Review of Certificate in Quantitative Finance (CQF) program

QuantNet

Administrator
Staff member
#1
This review was submitted on 1/24/2010 by a student who studied in the certificate program from 1/2010-6/2010

Can you tell us a bit about your background?
University Gold Medalist in Information Technology,
Linux Kernel Developer,
Was working as analyst in Lehman Brothers and knew the basics of pricing and hedging exotics
Did you get admitted to other programs?
I looked at various options and chose CQF coz it seemed much better
Why did you choose this program (over others, if applicable)?
Coz it was flexible for my job schedule
What alternative sources of info you used to learn more about the program?
google.com, spoke to previous cqf graduates
Tell us about the application process at this program
Paul and his team came down to India to breif us about the course content and the process was a simple maths test.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the accessibility of the faculty and staff?
9
Some programs have refresher courses for incoming students. Does this program offer such courses? How useful was it?
Yes, but since I was good in maths, I didn't take them
On a scale of 0-10, how would you grade the usefulness of these refresher courses?
7
Tell us about the courses selection in this program. Any special courses you like?
I loved the lectures on Fixed rate models like HJM. They actually tell you wats wrong with the model, and I never wanted to just memorize equations as it's done by most of University Courses
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the flexibility of the curriculum?
7
Tell us about the quality of teaching
Good, I liked all the teachers except one
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the quality of teaching?
7
Materials used in the program
I read mostly from research papers or the slides used in the lectures, and I avoid books.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the practicality of the curriculum?
9
Programming component of the program
I already knew programming, so I didn't care
Projects
Project work was easy. They could have improved it to a more tough level
Career service
I was already employed with a good firm....so wasn't looking for that option. Although it helped me in improving my blog!
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the career service for internship and full-time job?
6
What do you like about the program?
Understanding the flaws in financial mathematics rather than following them blindly!
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the value of the program for the price tag?
7
What DON’T you like about the program?
Project work is too easy
Suggestions for the program to make it better
Include lectures on statistics
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade your experience in the program?
9
What are your current job status? What are you looking for?
NOMURA, Associate
On a scale of 1-10, would you recommend this program to others?
10
Other comments
If you are weak in maths or coding I won't recommend it. Otherwise go for it, it's worth it.
Click here to submit a review of your program
This review was submitted on 1/24/2010 10:09:13 by a student who studied in the certificate program from 6/2008-1/2009

