RMA and the New York Chapter recently held the second annual, co-sponsored event on careers in quantitative finance for Columbia University graduate students. The virtual program on October 1 was attended by 150+ students pursuing career paths in quantitative finance (e.g., model risk, model validation, research, trading, portfolio management, derivatives, stress testing, etc.). The program was organized jointly by Izabela Rutkowski from Columbia University; Brian Strauss from the New York Chapter; and Bill Truscott, Senior Associate Director for RMA Membership. Izabela Rutkowski is assistant director of Career Development for the MA Program in mathematics and finance at Columbia and was able to get the 100 students from the math program, plus graduate students in computer science, engineering, economics, statistics, and enterprise risk management. Participants from the Chapter included young professionals still developing their career paths and experienced risk professionals wanting to share their experiences.
The program was delivered under the umbrella of RMA’s academic initiative in partnership with the New York Chapter Board of Governors. The basis for the program was that providing relevant content and introducing membership at this point in their careers will help establish a positive connection with RMA and be viewed as a professional development resource throughout their career. Institutions represented on the panel were from JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, UBS, and a fintech. The panel included five senior risk professionals: Rodney Sunada-Wong, former chief risk officer for U.S. Broker-Dealer and Derivatives Swaps Dealers at Morgan Stanley; Alexandra Hansis, executive director, Risk Methodology at UBS; Jorge Sobehart, Credit and Obligor Risk Analytics at Citigroup; Andrea Pantchev, Wholesale Credit Analytics and Solutions at JPMorgan Chase; and, Alla Gil, Founder & CEO at Straterix.
Brian Strauss, executive director and senior credit officer at Natixis, served as moderator. The program was divided into four segments: career path; key technical skills for quants; non-technical; and ten-year outlook. In the first segment, the panelists described their own academic background and career track and discussed some of the potential long-term career paths for professionals with a quantitative financial background. For technical skills, the discussion described the key skills that quants develop in academic programs (and through on-the-job training) that will help them to analyze risks and ultimately be successful in a quantitative finance career. Regarding non-technical skills, the panelists discussed non-quantitative skills, such as presentation skills and written communications skills. In the final segment, the panelists looked forward over the next ten years to consider what will be some of the key issues that will impact job growth in quantitative finance. Alla Gil, the fintech panelist, discussed machine learning and artificial intelligence and the potential impact to the financial services industry.
Last year’s program took place in a university lecture hall on the Columbia campus and allowed for great networking following the event. This year’s program was a Zoom meeting with breakout rooms and held from 7:30pm to 10:00pm ET to accommodate the many international students unable to make it to the U.S. due to pandemic and travel restrictions. Each panelist hosted a breakout room following the panel discussion and allowed a deeper dive into specific topics covered during the panel. This was very effective and provided students the opportunity to ask many questions on finance careers and their own specific strategies on landing a job at a financial institution. One of the frequently discussed topics was the importance of soft skills in a highly technical field. The students already have the technical and analytical skills but their ability to communicate their analysis to executive management and non-technical, professional colleagues was considered a key skill set to be successful.