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Economics and Finance are not enough for a career in Quant Finance

Dear fellow Quant enthusiasts,

My name is George and the reason I am writing you is because I would really appreciate it if you could give me some advice in regards to the next steps on my career. I have read most of the threads and haven’t been able to find one that touches a similar matter and hence I created one.

Some information about me:
BSc Economics
MSc Finance
CFA level 2
Now, I know that many of you consider all three of those qualifications useless( at least from a quant career perspective) and I couldn’t agree more. Besides, that’s why I am here. However, through luck and hark work I managed to land a job in the “quant” team of a fintech company specialised in asset management. And 1.5 years after that I started working in the model validation/risk team of a leading asset manager in the UK. Truth is that although I believe that I will catch up eventually, my not-so-relevant background makes it more difficult for me to keep up. Nevertheless, because I really like financial modelling and studying I think I ll be ok.
The question: Given that I already have a job in the function that I like (asset management-portfolio management-risk) how would you advise me to proceed with my studies? I have always wanted to study a MFE or MSc in FinMath. I know that I will never be as good as a physicist, mathematician or engineer with a Phd. Besides I hardly believe that I will apply for the same positions. However, I really really want to enhance my technical understanding as much as possible. Hence, the primary reason I want to continue studying is not to find a job but improve my knowledge and understanding as much as possible.

In my opinion my options for the next year are:
1)improve my R knowledge + attempt cfa level 3 in june and then MFE or FinMath in september
or
2)improve my knowledge in R + as many levels of PRM( professional risk management certification which dives - to a certain level- into the mathematical foundations of risk models ie integration, differentiation, partial differential equations(not sure about that), probability theory etc.) I can pass in a years time and then MFE or FinMath in september

Do you have any other suggestion?

In regards to the university I have the following options:
1)imperial- I dont think i will be accepted
2)kings- i dont think i will be accepted
3)Ucl-this is the one i am hoping for
4)queen mary-higher chances but lower quality
5)birkbeck-last resort

Please bear in mind that I will be applying to PART-time masters.
What else do you think that I could do to improve my chances of getting accepted in any of the top three?

I hope I didn’t tire you a lot! Many thanks!
 
part-time means you will be accepted into any program listed given your work experience.

Thanks for coming back to me.

But how is that possible given that most of these courses, particularly Imperial's, King's and UCL's ones have very "tough" criteria in regards to the mathematical background of their candidates. Although I am in the business, I do not actually use Partial Differential equations in my day to day tasks.

Although I believe that I kind of see your point in that I will be able to catch up given that I will only have one or two modules per semester?
 
But how is that possible given that most of these courses, particularly Imperial's, King's and UCL's ones have very "tough" criteria in regards to the mathematical background of their candidates. Although I am in the business, I do not actually use Partial Differential equations in my day to day tasks.

It's bollocks. There may be one course in any of these programs that actually presupposes knowing something about differential equations. Likewise for basic probability theory. The tough criteria are just to add to the mystique of the quant degree. In my opinion you're probably wasting your time even trying to learn things like PDEs, Black-Scholes and stochastic calculus as you're unlikely to use them and even if you had to, there are work-arounds.
 
It's bollocks. There may be one course in any of these programs that actually presupposes knowing something about differential equations. Likewise for basic probability theory. The tough criteria are just to add to the mystique of the quant degree. In my opinion you're probably wasting your time even trying to learn things like PDEs, Black-Scholes and stochastic calculus as you're unlikely to use them and even if you had to, there are work-arounds.

So you would say that doing another masters is a waste of time at this point? I like studying and I would also like to get a solid foundation and understanding of these concepts. Not only from a business perspective (which I am currently gaining) but also from a more academic perspective.
However, you might tell me to study on my own. My answer to that is that -correct if i am wrong- unis give you 1)recognition, 2)credibility and most importantly 3)direction. The correct question would be, do these 3 things justify 20-30k in tuition fees? Still wondering.

What would you recommend?
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
It's bollocks. There may be one course in any of these programs that actually presupposes knowing something about differential equations. Likewise for basic probability theory. The tough criteria are just to add to the mystique of the quant degree. In my opinion you're probably wasting your time even trying to learn things like PDEs, Black-Scholes and stochastic calculus as you're unlikely to use them and even if you had to, there are work-arounds.
That's a bit too glib (or tongue-in-cheek), especially for PDE/FDM pricing libraries. And mot use C++.

On the other hand, PDE is not the easiest topic to learn with a pure economics background.
 
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That's a bit too glib (or tongue-in-cheek), especially for PDE/FDM pricing libraries. And mot use C++.

On the other hand, PDE is not the easiest topic to learn with a pure economics background.

I agree on that and that's why I am asking you guys. I was thinking of studying some primers. There is a very good book (found about it in here), "A primer for the mathematics of Financial Engineering" which could boost+refresh my knowledge in areas that I am weak. And also taking the PRM exam which emphasizes on the math foundation of risk. But does not include PDEs. They are too sophisticated for this kind of level of exam.
 
So you would say that doing another masters is a waste of time at this point?

I would argue yes.

I like studying and I would also like to get a solid foundation and understanding of these concepts. Not only from a business perspective (which I am currently gaining) but also from a more academic perspective.

