be done in the quality control in terms of the class offered.

The program has good connection with buy side recruiters on the west coast, and CA is a better place to live IMO.

What are the weakest points about this program?
Career service lady made fair amount of effort to advertise the student body, but the effect is quite limited. We had chances to get in touch with IBs like Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan, but majority of the student body are not well prepared at the time of exposure.

The placement result into such positions could be better, if the interview workshops took place in time.

Some information about recruiting process is misrepresented by the career lady which lead to general decline in the confidence of her knowledge and ability. (The career lady had zero experience in financial firms recruiting.)

C++ programing has next to zero training in this program. (Good if you do not like programming, but lack of such important selling skill of quant makes student harder to place in the market)

Career services
We have some connections to east coast BB banks, but placement number are limited, partly because of the timing and preparation at the time BB recruits. Many intern positions in rating agencies and local buy side firms. Some international students utilized their own connection to find intern/full time jobs.

UCLA MBA has a good channel of connections to the industry, however such channel is not well utilized by this MFE program, reducing the value of a "Business School Housing" MFE program.

Career lady seems approaching in a more general college level career service manner, not effective enough for specific MFE student. Not good enough for a B-school price tag.

This program is getting better in its visibility to recruiters, but placement number should speak for itself.

Student body
Chinese and Indian majority, US minority.
Male majority, female minority.

(well, BB quant recruits has that similar demographics too, pretty common for quant finance career.)
Excellent program for those who are serious about either making a transition into finance or are looking to enhance their quantitative finance knowledge. Being housed in the business school and having an ideal mix of industry practitioners and academicians in the faculty helps not to diverge too much from practicality of the quant finance discipline.
One of the very few programs that can help develop an outlook beyond I-banks and into the asset management and hedge fund industry due to its West Coast presence. This is a particularly applicable now as the sell-side is more and more constrained by regulations and people looking to buy-side to come up with innovative solutions.
The program is rigorous, challenging and provides a good balance of the breadth and depth in finance. Lastly, UCLA Anderson has a very strong reputation in the industry and is definitely one that is worth having in one's resume.
My Experience:
The reason why I am writing this review is because the UCLA MFE has been underplayed by most applicants as a weak/fledgling program and to increase awareness amongst new applicants about the UCLA MFE and my experience. As a current student in the UCLA MFE 2014 batch, I can say my experience has been absolutely fantastic. Having an undergrad in engineering and an MBA in finance coupled with experience as a programmer, prop trader and a research analyst, I joined the program with a thirst to learn advanced Math & Stats, build and implement models in Finance and move into the buy-side of the financial industry. The information and knowledge imparted in the course was much more than what I had expected and am very satisfied.


About the program:
Since the program spans for only 14 months, it can be extremely demanding, but the knowledge gained in those 14 months is enormous. Students gain a high level of proficiency in subjects like Econometrics, Stochastic Calculus and Computational methods in Finance along with enhanced programming skills in MATLAB, R and SAS.

Job placement:
The career management cell does an excellent job reaching out to companies and everyone has been very successful in securing an internship in my batch. I can't speak about full time jobs, since I am yet to graduate. But looking at the previous batch, I am quite confident that our batch will be well placed. You should also keep in mind that the career management can get you an interview, not a job! It is up to the candidate to impress and convince potential employers of his/her skills and knowledge.


Pros & Cons:
Although, UCLA covers all areas in quantitative finance, the course material caters more towards careers in Asset Management and Hedge funds. If you are looking for an HFT or intense C++ programming or a pure Math finance course then this is not for you. The UCLA MFE is a fine balance achieved by combining the necessary applied Math, Stat and Programming to the field of Finance.


Best taught subjects:
1) Econometrics by Prof. Hanno Lustig: Almost parallel to the PhD level 1 class taught by Prof. Cochrane at Chicago Booth.
2) Fixed Income by Prof. Francis Longstaff: Taught by the man himself. Co-inventor of the LSM method used to price path dependent options which is used by most option pricing models and many more path-breaking achievements.
3) Quantitative Assent Management by Prof. Jason Hsu: CIO of Research Affiliates, which manages more than $169 Billion. What works and what does not from the practical standpoint.
4) Computational Methods in Finance by Prof. Levon Goukasian: Specialist in Portfolio Optimization. After this class you can price almost any derivative security by solving or implementing SDEs and PDEs


My advice to new applicants:
1) Know what you want: It is very important to understand why you want the MFE and what career track you wish to pursue after the MFE. If its Investment Banking associate or corporate finance or general jobs in finance, get an MBA!
2) Be open minded:- A trader at an I-bank is no longer the ideal job! Even if you believe it is, not everyone can get it. Look at other job profiles, the industry is booming with quant jobs in Risk Management and Analytics.
3) Get a CFA level 1 if you don't have experience in finance. The exam will help you answer the most important question, are you really passionate about finance?


