COMPARE Columbia MFE vs MBA from IIMs (India)

#1
Hi,
I have been struggling to decide between the options at hand which for me are - Columbia MSFE or GaTech QCF vs IIM Bangalore or IIM Calcutta MBA. This is similar to a thread by Nanda started in 2012, but since the market and immigration policies have changed immensely since then, I was hoping for a fresh perspective.

Brief profile: -
B.Tech Chem. Engg - IIT Roorkee (9.07/10) - 2015
Goldman Sachs Prop Accounting - IT Analyst (22 months)
Tech lead at my own non-fin related startup (6 months)
Good Analytical and IT skills. Few math courses at IIT and fairly confident in my ability to learn new math concepts. CFA Level 1 cleared and appearing for Level 2 in June.

Based on the the information I could gather from the recent grads in the above schools, I can see the following points emerge

MFE programs in the US:
Pros :-
1. International exposure
2. Desk quant roles are open in banks and buy side firms which essentially might not exist in India. These in my view are the best opportunity to earn more and create wealth employing math and programming in finance and hence are lucrative to me.
Cons :-
1. Could not gather information on what percentage of ppl actually land these roles and if not, what other prospects exist to work in the Front Office?
2. Loan amount (110k USD for columbia) has to be collateralized by residential property and places a huge burden on the co-borrower in case things go south.
3. No information on the career growth and compensation growth in 5-10-15 years in a MO/BO or Quant Research role which seems to be the average role the class is going to.

MBA from IIM's
Pros :-
1. Cheaper in terms of fees. (43k USD for 2 years)
2. Very good career services. 100% placements irrespective of economic downturns
3. Very well recognized in India and SE Asia
4. Broader range of career options
Cons:-
1. Quant finance roles are almost non-existent in India currently
2. No info on whether an IIM B/C brand would be more valuable in a front office role in HK/SGP than a Columbia MFE

I do not have a first hand exposure to quant but going by the course structure I feel I would like it. I would definitely want to have a career in Finance and a role that is *NOT* predominantly IT. I don't see myself coding in 10 years time.

A few recent grads I spoke to, were of the view that Data Science and ML in a proper tech firm has a better long term growth and wealth creation prospect than a quant role in a bank.

Also, Owing to the immigration hassles being created, and a desire to keep my parents close in their old age, I do not see myself spending longer than 10-15 yrs in the states, unless a way opens up to make them move with me and not on a 6 month B2 visa.

Given the current market scenario, immigration issues and the significant loan exposure, what are the realistic chances of landing a front office Quant job? If not, what are the career growth options like in the jobs that are prevalent?

I would love to hear more views, opinions and experiences from alumni and current students on which of the above options will help me in the longer term (10 years down the line).
 
#2
As an IIMB alum who's considering an MFE soon, I think I'm in a position to comment on this.

Why not both? The MBA first and then the MFE. In my personal experience, an MBA from a top B-School in India (A/B is better) is really really valuable. It does add about 3 years to your overall career timeline (2 years of the MBA plus a year of work to ease the financial pressure a little), but in my opinion it's totally worth it. This is my list of Pros/Cons,

Pros:

1) Job security ++ especially if things go wrong and you have to come back to India. Also, the understanding that quant jobs are non existent is not true. They are competitive, but going by your profile you should have no problems getting through the door to interview at the least. I work in a BB quant role myself.
2) Significant value addition to your MFE application. Some schools (Berkeley etc.) give a lot of weightage to your overall experience.
3) The crème de la crème at IIM is a lot more mature than the one at the top UG colleges (I went to BITS Pilani). I've an overwhelming number of contacts across the world due to this and some very close friends too. Learnt a lot from my peer group.
4) The opportunity to explore other careers like Management Consulting if you should wish to. Can always come back to Fin if you don't enjoy it as much.

Cons:
1) It's very tough to get a good GPA at the IIMs, though perhaps okay to assume that you'll do well on the quant/finance courses which you should highlight on your resume.
2) Time. Arguable that in that total time period an MFE plus work-ex might be a better option if you know for sure you want to work in a quant fin role perhaps in the US.

