University of Minnesota Financial Mathematics program

University of Minnesota Financial Mathematics program

I have learned a lot from the UMN MFM program during the last few years, and I’d like to recommend it to you if you also get a chance to join this program!

Most courses from the MFM program are taught by the experienced industry practitioners, which greatly benefits the students as they can have different views when they look into the quantitative finance world. The courses cover different interesting topics such as Risk and Asset Allocation, Volatility Models and Mortgage Backed Securities, etc. For each topic, the practitioner will give the students certain projects which help them deeply understand the topic. This would be great helpful when you graduate and want to try different things during the job hunting.

Except the practitioner courses, the MFM program also designs several mathematical courses which help their students to get a solid math background. The courses would introduce the main mathematical tools, such as probability and statistics. In addition, the coding classes were what I loved when I was at the U. The coding classes will let you build a portfolio management system in C# step by step.

Another thing I need to mention is the directors and many alumni associated with the MFM program. They are not only helpful in our academic life, but also helpful in our career development. For example, they would instruct you how to draft a resume, how to build a connection and even how to prepare an interview, etc. We can easily connect to the financial industry through them. Thanks to their help, we can have different interesting seminars given by professors or practitioners in math or finance almost every Friday nights. And they are always helpful to offer us a help or suggestion when we have any question in our career.
I got selected by this program a little more than two years ago. What drew most of my attention when I applied was that this program is under the mathematics department of University of Minnesota. UMN math department is continuously ranked top in the U.S. so that I knew this program would be mathematics-intensive.

Later on I found my choice to be absolutely right! Students of this program can choose to study for a minor master's degree in mathematics. And to my favourite part, I can customize my curriculum based on my interest and strength. I registered Fourier Analysis and audited subsequent Numerical Analysis classes, which helped me get better understanding when it comes to topics inside MFM curriculum such as finite element method in Option Pricing. And did i mention that we happen to have some most important scholars in the field of PDE such as Prof. Douglas Arnold who is also on the board of one of the most important Python PDE packages?

In terms of job placement, the past record shows that it is not enough to just sit in a classroom studying to secure a preferred position in the quant world. This program values local and national quant alumni networks as much as academic strength. As a recent graduate of this program and as a new hire into the industry, I appreciate a lot the help I got from my seniors. That is the reason why I feel the need to share some thought and review here about this program. Hope this helps you get to know more about your options when applying. Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions!

Yunpeng
The MFM Program at the U of M has a deep relationship with the Mathematics Department, Minnesota Center for Financial and Actuarial Mathematics (MCFAM), and the quant finance community especially in the twin cities area, which turns out to be the key advantage this program has in terms of education, research, and job placement. While most of the math courses are taught by professors from the top-ranked math department, the finance and practitioner courses are taught by industry professionals usually with 10+ years of experience, most of whom also graduated from this program. This combination, together with the structure of the courses (mostly taught in evenings, some with online options), provides students in the MFM program both breadth and depth of the math, finance, statistics and computer science knowledge highly sought after in today's quantitative job market as well as the opportunity to network and explore possible career paths.

I had only a Finance undergraduate degree with very limited knowledge in other areas coming into this program. However, through the first year, I was able to gain hands-on programming skills through projects in FM5091/2 and a solid math preparation in FM5001/2. I also benefited from the network and reputation established by the MFM program instructors/alumni in that I got my first quantitative internship at Allianz Life, regarding which I would be specially thankful to our career advisor, Laurie Derechin, without whose help this could never have happened. The second year tends to be a lot harder for me since I'm working part-time and taking 3 classes at the same time. But looking forward, I am more confident than ever that I will better achieve my career goals since I am building up my own networks in my career and the courses also become more rewarding than the first year as we have a 6-module sequence in FM5031/2 taught exclusively by practitioners from both the twin cities and Chicago, whose experience cover a huge spectrum of quantitative finance and often touch upon cutting edge ideas/theories in this field.

The MFM program is already one of the top quant finance programs in the US. But every year there have always been a lot of additions to this program, either professors, facilities, or something else. And as the development of the program as well as the expanding network/influence throughout the country, the MFM program is certainly going to be one of the 1st tier Quant Finance programs in the US, even globally.
The MFM program is a great opportunity for those who want to be prepared in Quantitative Finance sector.The program has a really good balance between theory and practice. The instructors are experienced practitioners from the industry. The most precious part is that the instructors are willing to share one of thier investment strategies in their daily work.