Can you tell us a bit about your background?
BA Economics & History - University of Toronto
MBA - Richard Ivey School of Business
Owner / operator of business 15 years
Consultant - 6 years - M&A, Business Development
Investment Advisor / Insurance Representative - 3 years
Did you get admitted to other programs?
Did not consider others
Why did you choose this program (over others, if applicable)?
As an investment advisor, did not receive adequate / complete information about the different programs that were being offered, especially in the area of hedge funds, guaranteed investment vehicles, managed programs, non-traditional investments. Questions asked were responded to with "speak to the quant guys" or "too complicated to understand by most". I wanted to better understand the offerings, the rationale behind them, and to determine for myself whether these approaches were suitable for retail investors.
Additionally, I also wanted to pursue equity research / analysis and wanted to broaden my skill set in order to pursue this.
Tell us about the application process at this program
The application process was straight-forward. A resume was sent, a math qualification test was completed. Responses to email, phone calls were timely and people were helpful. The application process was easy and should not present a problem to people interested in the program.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the accessibility of the faculty and staff?
8
Some programs have refresher courses for incoming students. Does this program offer such courses? How useful was it?
The CQF offers a math primer. It was helpful but for people that have not use math in a very long time or those with a limited math background, it should probably be longer / slower. The material exposes you to concepts that will be used but if your math experience is limited, the exposure is probably too brief for someone to thoroughly understand and be comfortable. Having this said, it is up to the student to self-study and get up to speed on concepts they are unfamiliar / uncomfortable with.
On a scale of 0-10, how would you grade the usefulness of these refresher courses?
10
Tell us about the courses selection in this program. Any special courses you like?
No course options. All the subject matter is applied. The material offered is selected to provide a practical understanding of quantitative finance. Theory is introduced but the focus is on how the math is applied in a work environment. Theory and practice are both questioned so as to make students consider the implications of what they are doing from a risk and exposure standpoint. There are regular reminders that the math must be considered from a business point of view. For example, the upside of a particular strategy using a certain type of math is this - what are the risks and potential impacts of implementation of executing this strategy? Is such a strategy worth it from a risk / reward perspective.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the flexibility of the curriculum?
1
Tell us about the quality of teaching
One thing that was very attractive about course is that all the instructors have worked in the field. They are strong academically but they are not purely academics. The instructors can all relate something about a business area that has to do with quantitative finance ranging from subjects matter. Topics such as the use of quantitative finance and interactions between groups are discussed. For example, options trading is discussed with respect to formulae and how quant developers, programmers and traders work together, negotiate (argue) on different things. Such insights would not be so forthcoming from people with a purely academic bent.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the quality of teaching?
10
Materials used in the program
The lecture notes are good and the texts are good. Additionally, additional lectures are added as part of the lifelong learning component of the program. There are no additional fees associated with these (at the moment) and they are accessible online. Every student should also make it a point to go beyond the supplied materials to learn more about specific subject matter.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the practicality of the curriculum?
10
Programming component of the program
VBA and Excel were addressed directly when I took the course. I understand that a C++ module has now been added to the curriculum. Excel and VBA were used in some of the homework assignments. C++ was not focused on directly although it was often mentioned that this language was used as the defacto standard in quantitative finance.
Projects
There was an individual programming project that focused utilized the concepts that we were taught throughout the course. Numerical analysis, finite difference methods were used. It was a very comprehensive project that required the development of the model, the programming of the model, and the calculations of stock prices, associated option pricing, hedging, jump models,etc.
Career service
When I took the course, no career services were offered.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the career service for internship and full-time job?
1
Can you comment on the social interaction between students of different ethnics, nationalities in the program?
As I took the course online, it was more expedient to form a study group that focused on our location rather than any ethnic group. Our study group consisted of 4 people that met fairly regularly. I met with someone outside this group and spoke with someone I knew in another city also.
What do you like about the program?
The practical nature of the program is one of its strengths. It is not enough to be strong in simply one area whether it be math, programming, or capital markets / investments. The math wiz must also understand the nature of capital markets to be effective. Programming skills are also extremely helpful. Likewise, the person that only understands the capital markets needs to understand the math behind the pricing and strategy.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the value of the program for the price tag?
7
What DON’T you like about the program?
If I were employed in the field, the value relationship would improve.
Career services / placement offerings would significantly improve the value.
Aside from the application process, other aspects of the administration could be improved. I did not receive the math primer materials until I was well into the math primer course. I did not realize that others already had these materials and was scrambling to find material on my own. Post-completion administration also needs to be improved.
Suggestions for the program to make it better
The offering of career services would be the single-most big improvement.
More focus on programming VBA / C++ for people without any programming experience.
Additional Excel training.
The pace of the program is very fast. It would be helpful to have the course last longer so that people could balance work / education better.
These suggestions have already been made to various people associated with the CQF.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade your experience in the program?
8
What are your current job status? What are you looking for?
Looking for something in research, risk management, compliance, etc.. I don't think that I will ever be a hardcore quant. There are too many others that are better mathematicians / programmers. But, I do feel that I can be very successful in other areas that need to understand the dynamics of quantitative finance and combine this understanding with business practice.
On a scale of 1-10, would you recommend this program to others?
10
Other comments
I have recommended this course to others and will continue to do so. My recommendations also include what I think are shortcomings of the course such as those listed here. I try to be balanced in my assessment. I don't believe that any course / program is 100% perfect, there will always be areas that can be improved.
The CQF has many students that are sponsored by their organizations. If there is some unhappiness with career development post-CQF, I believe that is a function of a lack of career plan by their organization and the student. For others, like myself, that are not involved in quant careers when they take the course, finding a position is their responsibility. It would be nice for career services to assist but ultimately it is ourselves that are responsible for our careers.
Likewise, the development programming skills should be pursued independently as well as being offered by any quant program. One should also seek to improve their knowledge of developments in the quant finance field. Taking any course and doing little else to improve except showing up to work cannot result in long-term satisfaction.
Click here to submit a review of your program
This review was submitted on 1/4/2010 at 8:28:15 by a student who studied in the certificate program from 1/2007-7/2007

Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Ph D ( math)
actuarial exams
8+ years of risk management
Did you get admitted to other programs?
no, did not apply.
Why did you choose this program (over others, if applicable)?
Reasons were:
1. possibility to pursue while working
2. possibility to complete remotely
3. Wilmott, Paul Wilmott.
Tell us about the application process at this program
No problems.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the accessibility of the faculty and staff?
9
Some programs have refresher courses for incoming students. Does this program offer such courses? How useful was it?
Courses are offered. I did not take them.
On a scale of 0-10, how would you grade the usefulness of these refresher courses?
8
Tell us about the courses selection in this program. Any special courses you like?
The certificate is an opening to a whole curriculum of learning. What and how much you study is up to you.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the flexibility of the curriculum?
7
Tell us about the quality of teaching
Great
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the quality of teaching?
10
Materials used in the program
Wilmott, Quantitative Finance.
Jaeckel, Monte Carlo methods
Haug, Option pricing ( the complete guide to)
Staunton, Excel and VBA
etc.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the practicality of the curriculum?
10
Programming component of the program
It is up to the delegate:
Excel/ VBA, C++, MATLAB, etc.
Projects
Final project may be a comprehensive option pricing exercise, a calibration of a model, etc.
Career service
Networking opportunities exist.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the career service for internship and full-time job?
7
Can you comment on the social interaction between students of different ethnics, nationalities in the program?
Accessing remotely avoids this kind of grouping.
You can interact with whomever you want.
What do you like about the program?
Continued free access to learning opportunities
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the value of the program for the price tag?
4
What DON’T you like about the program?
N/A
Suggestions for the program to make it better
N/A
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade your experience in the program?
10
What are your current job status? What are you looking for?
quant strategist
On a scale of 1-10, would you recommend this program to others?
10
Other comment
It may be relevant: employer sponsorship for the certificate.
Click here to submit a review of your program
This review was submitted on 1/30/2010 by a student who studied in the certificate program from 6/2009-1/2010

Can you tell us a bit about your background?
EE + MS Comp.Sci
Did you get admitted to other programs?
N/A -- did not apply to other programs.
Why did you choose this program (over others, if applicable)?
Course contents and the ability to do part-time (though there was more than enough work to do it fulltime if wanted).
Tell us about the application process at this program
An admissions test, mostly mathematics; otherwise simple and effective.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the accessibility of the faculty and staff?
8
Some programs have refresher courses for incoming students. Does this program offer such courses? How useful was it?
Yes, the program had an excellent--but short--math primer.
On a scale of 0-10, how would you grade the usefulness of these refresher courses?
10
Tell us about the courses selection in this program. Any special courses you like?
This program does not offer selections.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the flexibility of the curriculum?
2
Tell us about the quality of teaching
The teaching was excellent. This was carried out over webex, the recordings were great and the material relevant and well explained.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the quality of teaching?
10
Materials used in the program
About 10 textbooks, all very much relevant. The Wilmott 3-volume bookset itself forms a large portion of the material studied.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the practicality of the curriculum?
10
Programming component of the program
Excel VBA, C++.
Projects
Individual projects at the end of the course--everyone got the same one, + smaller projects during the program. The programs could typically be implemented in a spreadsheet, some of the them required programming (e.g. MC simulation).
Career service
AFAIK there is none (and I don't need it).
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the career service for internship and full-time job?
1
Can you comment on the social interaction between students of different ethnics, nationalities in the program?
We had a few encounters, which we were each time very interesting.
There did not seem to be ethnic-related grouping in our groups.
Note that most people studied independently, so it is difficult to know how much collaboration between people was going on. I mostly studied by myself.
What do you like about the program?
Wilmott's own insights influenced a lot of the material in the course and I felt that his no-nonsense approach made this course very practical and usable in the real-world. I loved the great majority of the program's contents, and I thought it was excellent, well-made and appropriate. If anything, I had to work extra hard to be able to follow certain parts, b/c the quantity of material presented was quite large, and that is a good thing.
I also really like that I have access to the course material, and an impressive number of extra lectures for free, forever. With all the extra lectures and material, I could "keep the program going" for another year, easily, at my own pace. That's _really_ cool.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the value of the program for the price tag?
10
What DON’T you like about the program?
I did not like the structured credits section too much, mostly because I'm not interested in those products, though in the end I'm happy I got an introduction into these topics and products, they are important and it's good to be well-rounded.
I'm sad we did not do much on statistics; that is the part that was lacking the most, very little stats, the course was very strong on options, but too little stats. (Admiteddly, it's a bit of a black art.)
There were two sessions on a trading simulator, which I felt was a complete waste of time. I'm guessing these will be removed in future installments, I can't see the point. OTOH, they were only a very small part of the course.
Some of the instructors were difficult to reach for questions, but I felt there were enough resources to find answers to the questions I had, and the forum was very useful too.
Suggestions for the program to make it better
I would
- Include more statistics in the curriculum
- Remove the fluffy trading simulator sessions, which are entirely useless
- Spread out the program over more time (the workload was very high)
On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade your experience in the program?
10
What are your current job status? What are you looking for?
Employed in HF finance shop.
On a scale of 1-10, would you recommend this program to others?
10
Other comments
I really loved the program, and feel I got exactly what I was looking for, and even more.
This is an excellent program for someone with a strong technical background who wants to learn more about quantitative approached to trading, especially options trading of various kinds.
Wilmott's books are immensely useful, and the course really gets you to understand the material in the books, which would otherwise be very difficult without the background presented in the course, at least to someone with little knowledge of sto.calc. The course gives you what you need to understand these topics, it's a great bridge from engineering to the quantitative practice.
Click here to submit a review of your program
 

