University of Minnesota Financial Mathematics program

University of Minnesota Financial Mathematics program

I graduated from U of Minnesota's Master of Financial Mathematics (MFM) in class of 2018. I enjoyed every bit of it -taught by top-notch industry practitioners and faculty, I gained a lot of in-depth knowledge in areas such as: Derivative pricing , Quantitative risk management, Fixed income,MBS, Stochastic Calculus,Non-linear Optimization, Data Modelling, Markov Chains and programming (Python, MATLAB ,C#) etc.

The program also offers fantastic career development services through student workshops, 1-on-1 career advising and a vibrant alumni network.

MFM prepared me adequately to take on my first job as a front-end Quant pricing electricity derivatives. I get to build quantitative models in VBA and python. Knowledge about derivative pricing, counter-party credit risk and montecarlo simulation have also been pivotal in excelling in my job.
I graduated from the MFM program back in 2015 and thought it was a great program to help launch my career in the financial industry.

Before joining the program, I didn't have any experience in finance, but had the technical skills necessary for modeling and programming.

The MFM program bridged that gap, and helped me learn about various financial concepts and subjects (option pricing, portfolio management, risk management, etc.. Also, the program provide a way to practice my programming and analytical skills in a controlled setting, but with real world examples and projects which I could use to impress interviewers.

I secured a job during my second year of the program at a large regional bank in a Capital Markets risk management team, and have since moved on to a Quant role in the credit risk department.

The programming skills honed during the program helped build a great foundation for the work I'm doing now.
I graduated from the MFM program about tow and half years ago. Here is my unbiased testimony for the MFM program.

1. Academic
In my opinion this program has a very strong academic curriculum with a perfect balance between theory and practice. The program starts with solid math preparation on topics including stochastic calculus and extensive programming in C# in the first year. These classes will help you build a solid foundation on the math theories and programming skills which will benefit you in a variety of positions in the financial industry. I am still benefiting from a lot of the concepts I learned from the math and programming class today as a quant. In the second year of the program it will teach you how to apply the math theories into practice. You will be taught about almost all the financial derivatives you can name, bond, future, forward, swap, swaption, MBS, etc. And believe me you will be asked a lot of questions about these financial products depending on the role that you are interviewing. Most of the teachers (if not all, especially in the second year's class) are either from industry or have extensive experience working in the industry. Some of them are quant modeler, some of them are very experienced traders. By simply talking to them will get yourself a lot of market insights. Another good thing is that the program also have a winter workshop available during the winter break which I personally like it a lot. You will be able to have exposure to some very interesting practical projects like CCAR, hedging strategy, fixed-income modeling, even machine learning, with the guidance of an industry practitioner. This is a perfect time to strengthen your understanding about those theories and apply them to solve real-world problem. One thing I want to remind all the prospective students is that don't be afraid of talking to the teachers. All of them are super nice and helpful. What's more important is that they are all very experienced, often times you will find that most of your concerns about study/career development will be resolved by just talking to them.

2. Career Development
I am sure a lot of prospective students may have concerns about the location of UMN. Sure this is not New York, but the flip side is that you won't be easily distracted by the "fancy" things going on out there. There are also quite a lot big companies headquartered in Minnesota as well - U.S. Bank, UnitedHealth Group, Cargill, Best Buy, Travelers etc. The executive director of the MFM program, Laurie Derechin, provides valuable career advice and works diligently to help student to find a job. She is super nice, always there to help. I constantly "bother" her for career concerns even after graduation. She will patiently communicate with you, help you to figure out your career path and connect you to the alumni from industry. She will hold seminars and mock interview practice sessions regularly to get students comfortable with real interviews. She will send out recruiting information regularly and push students to apply for the jobs. I can't say enough about how much she cares about the MFM students. Personally, I got an internship at a big bank through the recruiting information she sent out (every MFM students will receive the same recruiting information!). As far as I know, a lot of students find their jobs or get job offers through the internal recruiting information and the opportunity is not only limited to Minnesota area. I would suggest the prospective students to pay more attention to the internal job information and be more active because there is a much higher probability to get an offer from there than applying yourself because typically the recruiter has some connections to the MFM program or Laurie herself. I think the MFM program pays a lot of attentions to the placement of their students and as I said above, Laurie is a super helpful resource to talk to if you have any concerns regarding career development.

Last but not least, I want to say - don't limit yourself. There is a lot of things you can do. If you set up a clear goal, establish a step-by-step plan and stick to it, you will eventually get there. You can read market news every day, join a quant club and do some modeling projects every week, meet and talk with a industry practitioner every month, sign up the CFA and FRM program. The point is that the resources that the MFM program at UMN is more than enough to help you achieve your goal, but eventually it's yourself to define who you want to be.
I am the 2nd-year MFM student and I will graduate this May. I think it’s time for me to share some of my points of this program.

1. Academic: The top reason I chose this program 2 years ago is that almost all the teachers or instructors are from the industry. Some of them are option, future traders, others are head of quantitative research and analysis, etc. These make our courses both theoretical and practical.
FM5091/ FM5092, we used Matlab (now is changed to Python), C# (GUI is powerful) to price both European options and exotic options. At the end of FM5092, we had to build an option portfolio management GUI. Also, we discussed financial markets for 30 mins each lecture. It’s really nice to know the insight of an experienced exotic option trader.
FM5011/FM5012, the most mathematical courses in the program. We learned measure theory, stochastic calculus, risk neutral measure and portfolio optimization. Math is the thing you never feel it useful until you need it. Thank for these two courses, although I already learned some of them during the undergraduate, I refreshed and consolidated the knowledge.
FM5021/FM5022, courses related to math in financial derivatives. My understanding of derivatives was superficial until I took these courses. Besides, I learned Greeks of options deeply, which is super helpful in hedging and option trading.
FM5031/FM5032, my favorite course in the whole university. The courses are very practical and let you know what quant can do in insurance company, option clearing house and asset management company. The courses are challenging, but it’s really interesting and I learned a lot from the instructors.
Also, we are flexible to choose any courses related to Math, CS, Stats, Econ, Finance and Management from other departments. And if we meet the requirement of specific department, we could get a minor.

