University of Toronto Mathematical Finance program
Toronto MMF is a highly mathematical program
In my opinion you need three types of skills to succeed at your chosen career path:
The MMF helps students potentially improve all three: conceptually via academic classes and coursework; technically via hands-on computer programming lab work; and interpersonally via internship / class presentations / group work. Having said this, you get out of the MMF what you put in. It was a very intense experience as the curriculum was incredibly demanding. I had the opportunity to spend an entire year with some of the most intelligent people I have ever met and we all worked very hard. We became a collaborative “think tank” for an entire year and I am very grateful for the experience.
Most of my classmates are now Senior Managers, Directors, Heads, and CIOs of both Canadian and international regulatory, banking, dealer and advising entities. I think that statement speaks for itself when considering the quality of the MMF degree and the caliber of students who have chosen to pursue it. I stress the following again: you get out what you put in.
I studied at the Master of Mathematical Finance Program at the University of Toronto from Aug 2000 to Jul 2001. It was an intense year: A lot of material jam-packed into 8 months of study, plus 4 months of internship. Hard work but rewarding and enjoyable, especially with a tight-knit group of students working together to finish the challenging coursework. The MMF was a practical program – aimed at bringing students from a diverse background (not necessarily all with hard-core math) and preparing them to succeed in a financial career. We got to grips with different aspects of finance, and gained hands on experience with financial modelling in practical lab sessions and coursework. Most importantly, we received substantial assistance in getting a foot into the door – via an internship. This being my first internship, I found the real-world experience very different and invaluable. Learning on the job was mostly about getting used to a different way of thinking and understanding business needs, one which newer entrants to the industry are rarely well prepared for by university life or career advisors. In my years in the industry since, I find it unfortunate how many people fail to avoid pitfalls that cost an interview, and how two students with seemingly comparable potentials end up with vastly different career paths as a result of starting in different roles.
Today, I am a Director in DBAnalytics at Deutsche Bank, responsible for the pricing library for Inflation and various single-currency Rates options in London. I have written two books in finance (Demystifying Exotic Products and Market Practice in Financial Modelling), and have supervised MSc projects in Financial Mathematics at University College London. On the other hand, most of the students in my year have ended up in more business oriented areas: e.g. head of hedging risk in an insurance firm, market risk manager for credit derivatives, head of quantitative models at a regulator, portfolio manager, interest rates trader. In most such roles, it is not detailed technical knowledge of pricing theory that is necessary, but enough of a mastery to know what is important.
Markets have changed since the financial crisis of 2008, and competition is a lot tighter. However, with the heavy regulatory scrutiny, there is continued strong demand for risk management roles. For a potential entrant to the industry pondering over the future: Some will forsake finance altogether; others will swear by quantitative expertise (e.g. PhD), and yet others will opt for a more rounded education (e.g. MBA). A Master in Financial Mathematics is one of the available routes. Financial institutions can have biases too (e.g. preferences for universities, or types of degrees). But each of us should know ourselves best for we alone are responsible for our career paths.
A key component to the success of any professional Masters program is the student selection process. Chances are, a strong student with a past history of success will continue to be successful in the future as they have learned how to be successful. Therefore, having a strong student pool will correlate with higher post graduation employment rates, creating strong brand equity. This will subsequently result in a larger application pool to select strong students from, thus completing the virtuous cycle.
MMF has positioned itself well in this area. Having resisted the urge for mass expansion similar to what we see in some programs in the States, MMF has a quota of ~30 students per year, and an application pool of ~500 prospects every year (at least in the two most recent years). Theoretically, this should give MMF plenty of opportunity to select the best students (or the best left-overs =D) each year; however, this is where the program does something wonky. Instead of one unified interview/testing process for applicants, MMF has a in-person interview for applicants in the Greater Toronto Area and a telephone (Skype) interview for remote applicants. The nature of the interviews vary significantly. The in-person interviews are group interviews in which you have to prepare a presentation and can last 4 hours long. The phone interviews are roughly 15 mins long, and the technical questions asked vary in difficulty. This part always perplexed me as I am not sure how they are able to maintain the same quality in students that are accepted through these two very different interview processes.