The program provides a lot of opportunities for students to participate in workshops, seminars, research projects and international trading competitions. When it comes to gain, you get as much as you give.

The Director is helpful and resourceful for career development. She helped me in job hunting, social networking and career development. A large percent of my classmates are professionals from banks, hedge funds, asset management firms, etc. The program offers a good opportunity for students to get knowledge of different financial institutions' culture and their business. After talking with experienced classmates in the program, I gradually knew what I want to do after the graduation.

The program is growing fast, and changing coursework content with the industry changes and adapts. For example, the 5091/5092 course added SQL study as the database is get more and more important in the finance industry.
Very disappointed when graduated from the program.
Except for the computational course,other modules only touch the concept without digging into the formula.
The instructor for fm5021/fm5022 are extremely irresponsible.
Most of fm5011 lecture notes are directly copied from John Hull's website.Some of the lecture and homework are totally time wasting material ,for example doing Matrix decomposition and basic probability,for the more technical part such as interest rate derivatives, the instructor barely write down one equation on the blackboard,leaving the student studying the lecture notes themselves.He does not have any research or publication in quantitative finance,the only industry experience he had was a Oil trader at a non-financial company.
The Asset and Allocation module is also poorly constructed with outdated material.The final project for the first whole semester is basically fitting a GJM-Garch model.By the way, I should also mention the instructor only came to class twice each semester, most part were distant teaching.
For the placement number, I think they just fake up the data.From my experience, very few international students in this program managed to locate a job ,some of their jobs are even totally irrelavant of finance, like ,coding in a IT ,for example.
There are no full-time professors teaching in this program.All the lectures taught the courses do not have renowned publications in quantitative finance, as a consequence, most of the courses just treat basic ideas and lack of depth some of them are even overlapping! See one of the course website below
http://math5022spring2014.weebly.com/
No courses specializing in credit risk and financial time series are offered,which seem to such a big issue in current quantitative finance world.
The MFM program promotes the environment for growth. The growth comes not only from classroom experiences and a pure academic perspective. Through the integration of industry practitioners as professors and engaging numerous seminar speakers, the program gains a certain professional and career aspect. In addition to the coursework, the MFM offers modeling workshops. In a relatively short period of time students gain insight and knowledge into numerous financial markets, inter-workings for the construction of models, and the latest applicable techniques. Combining both academic and career oriented goals, the MFM prepares students to learn the new methodologies and practices as the industry changes and adapts.

Coming into the program, I only had substantial experience with MS Excel, MS Access, and minor exposure to various statistical software. The MFM program gave me a great exposure to C# and Matlab, which allowed me to pursue both beyond the classroom. This was a gateway to additional development of my programming toolset and additional languages.

The MFM program starts with building the underlying mathematical knowledge needed for the latest modeling and pricing techniques. Following learning the mathematical theory, the focus is turned to applying the theory to practice. The instructors make a large difference, especially when it comes to a career. Since the majority of professors are practicing in a quantitative finance role, students have a direct resource for learning industry practices and relating any coursework to the real world.
As far as I can see, this program is great for students who has both mathematical and programming background. The courses provide deep insight of the financial world. And the teachers are from the industry who can offer us the first-hand information. Besides, the seminars are held weekly to help us keep in touch with the industry.
The MFM program at UMN has introduced me to various topics in the field of quant finance. Given the length of 2 years, it is hard to cover every comprehensive topic on an in-depth level. Nevertheless, the broad gamut of presented topics (e.g. stochastic calculus, statistical analysis such as VaR, copula, Bayesian, time series, the classical Black-Scholes, interest rate modeling, credit risk, numerical PDEs, etc) has allowed me to have a good feel for each subject. Most importantly, the program has a very strong network of experienced practicioners in the Twin Cities and Chicago areas. That has personally allowed me to tap into the well-connected network to eek my own research advisors who help guide my independent studies on my interested topics. As long as you're driven to learn and explore, there will always be mentors willing to help you. Furthermore, I also have been able to build very strong network with classmates who currently work in the field and get engaged in 'real-world' conversations.