Bottom Line:
I won't be surprised if you see the UCLA MFE ranked amongst the top 5 in the next few years.
I’m a recent graduate from the UCLA Anderson MFE program. I enjoyed it very much and think it is an excellent program because of these reasons:

Courses/Subjects: The curriculum is broad and covers diverse aspects of finance (risk management, derivatives, quant asset management, risk management, etc.). I felt submerged in many aspects of finance and was able to build a deep understanding of the diverse quant models. All professors are outstanding and really teach the ins and outs of finance. They are specialists in their fields and many of them have helped shape the world of finance! Ideally, I would have liked to see even more programming intensive courses to prepare me even better for the job search afterwards.

Career Services: It was great to have a team dedicated to help you find internships and full-time employment. I got advice on cover letters, my resume, interviews, where to steer my career and much more. The school is well connected to the industry and is always expanding its connections through its alumni network and I was able to leverage upon that. I was able to get a foot in the door with several finance companies across the US through the Anderson alumni network to find a job/internship. But remember, it was always up to me, the candidate, to find a job and be as prepared and qualified as possible. It took a lot of hard work. Going the extra mile in my area of interest was what made me stand out and helped me secure a job.

Advice to applicants: the job market in quant finance is highly competitive. It is good to know what you want before the program starts so that you can really focus on that field and become an expert. CFA and FRM certifications help you prepare for the program but programming skills in Matlab, R, Python, C++, etc. are more important to have before the program starts. It’s a real challenge to learn programming skills from scratch during this intense program.

I would highly recommend this program if you are profoundly interested in quantitative finance.
I'm an MFE graduate class of 2014. First of all, I would recommend taking the older reviews with a grain of salt -- the program improves every year and the faculty and staff is very receptive of student feedback.

Course Material: Things taught are very up to date. My favorite class is Jason Hsu's Quantitative Asset Management and Hanno Lustig's Empirical Methods (lots of time series stuff). Both are difficult classes, but it's worth learning as much as possible because contrary to what some reviews said, you can't possibly learn this stuff elsewhere just by googling or watch a YouTube video. I was struggling with a class and tried to hire a Cal Tech Math / Stats Ph.D. to tutor me some material and even he cannot fully explain it in the context of finance. Having a solid understanding of time series / cross sectional regression is very important even if you decide not to stay finance. I am still applying lots of stuff I learned from these classes today for my job. I can also tell you that there are at least two strategies I learned from the program that I am still using for my own portfolio today with much success. There are just so much to learn in this program and it’s up to you to pick which subject you want to master. The career-related seminars and industry panels are all designed to help you understand your career options.
Recommendation: The materials are difficult and require you to get out of your comfort zone and really spend time to learn it. What I mean by this is this program is NOT kindergarten -- you cannot expect to listen to each lecture and be able to ace every homework. You'll need to speak to your class mates, the TA, and the professor if you don't understand something. If you have poor social skills, well, it's time for you to develop it! If you are shy about asking questions, you will not be successful because there's no way you can expect to magically understand everything and work out everything on your own. The old saying goes “no good being the jack of everything but master of none”. So find the career path you want to take and master the material related to the career path of your choice.

Programming: Computational methods really teaches you how to code. Again, like I said, you need to work with your classmates and seek help from the TAs. However, I do feel this class is a bit unfair. The homework solutions are NOT published so you will never know what went wrong. I feel the student who lacks programming background are at a disadvantage here because they would not be able to learn as much as those who already have solid programming skills. The stuff is NOT easy and often the TAs couldn't even figure it out.
Recommendation: You need to be comfortable programming in AT LEAST one language. Whether it’s R, SAS, Matlab, C++ or Python doesn't matter. However, giving my current working experience plus the internship I did, I can tell you that free software always wins. Yes, the company I worked for does use SAS and Matlab, but unless you are of great value to them, they will not spend another $10K a year for you on software. So chances are you have to prove yourself worthy first by writing good algorithms in Python or R. There's a package called Octave in Python that is much like Matlab -- learn that if you have spare time.

Career Service: It's ok. If you need advice you will likely receive great suggestions. It's not like an MBA and it possibly will not be any time soon because on Campus recruiting is just too costly for the companies for a program this size. However, like the faculties said, no one is stopping you from going to the MBA career event. It's true that links are sent to the students and we have to apply on our own, but don't forget that the resume book gets sent to a lot of companies and the school continues to expand its network. I find that very helpful. Occasionally companies will ask for resumes through faculties and this is the MOST helpful since it is likely you will be directly presented to the hiring manager. I can tell you I have several co-workers here from other schools with a similar tuition but received no support at all.