With that said, in my year, I was thoroughly impressed with how smart and knowledgeable my classmates were. The program seems to target a very diverse student pool. We had people with backgrounds in physics, math, engineering, actsci/stats, computer science, economics, and business administration. As a result, someone was an expert in the topics the profs were teaching at any given point in time. This resulted in very engaging peer discussions and a lot of peer learning. Due to the intense nature of the program, the interactions you have with your peers are also very unique, as you spend more time with your classmates than anybody else in your life for the duration of the program. Meeting my talented classmates and becoming friends (12am candy runs, 10 people sushi lunches, push-up contests and other shenanigans) with them is the part of the program I enjoyed most.
The difference between professional Masters programs and non-professional Masters is that the former will likely have a more applied curriculum than the latter. This is because professional Masters programs are designed with the intent of landing students jobs after graduation. It is true that MMF has somewhat shifted its focus toward Risk Management in recent years with less focus on stochcal and pricing; this is because most of the jobs these days are in Risk Management, and there is simply not enough time to slot in more courses.
As the program crams down so much material into 8 months, a lot of the topics were not discussed in great detail, and a strong focus has been placed on applying/implementing the concepts learned in class by way of non-stopping assignments. This is the part of the program I did not enjoy, as I frequently found I needed more time to absorb the concepts learned in class. However, the relentless assignments did create a strong imprint of the lecture material in my head, and even if I weren't able to fully understand all the concepts I have learned in class, I can easily pick up my notes and a textbook to review should I need it for work.
The professors in the program are all experts in their fields; however, this does not necessarily mean they can all teach. Consistent with my previous experience as a student, I found some professors to be amazing, and highly effective in communicating ideas; whereas there are a rare few professors who simply did not know how/lost the passion to teach . The disconnect comes from the fact that this program costs 40k, so students who (rightly) expected an amazing lecture experience in every class will be disappointed. In these cases, much of the learning will come from reading textbooks, researching online, and discussions among peers.
Internship and Full Time Placement:
MMF encourages you to take the first position you get. This is because MMF has established a working partnership with the sponsors of the program, and tries to ensure that the sponsors get the candidates they want each year, so they will come back with internship positions in the next year. However, this is not a rule written in stone. In my year, there are a few students that got to pick a later offer over the first offer they received. Usually, they received both offers within a short time frame, so they discussed with the program office and got to pick the one they liked more. Also, if you really do not like the offer you received, and there is no alternative offer on the table, you are not forced to take it. The rule goes, if you decline the offer, then your resume will not be visible on the MMF's internship job board for sponsors, and you will be responsible for obtaining your internship. In essence, the program is only responsible for securing your first internship offer.
In terms of full time placement, I was surprised by lack of formal support the program office provides. Coming from Ivey Business School, I was spoiled by the internal job board full of full-time positions for graduating students. No such thing exists in MMF. Sometimes, an email would be distributed to the students about open positions; and if you talk to the program's recruitment coordinator, she will forward opportunities your way when she learns of them. However, there is no formal support. That being said, most, if not all of my graduating class obtained full-time positions 3-4 months after graduation. Some of these positions are a direct continuation of the internship within the same company; others are due to the brand recognition associated with MMF, where companies simply like to interview/hire MMF graduates. Contrary to what has been mentioned by other commenters, many of the positions my classmates obtained are at the Associate level (or Senior Analyst level). I have found that it is much easier to get interviews with the degree.
My overall experience in MMF has been a very positive one. I would recommend it for anyone who wants to work in finance in a relatively mathematical role. It prepares you with the necessary knowledge, some internship experience, and brand recognition (at least within the Toronto area) for you to help you find full-time positions easily. However, if your goal is education and research, or if you are thinking of pursuing a phd in mathematical finance afterwards, I would say there are better alternatives out there than this 12 month program.
What do you think is unique about this program?
This program is very time saving. We have 3 semesters lasting for 1 year. And the second term is internship, the payment of which can cover 17,000 of the tuition. Everyone can get an intern with the help of program's good reputation on Bay Street and the help of alumni.
What are the weakest points about this program?
This program is mainly focused on risk management. And it's hard for students(especially international students) to find a job immediately after graduation in America.
Very good. Shari has a lot of connections with HRs and people in the industry. She will help us with our internship as well as full-time of you come to her for help.
We don't have to apply for internship ourselves. program will send our Resume/CV to companies, and they will send us interview invitation.
We have internship of different positions. Most of us get internship in the two pension plan, the five big banks, or manulife.
About half of us are international students. While some of the domestic students are the Canadian born Chinese. This year, we have half Chinese faces.