Networking and making connections- tips for Financial Math students

Are you an introvert? Are you shy? Are you nervous talking and meeting professionals? Many Financial Math students have answered yes to these questions.

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Networking and making connections can be scary. What do I say? What if they do not like me or want to talk to me? Networking and making meaningful connections is essential to increase your chances of landing an interview for a job opportunity. Here are some tips:

Plan a time limit. By setting a time limit, the event will not seem like an unending activity. Being around people can deplete your energy and that can make networking events uncomfortable. Plan to rest before and after networking events so you have energy while you are attending the event.

Set a goal. Give yourself a goal on how many people you want to have meaningful conversations with. This provides purpose and helps you to focus on talking to the right people rather than talking to everyone.

Understand your fear. When you understand what part of networking brings you anxiety, you can isolate the specifics and find resources to help reduce the fears. If needed, you can ask for help and alleviate stress from the next tip...

Bring a friend. You may feel more comfortable attending networking events if there is someone who can support you. They may also share the same anxieties and together you can work to overcome those fears. Just remember to not only talk to your friend.

Focus on the other person. Divert attention from yourself by asking questions to put focus on their career stories, experiences and advice. This will help to reduce your stress, and provide you the information you are seeking.

Finally, smile. 🙂 People who attend networking events are there to help others or gain advice and help for themselves. They want to meet you!

“Meet our Financial Math Alumni Series”- Meet Yi Chao

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"Speak to people…Increase your network!"- Yi Chao, May 2015 Graduate

Yi Chao recently graduated from the Financial Math program in May 2015. She was an active student in our program as a Career Ambassador and Intern. While studying hard to be among the top of her class, she also took full advantage of all career development activities. Her hard work paid off as she received a full-time job opportunity to work at Maxpoint.

Yi Chao is currently working as a Product Analyst at Maxpoint in RTP (Research Triangle Park) in North Carolina. We are glad she took the time to share her experiences and advice to incoming, current and prospective students. Her interview below- by Preethi Kankanala

Why did you decide to get a Master’s Degree in Financial Math program at NCSU?

Yi Chao: I received a Bachelors in Applied Mathematics in China. While I was studying I always wanted to do something that can be applied to daily life situations. After taking courses Microeconomics, Econometrics and Game- Theory, I felt finance was the best direction for me to take as a career choice.

I was fascinated by real-time data, the movement of stock prices and how the daily market situations affect the price. With the Mathematics background I had, Financial Mathematics was the best field to choose.

How did the Financial Math program prepare you for your job?

Yi Chao: I took mostly statistic courses as I was interested in analyzing data. Also, I enhanced my programming skills after coming here. I did not have much programming experience before coming here, but after the Monte Carlo class, the assignments and projects in the course helped me improve my programming skills and I ended up with an A+ in that class.

Also it is very important to concentrate on all the courses equally, because you never know which one will help you more during the job search, so I put equal effort in all classes.

How was your experience with your summer internship at Altrius Capital?

Yi Chao: Working with Altrius Capital Investment company gave me a great hands-on experience on valuation and real world concepts behind trading. My project at Altrius included doing market research for a fixed income market trader. I used financial statements & balance sheets to analyze the different companies, and give suggestions to the trader.

The other project I worked on is more quantitative, using Morningstar software we transferred the data to excel and analyzed the data of public companies.

Can you explain more about your current job? And how is internship helping you for this job?

Yi Chao: I am now working in Maxpoint as a Product Analyst. My job mainly consists of market research, analyzing data, try to get insights from it and improve our product. My project is mostly done in Python. We use statistical models to analyze the data, find target users and serve advertisements.

From the surface, my present job and the internship projects seems to be different but at the core they are almost the same. The thinking method is similar by using quantitative methods to do research and solve problems.

Important to note, at work we give lot of presentations. My internship allowed me to enhance my soft skills and learn how to communicate better. I am now more confident in giving presentations in my current job.

What are the different position you have applied for the full time and how did you apply for those?