It does ultimately come down to the person in question though, if you like networking and a generalist idea of business (which for me was invaluable, YMMV) IIM is a no-brainer.
 
#3
Thanks for your insights crossbowman. The reason I didn't consider an MBA+MFE option was
1. The extra time, money and opportunity cost
2. Since I already have an admit I thought it won't add much if quant fin is the field I decide.
My plan if I do stay back in India is to leave Quant Fin entirely and try to crack a FO Role in Bombay or a Mgmt Consulting role. Basically somewhere where client dealing is involved. These careers in my view offer a steeper growth trajectory.
As for quant being non existent in India what I meant was the opportunities when compared to NY were quite few. Also, since long term immigration is not something feasible, it's actually an either/or choice for me now hence I didn't consider both.
I'm just curious but would you have any data on
1. How many roles in SE Asia FO are open for IIM ABC grads? Since that seems to be a logical place for a quant to land up as well if things don't pan out in the US.
2. What do you think about an MBA from the US 5-6 years into your career?
 
#4
For a front office role in Bombay or a Management Consulting role with MBB (and with your profile you should be able to get interviews to a reasonable degree of certainty), you should seriously consider B. B places around 50/400 in consulting and around 20 in top finance roles in Mumbai some of which pay around 80-120k USD including bonuses.

From an immigration perspective an MBA now would be more like hedging your bets imo, if the situation changes you should be able to reconsider an MFE or another MBA a few years down, as you said.

I know that A places more people than B in South East Asia, I know maybe 4-5 people from our batch who were able to land internships in trading roles in HK.

I think it boils down to where you want to settle in the long term to be honest, if it’s the US go for an MFE. If it’s India or if you’d like to defer the decision, go to B.
 

Arijit

New Member
#5
I am an IIM C alum (2017) and going to UCB MFE in Spring 2019.
I can tell you that it is highly unlikely that you will get a FO quant job from an IIM. It doesn't matter whether it is A or B or C. IIM A/B/C used to place people in Hong Kong/Singapore, but the situation has changed now. Few quant roles which come for recruitment are mid-office/back-office, one of them being GS Strats (Bangalore). The FO roles are mostly in IBD and PE in Mumbai, but the number is very less. Only 5 or 6 people out of 450 get those coveted roles.
But if you want to go into management consulting, then IIM A/B/C is a good option. Around 40 people from our batch got into MBB.
So if you want a quant job, go to Columbia MSFE/Gatech QCF
If management consulting, then go to IIM B/C.
 

TraderJoe

Active Member
#6
Yep. IIMB alum here.
For quant roles in USA (with no hope of Green Card in this lifetime):
Columbia MSFE >> GATech >> IIM B/C
For much better career opportunities long-term, both in quant and in MBB:
IIM B/C followed by UCB MFE (they have very strong preference for IIT/IIM grads with relevant finance work experience)
For Finance PhD in USA:
IIM B/C gets you into top 10 Finance PhD programs.
Columbia MSFE probably into top 20-50
GATech probably in 50-100 range.

From long-term perspective:
Most of my IIMB batchmates are earning in crores in India. I made a huge blunder by coming and doing PhD in USA. Stuck in USA with no hope of going back.
 
#7
Thanks a lot for your insights guys. Just to clarify by front office roles in India I do understand that these won't be quant roles and I am taking IB+PE and mgmt Consulting roles to mean FO. The reason for this is the exposure to the respective businesses they provide vis-a-vis something like a Quant working in Risk. So In India I would be targeting these roles actively.
 
#8
From long-term perspective:
Most of my IIMB batchmates are earning in crores in India. I made a huge blunder by coming and doing PhD in USA. Stuck in USA with no hope of going back.[/QUOTE]

By this you're referring to people who stuck around in finance? Also, when did you graduate from IIMB if you don't mind sharing?
 
#9
Just an edit, I managed to get a scholarship and the course cost has come down to 60k. But most of the points made by @crossbowman and @TraderJoe still hold. From a pure 10 year horizon ROI perspective does an IIMC MBA still make sense?

On the immigration front, I would very much want to return to India owing to the GC situation but from my research QR roles in the investment side are very limited, probably a single team in BlackRock and a few small shops mainly into HFT.
 
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