Other thoughts and comments: The students are a bit young and sometimes immature, but not everyone is like that. Often you'll hear the younger crowd complaining about things not handed to them on a silver plate; yet it's them who ditches all the non-graded career activities and cheating on their homework and sometimes exams. The program needs to seriously beef up its standards by severely punishing cheating or code sharing with a zero tolerance. I feel some students found cheating or code sharing did not receive proper disciplinary action.
Advice to applicants: Pass the CFA level 1! I can’t emphasize this enough – if you aren't even willing to do this, then I recommend you reconsider getting into Finance. The material in CFA level 1 will give you a significant head start.
I liked the program very much and agree with the recent comments.

A key differentiator of this program is for international students. After the program, students can work on OPT for 12 months and extend it for another 17 months. That's 29 months of work without sponsorship and that's like any other MFE program BUT because graduation takes place in December, students will be able to apply THREE times for the H1b cap gap. For (almost) all other programs it will only be TWO times. And with the enormous ever-increasing number of H1b applications, the odds improve in your favor and are very much needed!
I am a 2014 grad from UCLA's MFE program. Like a lot of people who have provided their reviews prior to me, I will also share the things that I liked and did not like so much about this program.
Pros: Personally, the faculty of any program is its backbone. UCLA's finance faculty is one of the best in the world. Every interaction with these hallowed professors is awe inspiring, besides being extremely enlightening. Well structured assignments and project work based on class lectures then prepare the students to deal with the challenges in the real world. This program is very research oriented, so reading academic papers and working on projects based on these is at its core. Learning from great professors, who have built seminal models in various domains of finance and are very well cited in the academia, is surely a huge plus for this program.
The other good things are the great support you get from the career services and the admin teams, the interactions with a talented peer group, and the access to industry leaders through several fora organized by the school.

Cons: I wish the program were longer in duration so that one can go deeper into one's area of interest. Being just a 13 month course, it is super intense and can crush anybody without a strong sense of commitment to one's goals. So if you are looking for a program where you wish to do a great deal in a certain field then a PhD program would be better suited for you.

To sum up, every program has its core; for some it is programming, derivative pricing, etc., for the UCLA MFE program it's finance. To do well in this program and later, you don't need to have a background in finance (although it helps), for you will be made to swim in this ocean. The only question is, do you have the stamina.
  • Anonymous
  • 5.00 star(s)
I graduated from class 2015 and here is my review:

Good:
1. The program is in business school. Compared with many other MFE programs, it looks decent at least.
2. Really famous faculties in finance area. Some of them even provide personal connections to help students find summer internships and full-time jobs
3. Comprehensive curriculums.
4. Weather and view.
5. Safe. It's in Westwood, close to stone canyon and beverly hills.

Not that good:
1. Need more serious programming training since most candidates didn't graduate from computer science program. Algorithm, Data Structure, Database and Machine Learning are essential for job hunting. As for the programming skill set, we have enough training on Matlab, R and SAS. However, we lack training on python and C++(or Java) which are even more important.
2. If the program could be longer, that would be better. Having 4 classes in one quarter, it's a bit too much. Students need more time to prepare interviews and improve skill sets which are missed in the curriculums.

All in all, it is a very good program. The job placement is very good. The rate of summer internship return offer is pretty high. The ranking of 2015 in Quantnet didn't reflect the true value of UCLA MFE.
About me:
I am a graduate from the 2015 batch, who came in to the program after considerable work-experience in financial sector, to support my career transition from corporate finance to quantitative finance.
I am sure anyone reading this review, by now must have developed a good sense about Financial Engineering programs, in general. They all comprise mainly 3 components: (1) Finance, (2) Financial Computing, and (3) Maths/Stats, with varying degree of each depending on how a particular program is structured.
When I started narrowing down on a program that would be a right fit for me, I had the following criteria in my mind:
>> I wanted the program to be Fast-paced, to help minimize my opportunity cost; but rigorous enough to make me competitive for the job market afterwards
>> Program to be more ‘Finance-heavy’, since I didn’t want to go into roles where I’d be competing with CS majors or Maths PhDs. Plus, this way I could leverage and develop on my existing knowledge and experience of finance
>> It should have sufficiently strong emphasis on Financial Computing and Financial Maths, to help me get the necessary theoretical background along with required hands-on skills, to allow me to hit the ground running
>> Offer a diverse peer group (in terms of academic background, age group, and ethnicity)
>> Program should be from a well-recognized university, and of course have an impeccable placement record