Ultimately, how much I am driven to learn defines how much I got out of the program. My philosophy is that it is the students who guide their own academic and career pursuits. No classroom in the world can babysit and teach me through every single aspect of quant finance. Advisors and instructors are there to make sure I do my best to get what I want, NOT to grant me an automatic job nor baby feed me the highest specialist expertise. I have done so much work on my own, using the available resources and so when I heard classmates complaining about not being able to land a job or to study much as they had hoped for, I pity them for not doing themselves as a good favor with those great resources offered at the U.

Overall, I find the program worth my money. I came in with not so much quant skills (only a Finance/ CS major in Undergrad) but after 2 years of a lot of pain and hard work, I've learned so much. That lands me a great job in risk management in a big bank right when I finish the program.
Very resourceful faculty and advisers.
Pretty good job placement. (Most students who want to find a job find a job. )
Things learnt from class are really practical since faculty are from the industry and working with knowledge they taught us day t o day.
Weather is okay (except this year....) Twin cities are pretty decent metropolis in mid-west. We have many financial entities who hire every year.
Very helpful director: Approachable and gives personalized coaching and advice too.
a big percentage of your classmates are working professionals, who you might work for in the future. ( Faculty too)
Location is a slight disadvantage ( if you want to work for a NYC firm , you will have to fly out there by yourself for interviews etc). But if you plan to work in the twin cities area ( this program makes you top dog here.)
Nice place to live. Hedge funds and actuarial firms. For hardcore quant stuff ( chicago is 7 hours drive).

1 important thing about this program is that its very flexible. You can take any related courses in the other departments(even after finishing FinMath credits) and can also extend your program as long as your i20 allows it ( for international students) . So you can tailor your program according to your needs. You can take Machine learning, DSP , in fact any course related to your field.
The MFM is a great opportunity for students looking to gain a well rounded education in the Mathematical Finance space. The Twin Cities has a well diversified economy which includes a strong financial industry which supports the University of Minnesota and in particular this program.

The course work and faculty have really expanded and matured my talents. I was originally geared towards the actuarial side of things and have now all but abandoned it due to the program enlightening me to other career paths.

I particularly enjoyed the software development skills I have gained as well as the industry perspectives the majority working finance professionals faculty bring.

As a local student it gave me the opportunity to work and learn as the classes are in the evenings, for me this has been great as I have had the chance to see the class room side as well as the office side of things.

All in all it has been a positive experience for my peers (local and international) and I and it is has always been improving and growing during my time in the program.

-John Drinane
Did you get admitted to other programs?
Yes

Why did you choose this program (over others, if applicable)?
Good reputation of the university and math department, low tuition rates.
What alternative sources of info you used to learn more about the program?
Quantnet, US News.

Tell us about the courses selection in this program. Any special courses you like?
No elective courses. The courses during the first year is probability and programming. They are useful enough. I can select courses from other department to enhance quant background.

Materials used in the program
John.C Hull - Options, Futures,
Derivs Stochastic Processes - Lawler
Implementing Derivative Models-Les Clewlow and Chris Strickland


What do you like about the program?
I leaned a lot of useful theories and practical skills from this program. There are plenty of projects to improve our skills and we can easily find instruction when we participate IAFE competition can other events. The weekly seminar is definitely a wonderful event that professors and practitioners will bring us the cut-edge topics.

What DON’T you like about the program?
The first year course is not tense enough.

Suggestions for the program to make it better
Provide some data source and a financial engineering lab for students to get closer to the market in order to understand it would be better.