DominiConnor

Quant Headhunter
#2
A few points about how the CQF has evolved since the reviewers did it...

There is now a much larger math refresher course, which used to be a separate chargeable option.

We don't have a formal careers office, but there is a headhunter on the faculty :)
The latest manifestation of that is CV surgeries.
 

James

New Member
#3
Hello, I am considering applying for your program.

What would you say to someone who would like more coverage of stats in your course (as per reviews above)?
Do you provide any resources outside of the regular course work?
 

Robertj

New Member
#4
A quick question for people affiliated with the program.  I have a BS in physics from a top university but no finance experience.  I am interested in making a career transition to this field but could someone here comment on what my job prospects would be.  Do I need to get an advanced degree before I try to enter this field by taking this course?

Thanks,
Robert
 

realiton

New Member
#6
I have written a more updated view on the course:

https://www.quantnet.com/threads/cqf-right-for-me.3008/#post-119138

In summary: save your money this will not help you in any way to get into quant finance. Firstly it is not detailed enough, secondly there is very little relevant learning going on, as classes try to cram very superficial dated material into 6 months. This is just a summary pf my detailed review at the above link.
 

realiton

New Member
#7
Not sure why the above link does not work for some of you, but here is an updated review of the CQF here. I am happy to take any information requests or questions. I have nothing to gain or lose from this review, so you will definetly be gaining an honest and impartial insight into the "benefits" of the CQF really are.

About Me:
I have over 7 year experience in the industry, within Quantitative Market Risk. I have a Degree in Physics, Maths, and a PhD in Physics, as well as other professional qualifications. So the technical side of the CQF was not an issue for me. After a few years in the industry I decided to do the CQF for 'fun' - I thought it's only a six month program and would be good to formalise my knowledge in finance.

About the CQF:
The CQF is a lower cost course compared to other Quant programmes, but it's not a cheap course – coming in at close to £14k for a six months course it is quite steep.
My view is that the program material is very dated. This material would have been very relevant back in the late 90s or early 2000’s but today it is just the basics, and most quant interviews and technical interviews wont even care to ask some of that stuff.
The program teaches very little finance and really is mostly about applying a basic PDE approach to various products types. It covers other key elements but only at a very superfical/high level e.g. volatility and timeseries analysis. The basic material is even more frustrating as most of the lecturers are really not that great or experienced in either industry or acedemia. Out of all the lecturers only one or two were really any good, and they are actually full time researchers/lecturers in other universities.
Another key point I want to make that is relevent in this day and age of MOOC's (massive Online Open Courses), with all the excellent free courses available on the web, in particular the columbia course on Coursera and various YouTube videos on products and quant finance, the CQF really becomes a bit irrelevant and overpriced for what it is. I dont forsee the course to last for more than another five years.
The course material and the extra lectures are not really value for money - in terms of audio/video quality and content. You can definetly find better videos on C++ and VBA on youtube (check out Bucky Robert's - The New Boston you tube channel for excellent courses on programming).
Finaly, most of the people doing the course are from IT or back-office functions who are keen to get into quant or Front Office roles, so there are very few very knowledgeable finance or markets orientated people in the class who you can learn from. There is nothing wrong with this, but those who are hoping to establish a strong markets focused network I think you should look else where.