Overall experience with the program:
Having been through the program, I am happy that UCLA Anderson’s MFE program checked all the items on my list!! Here is how…
>> The program in its current avatar is quite compact at ~13 months, including a 3 month internship
>> The program is housed/owned/driven/directed by the Finance department at Anderson. Which is awesome!! As you must have gathered from other reviews, Anderson’s finance department has historically been one of the strongest in the country and continues to be so. And the faculty loves teaching the MFE program, since the curriculum is more advanced (then say an MBA program), allowing them to share more of what they know.
The curriculum comprises courses with strong theoretical emphasis, such as fixed income markets by the man himself, derivatives, credit modelling, empirical methods, risk management etc. Don’t get me wrong, when I say they have a relatively stronger ‘theoretical’ bent, because they are still enough hands-on programming assignments (fitting short-rate models, forward-rate models, 2 factor/ multi factor, MBS modelling, calibrating cox-process, time-series modelling etc. etc.), which give ample talking points in an interview
>> While financial computing, in a way, gets covered throughout the course by way of in-class examples and coding assignments, there is a dedicated course taken by Prof. Levon, who comes with a strong background in mathematics and finance, and makes certain that you are very comfortable working in MATLAB by the end of his course.
>> Anderson is a strong brand, on account of its MBA program, with a large and strong alumni base, including industry leaders, such as Larry Fink (Blackrock) and Bill Gross (ex-PIMCO)

Along the way, there were also a couple of pleasant surprises in the program:
>> Course work by Prof. Jason Hsu, where he not only covered the literature on well-known equity anomalies (making sure you know the language of the industry in case you walk into an Asset Management role), but has designed the course to be so hands-on that by the end of it I was comfortable working with equities data and replicating results from any academic paper. The skills learnt in this course were directly applicable during my internship.
>> Course work by Prof. Olivier Ledoit, who is this super smart guy, teaches a course on how to beat markets by way of statistical arbitrage – again a highly hands-on course, by the end of which, you have a working stat-arb model. (There is a reference to him in the book ‘The physics of wall street’, in case you’ve read it)
>> MFE students are allowed to attend finance seminars, where academic researchers and PhD job-market candidates from programs across the country, present on their research. It is a great way to learn about current research areas.

What this program is not
Now one thing that this program is NOT, is it is not a PhD program. So even though, the course-work is rigorous, the program simply does not afford the luxury of time to teach or study these topics in as much detail as a PhD would. Mind you, almost every subject which is taught can be made into a research career in its own right. So, if you are looking for that level of depth, any financial engineering program simply won’t make the cut!! Which is why some students go on to do a PhD. However, it does provide you with enough of a foundation to learn and explore further on your own.

Career services/ Job prospects
No review can be complete without a comment on career services. I think the stats published on the program website speak for themselves. All I’d like to add is, the program enables you to explore careers across spectrum – asset management/ hedge fund/ sell side strats/ risk/ fintech/ consulting/ third-party providers of tools/ regulator/ exchange (and others I cannot immediately recall)

Another thing that many students question when considering this program is – how effective is the program in placing students on east coast? Again, I’d advise any prospective student to look this information up first-hand on LinkedIn. You’d be surprised how many students end up working in NY. While the official stats for my batch are yet to come, I’d imagine around one-third have their clocks set on EST.

Bottom line
Anderson’s MFE program is one of the best programs with its unique areas of strength. Housed under the Anderson business school and driven by finance department, it has been designed to be compact, rigorous and yet well-rounded. Plus, it happens to be in one of the coolest cities to not just study, but also work in.
About me:
Graduate from 2014 batch working in asset management.

About the program:
Faculty:
Faculty is great and world class.
Job Markets:
Unique value proposition in the Job markets in So Cal area. Most of the students in my batch got into risk management, valuation and asset management business. On the target lists for most buy side mutual funds as UCLA Anderson ranked top in asset management. Sell side (wall st.) recognition becomes stronger in recent years through alumni connections but still hard to compete with other ”Ivy League” schools. So if you are targeting BB banks, not the program for you unless you are recent wall st job leaver or PhDs!
Classes:
Relative easy class as comparing to PhD level classes but with a lot of hands on experience. Small group projects every quarter. A lot of finance papers to read. I personally found it great and this helps me a lot in my current job reading some sell side research papers and develop trading strategies.
Life:
Sun, beach, palm trees and chill only if you got an offer right after the summer intern (Joking). 15 mins drive from Santa Monica beach! 5 mins drive from Beverly Hills! And no winter!

To sum up:
Great program and definitely undervalued in recent Quantnet ranking.
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