What are your current job status? What are you looking for?
Summer intern in a trading company in Chicago Board of Trade.
Looking for a full time job next year.
One of the main reasons I chose the MFM program at the University of Minnesota was that many of the MFM faculty are not only Math PhDs, they are also practicing quants, risk managers and traders. The curriculum gave me a strong foundation in the theoretical math required to get a deep understanding in the math finance applications taught later on in the program. The practitioners’ course with multiple modules taught by industry practitioners and the intensive year-long programming course using problems from finance greatly enhanced the skills I use in my quantitative risk analyst job today.
This MFM program fosters both mathematical skills and business astuteness. As a quant analyst, I have to be a bridge between highly technical researchers and business people. Because many of our MFM instructors were from different areas within the quant finance industry, they not only taught us advanced mathematical theories but also how to fully leverage our unique quant skills in a business setting. Also I really liked the program's career development support. It opened my mind and got me focused on building my career rather than just looking for a job. I was able to talk with my MFM career coach often. She helped me network and take advantage of MCFAM’s broad practitioner network. From talking to many successful people already in the industry, I gradually got a clear picture of what kind of financial field I wanted to be in.
It is part of one of the most important department of mathematics in the world that is way it combine a strong preparation of math skills and theory with the regular seminar with real practioners of the quantitative finance sector.
Students obtein the advises of people working in the field and work to solve real problems getting experience an knowledge of the labor market.
The Director is really working on having a great labor placement, so there is a big percentage of students who finish the program having a job.
It is a great program to enroll, and is getting more and more important.
It is hard to find so delicate a program which strikes a wonderful balance between theory and practice. Backed up by the strong faculty of mathematical department, this umn program is destined to gain a lot more success in the near future. No reason to miss it!
A nice program with instructors who are experienced practitioners from the industry. And during the study period, the program will offers you a lot of opportunities to learn from reality and participate in activities
Did you get admitted to other programs?
Yes

Why did you choose this program (over others, if applicable)?
Reputation of the university and the math dept, and comparative lower tuition rates.

What alternative sources of info you used to learn more about the program?
Quantnet, forums and alumni.

Tell us about the application process at this program
Application is quite simple and twp essays are needed. No paper documents are needed until you are admitted.

Tell us about the courses selection in this program. Any special courses you like?
All courses required are set and no elective. However, students can choose an emphasis, includes Economics, Statistics, Computer Science, etc. Normally, three additional courses in specific area can even qualify you to gain a minor several course requirements are satisfied.

Tell us about the quality of teaching
Good. Most instructors are experienced practitioners from the industry and very nice to answer questions and to share those hands-on experience. Besides knowledge of quantitative finance from the book, those industry professors can bring more practical perspectives and tell you more about how those theories are implemented in real practice. Some of them are particularly focus on a specific field and bring their expertise which inspires and benefits students a lot.

Materials used in the program
John.C Hull - Options, Futures, Derivs Stochastic Processes - Lawler

Projects
Many course projects, traditional in the quant finance field, are required and they are all arranged in a very practical sense. In addition, the winter modelling workshop brings in some currently popular projects for students to investigate and is indeed valuable.

Career service
Great career service with one-by-one mentoring and the directors are always there and very helpful in providing valuable advice. Regulary weekly career workshops are held to prepare students to be more competitive in job hunting. They are trying to connect with industry practitioners and start arranging important networking event in the field of both actuary and quant finance. Regular yearly netwroking event, winter modeling workshop are good examples. And the recently help risk management symposium is quite successful, with involvement of many successful practitioners as speakers and very well-designed speech contents covering most popular risk mgmt topics in both the actuary and bank sides. We can witness that the placement quality is improving.

What do you like about the program?
Overall, it is a good program especially when comparing the quality/price ratio. Directors and faculty are passionate, with their continuing effort to improve the program. We can see the great improvement and the growing reputation of the program, so great potential is one of the biggest merits that worths our particular attention to the program. Many intelligent classmates including those part-time students, some of who are already in the industry, and it has quite a good reputation in the finance area of Minneapolis.

What DON’T you like about the program?
Course structure is not flexible and the location may be a disadvantage for the program. So more efforts to expand its reputation in a brader area are needed. In addition, more oop language based practices are needed for students to implement the quant finance knowledge.

Suggestions for the program to make it better
Provide more course selections in order to let the students design a more flexible course structure. Also the names of courses should be modified to specify content of the course.

What are your current job status? What are you looking for?
Summer intern in a small company participating in derivatives valuation. Start seeking full-time position in the coming year.
Nice program mainly because the people and stuff are excellent.
if you are eager to learn something, you can have quite a lot of options of minor in statistics, economics and computer science which are also quite helpful when you are searching jobs in US.
This is one of the high valuable programs across the country and I believe with Laurie's efforts, we are building the reputation in different areas now.
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