2. Career development: I don’t know other programs’ career service, but our program’s is perfect. Laurie Derechin, who’s executive director of our program, is really really helpful! She wants all of us to get the job after graduation, and she spares no effort to help us with resume, interview and life. Based on her effort, our alumni are united. I got a lot of help from our alumni through coffee meeting, FMA meeting, MCFAM seminars and winter workshop. Networking is the key to find a job, and all the alumni are resources.

3. Location: As lots of alumni said before, we are the only MFM program in Minnesota, so we don’t have that many competitions as east coast or west coast. Minnesota is also the best place to live. Don’t be afraid of the cold. I’m from south east of China, and I don’t think the winter here is colder than my hometown…It’s just longer…

That’s all I want to share for now. I’m still trying to get a job now, but I’m not upset since I know I will have a happy ending with all these solid trainings and help from teachers and alumni.
The MFM program at the University of Minnesota was an excellent experience. The opportunities both in the classroom, as well as networking, seminars and special projects, were far superior to my undergraduate university.

What initially attracted me to this type of program was the ability to differentiate within a highly competitive industry. On the academic side, there is a clear focus on developing programming skills, which is one of the first classes taken. As you make your way through the program, you learn specific things that are applicable to equity, fixed income, and derivatives. This gives you exposure to find out what you may be interested in post-graduation. Many employers put emphasis on new graduates having a particular interest, and not just saying they like "finance".

On the networking side, the career development team provides plenty of opportunities and is willing to connect you with the large, local alumni base. I was able to land a job after my first semester, in which multiple interview questions involved things I directly learned in class. Also, several people I interviewed with were familiar with the program, displaying strong brand recognition

To wrap things up, I feel I made the right choice in choosing the U of M. I would recommend the U of M specifically because of the competition within the twin cities for jobs. The MFM at the U is the only of its type in the area, which theoretically gives its alumni an advantage.
I accomplished my Bachelor’s degree in math in UMN in 2017, and graduated from MFM in May 2019. As an international student, I found my job as a quant analyst in the United States within 3 mo. after graduation.

Could say the program provides us with nicely planned professional training. For example, FM 5011/5012 is a math prep course relating to probabilities, measure theories, matrix and some derivative pricing models. It's not very difficult for me but I believe it's the best math course for non-math majors to refresh their math knowledge. In addition to this,
my favorite course FM5021/5022 will basically build us with advanced financial math background. Although some reviews might say professors are using (definitely not copying!) materials from John Hull's book, I've learnt and got trained a lot relating to financial math models, including real programming, problem-analyzing and self theory-deriving, which is not taught by the textbook.

Have to mention a course, FM 5031/5032, which is a feature of MFM, is taught by 3 financial practitioners each semester, is absolutely a treasure for students! More in details, instructors are excellent - For example, John Dodson, who works in QRM at OCC, teaches comprehensive and excellent quant analysis insights. His lectures are never boring. In addition to this, 5031/5032 Homework is meaningful - I appreciate the instructors’ efforts making all of the real-world homework problems relating to statistical analysis, financial market and quant fin models. In this course, the homework is all programming-based. We are allowed to use any programming language we want but we have to compose very structural/detailed mathematical documentation for weekly homework. Thus, students are trained well in programming, documentation writing and teamwork. As far as I’m concerned, the homework projects will be very SHINY when you put them in your resume because of the variety and the depth. And I promise all of the quant interviewers are interested in our academic projects, and 95% of quant questions are covered by MFM courses.

Most importantly, frankly speaking, the placement of international students in the US is hard, especially in recent 2 years many companies in the US are not hiring non-green card or non-H1B holders. But If you are an international student considering joining MFM, don’t worry too much. We have alumni in Minnesota, Chicago IL, Texas, Atlanta, and some major eastern cities like NYC. They are so nice and willing to help. Our director Laurie is so helpful organizing alumni dinner, activities and Chicago trek. So, please, please go networking rather than stay at home and play video games.

In conclusion, I believe MFM provides everything-you-need for your quant career. But it’s always crucial that you must learn to make good plans and to challenge yourself while learning because your future can’t be guaranteed by a diploma - It still depends on yourself.
I graduated last year in May and got an offer in US within 2 months after graduation. I know some of you might have heard people saying "if you want to find a job in US, then choose the schools located in NY or so", which is not so true from my stand of point, you still have many good chances here, and we have quite a lot successful examples as proof.
I have a bachelor degree of applied mathematics. even so, I have largely expanded my mathematical knowledge. Also, the programming class 5091/5092 as well as other practical coding trainings in 5031/5032, will give you a prepared programming skill of being a quant.
I will be graduating this May and I really appreciate all the help I got through this program.

Academically, MFM has a well set system of courses, ranging from deep math to necessary coding and quant finance knowledge. In addition, you always have your choices to choose a minor or just register for some classes of your interest.

Aside from the coursework, we are a top program in Minnesota and we have an excellent alumni network nationwide and especially locally. Teachers and seniors are always willing to share their experience, which helped me a lot to decide where my interest lies in the quant field and also build my personality. My coffee meetings with alumni have taught me to always be grateful and contribute, which I believe will benefit my whole life.
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!

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
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