Will It Help You Find a Job?
I have been getting constant queries about this. So here is a more clear update to this question: If you are a new graduate I wouldn’t waste your money on the CQF, it would be more worthwhile for you to get a masters from a reputable university e.g. the Oxford, Coloumbia or LSE courses in Finance. However, if you have a PhD from a top university and would like to gain some extra skills and have 14k lying around then go for it, but if money is tight I don’t think scraping together 14K to do the CQF will increase your employability chances that much.
If you are already in a somewhat quantitative area and want to formalise your knowledge or would like to do this for fun or gain learning momentum, its not too bad considering it consists of evening classes and you can watch videos at your leisure. But don’t expect this to open any doors, that is my key point.
Again, I want to reiterate the point that a lot of you are continually asking me: If you are not already in a quantitative area, this will definitely not help you to get into that area, so I would advice you not to waste your money on this course but consider a MFE from a good university. I think the CQF might be good to formalise basic knowledge if you are already in that kind of area.

Would I do it again if I knew then what I know now?
Simple answer is… probably not. But then again I like learning, and the money wasn’t much of an issue for me. This was more of a fun thing for me to do, I like learning in a class environment and I like maths, so my arm could be twisted to do it again, but I would start with lower expectations.

The final point I want to leave you with is that this is not the course if you want to move into a quant role or enhance your career - for that consider an MFE. But if you have a general ineterst in PDE math applied to quant finance then this course is ok (also if you have £14k to spare).
 
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realiton

New Member
#8
Should students enter the CQF program ?
Hi Kushal,

If you are a student I wouldn't advice you to spend £14k to do this program. If you are good at independent learning and have a strong math background I would advice you to check out the free Columbia FE course on Coursera. If you can work your way through the free online courses and do some personal projects in your spare time, you can really get to a good level and build up your knowledge...and for free.
 
Last edited:
#9
I have written a more updated view on the course:

https://www.quantnet.com/threads/cqf-right-for-me.3008/#post-119138

In summary: save your money this will not help you in any way to get into quant finance. Firstly it is not detailed enough, secondly there is very little relevant learning going on, as classes try to cram very superficial dated material into 6 months. This is just a summary pf my detailed review at the above link.

Hey realiton,

What do you think of the Certificate for Financial Engineering from Columbia Video Network (http://cvn.columbia.edu/fe_cert.php)? Do you think this would be better use of time and money that CQF?
 

realiton

New Member
#10
Hi Systemtrader, I think the Certificate in FE from Columbia is definetly a much better use of time and money. One of the key reasons is that it is backed by a highly reputable university i.e. Columbia - unfortunately the Finance industry is very superficial, and it really does matter where your qualification came from. In addition from the course syllabus it seems like they cover a wide range of very important content e.g. Risk Managament, Data Analysis, Volatility surfaces and Key Economics concepts - all of which are only covered in a very superficial way in the CQF.

Not sure how the Columbia Certificate actually works, but if by the end of it if you can pull together a decent thesis that is backed by the Columbia brand that will help you hugely in gaining a position in finance and/or risk management.
 

realiton

New Member
#12
Hi Andy,

As far as I am aware there is no direct assistance for job seekers on the CQF. I know a few people who have done the CQF, who highlighted concerns on a lack of support in this area. From what they mentioned, CQF staff can provide CV advise and oppertunities for informal discussions with the faculty, but nothing more than this.
However, I wouldn't say this is an issue only related to the CQF. I think there are a number of Quant courses/masters out there with the same issue i.e. after the course is over you are on your own...
Normally, from my expereince I find that if a course is delivered by a reputatble university then there are possibilities for a relationship with industry to either perform placements or do a project related to an actual industry problem. Either of these oppertunities would be helpful for people to gain industry positions after the course. This is why I mention in my previous posts, that for new graduates or those with little quant experience they should really consider a MFE with a very good school to maximise their chances of finding a job.
 

xck

New Member
#13
can courses taken in undergrad be applied for credit towards the certificate? I studied math and have already taken many of the classes there.
 
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