But you evidently don't like studying math (or that would be your background). And covering the ground from scratch when you may possibly have no aptitude for it and no enduring interest in it may be a bit of a problem.

However, you might tell me to study on my own. My answer to that is that -correct if i am wrong- unis give you 1)recognition, 2)credibility and most importantly 3)direction. The correct question would be, do these 3 things justify 20-30k in tuition fees? Still wondering.

Recognition and credibility are among the mercenary reasons most quant students seek the MFE degree. In your case the problem is you lack a math background and you're probably in the unenviable position of Groucho Marx, who didn't want to join any club that would accept the likes of him as a member.

If you're asking for advice, you have to put in the long slog every math student does once he (or she) is weaned away from his (or her) mother's milk. Get hold of the books and work your way through them. No shortcuts.
 
That's a bit too glib (or tongue-in-cheek), especially for PDE/FDM pricing libraries. And mot use C++.

On the other hand, PDE is not the easiest topic to learn with a pure economics background.

Keep in mind that the degrees offered by Imperial, KCL, etc. are largely a joke. Brief mention of the Black-Scholes PDE and C++ offered only as an option (if at all). That is to say, you can earn a quant degree from these august institutions of learning without an in-depth knowledge of PDEs and C++.
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
Speaking for myself, I come from an industrial background and originally my students were/are from industry and banking. Since some time I have MSs students that are trained in a similar away.
 
I would argue yes.



But you evidently don't like studying math (or that would be your background). And covering the ground from scratch when you may possibly have no aptitude for it and no enduring interest in it may be a bit of a problem.

Why are you rushing to conclusions? The reason I chose Econ, when I was 17yo, wasn't the fact that I didnt like math. In fact in my A levels equivalent I scored 90% and since then have been scoring top grades in math in all my degrees.


Recognition and credibility are among the mercenary reasons most quant students seek the MFE degree. In your case the problem is you lack a math background and you're probably in the unenviable position of Groucho Marx, who didn't want to join any club that would accept the likes of him as a member.

If you're asking for advice, you have to put in the long slog every math student does once he (or she) is weaned away from his (or her) mother's milk. Get hold of the books and work your way through them. No shortcuts.

I don't think I am looking for shortcuts. On the contrary, although I am already working I still want to learn.

Would you recommend doing Pre-MFE courses + online courses to enchance those skills I lack (only math because stats I am in a quite advanced level) and then apply for the course? I have already contacted Berkeley Haas and UCLA Anderson and I can take either Pre-MFE courses and then apply Imperial or Kings etc.
 
Speaking for myself, I come from an industrial background and originally my students were/are from industry and banking. Since some time I have MSs students that are trained in a similar away.

By the way, I just got off the phone with Berkeley and they told me that they accept your PDE online course as a Pre-MFE course. Should I take an online course before I take yours?
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
On a related issue, one advantage of knowing C++ and related math libraries is that you can test your maths knowledge by writing programs. On paper, maths is one thing but when you can get it into a computer then you really begin to understand. The two reinforce each other, for example finite difference schemes.

C++ makes you think really hard about solving problems. In that sense it is more than a programming language. Speaking for myself, that is.

At this stage, my advice is learn C++ as preparation to any computationally-intensive applied maths undertaking.
 
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On a related issue, one advantage of knowing C++ and related math libraries is that you can test your maths knowledge by writing programs. On paper, maths is one thing but when you can get it into a computer then you really begin to understand. The two reinforce each other, for example finite difference schemes.

C++ makes you think really hard about solving problems. In that sense it is more than a programming language. Speaking for myself, that is.

At this stage, my advice is learn C++ as preparation to any computationally-intensive applied maths undertaking.

I checked the course that you are offering with Baruch and I think I am going to take it. It looks very promising + it's for beginners. But still my weakness lies neither in Programming nor in Stats but Math..
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
I checked the course that you are offering with Baruch and I think I am going to take it. It looks very promising + it's for beginners. But still my weakness lies neither in Programming nor in Stats but Math..
Very good. The QN C++ course is very rigorous and has Monte Carlo and PDE and other maths in it. And it is one of the few (only?) C++ courses (it started in industry) that does it all. And the great TAs who work day and night for you :)

Once you have done QN C++ the move to applied maths becomes really really so much easier, both for the student and for the mentor.
 
How will I be able to follow them then? How did other students from similar backgrounds managed to follow?
You won't be needing to solve math for the certificate, nor to have the background. You will be introduced to these concepts and asked to code them given lots of material and template code that guides you. As a result you will gain intuition and practical knowledge of the subjects. That said, you still need to research on your own, but at least you will have great guidelines + the forum to help you in the process. It's very feasible if you are determined. :)

About your math background, I would recommend you to additionally take calculus courses online. There are free semester-long video lectures on Calculus 1,2, and 3 from City College of New York. Look at their math department website.
 
You won't be needing to solve math for the certificate, nor to have the background. You will be introduced to these concepts and asked to code them given lots of material and template code that guides you. As a result you will gain intuition and practical knowledge of the subjects. That said, you still need to research on your own, but at least you will have great guidelines + the forum to help you in the process. It's very feasible if you are determined. :)

About your math background, I would recommend you to additionally take calculus courses online. There are free semester-long video lectures on Calculus 1,2, and 3 from City College of New York. Look at their math department website.

Thank you very much for this Pavlos!
 
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