Yi Chao: I applied mostly for the Quantitative jobs, Risk Management and Data Analyst roles. Most of the jobs I have applied were through LinkedIn and Glassdoor. However, besides applying to jobs online, it is also very important to follow up with the application through the respective HR manager or with any alumni working in the same company (If there are any).

How did the career fairs help you?

Yi Chao: Career fairs gives you a lot information. You will get to know the companies and the different positions they offer. It is the best place to network and market yourself. Many job requirements ask for 3-5 years of experience in any of the programming languages, but if you show you have great analytical and problem solving skills and learn quickly, there is a chance they may hire you. It helps to be confident in the skills you have.

What are your suggestions for the current and future students?

Yi Chao: The main advice I would like to give to the students is, network with the people, do not let your fear or inhibitions to take a back step on this. There is never a harm if you speak to people, only good happens. Keeping aside about job, you will get to know lot of information from their experience. Also contact people through LinkedIn. I talked to lot of Financial Math Alumni and learned a lot from them. I also got a few interview calls because of my network.

Grasp every opportunity to talk to people, professors, alumni and people coming from industry. Keep looking for what you are interested in because that is what gives you the passion to learn or work. Push yourself to be the best you can and then you will know your potential.

Regarding jobs and internships, make sure you start applying as early as possible and make a very good resume, and be clear on each and everything that is written on your resume.

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Thank you Yi! We appreciate your time and advice.

2015 Summer projects- SAS credit risk project summary

SAS Credit Risk Project

Designed & led by Financial Math Alumnus- Jonathan Leonardelli

Objective:
For students to apply credit risk concepts while developing SAS programming skills

Goals:
1. Become Base SAS certified
2. Have an understanding of CCAR and Basel II calculations
3. Learn how to model PD / LGD / EAD
4. Use equations to calculate Expected Loss (EL), RWA (Risk Weighted Assets), and capital ratios

By Aisha Barnes & Preethi Kankanala- The purpose of the summer SAS case study was to develop an understanding of the different steps that are involved in calculating the loss portion of CCAR (Comprehensive Credit Analysis & Review). CCAR is a regulatory framework that ensures Bank Holding Companies (BHCs) have enough capital under the worst scenarios. This is tested under various stress-testing scenarios.

In our case study, we analyzed a portfolio of different products and estimated the capital that is required to hold the portfolio under three different scenarios. For this, we have estimated the historic Probability of Default (PD)*, Loss Given Default (LGD)* and Exposure at Default (EAD) and forecasted the future values using a variety of techniques (e.g., regression models) in SAS. Then we used these values to estimate risk weighted assets and capital.

This exercise helps BHCs ensure that they have enough capital if there is any change in the economic conditions. If the capital plan does not pass regulatory review, then the company has to change it to ensure there is adequate regulatory capital.

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"Throughout the project, Financial Math Alumnus and Board Member, Jonathan Leonardelli, directed and mentored our team. We gained knowledge and enhanced our technical and business skills under his guidance. The project provided us hands-on experience on estimating the credit metrics and how to apply them with real world problems."- Preethi Kankanala, December 2015 Graduate

"This summer I experienced real application of how I will use my Financial Mathematics degree. I learned how to program in SAS and plan to gain certification. I used SAS to find the amount of capital a bank reserves to meet the Basel II requirements. I feel confident in having these skills."- Aisha Barnes, December 2015 Graduate

*PD (Probability of Default) = likelihood that a loan will default in the future
*LGD (Loss Given Default) = amount a bank will lose if a customer defaults on their loans

(All the project groups presented their summaries at the end of the summer session. More info to come soon from the other groups).
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Financial Math socials- a fun break from the rigorous coursework

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In the midst of the busy life with assignments and projects, Financial Math students have the opportunity to take a break with social events scattered throughout the semesters. The socials are fun and act as stress busters in between long hours of studying. More importantly, the socials bring everyone together and allow the students to bond outside the classroom.

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Last Spring 2015 semester, our Director of Career Services and Director hosted events such as bowling, Chinese New Years potluck and a spring picnic with team games. The Financial Math program does a great job of ensuring all students enjoy their time at NC State.

We had a great time and look forward to future Financial Math socials Fall and Spring semesters. Thank you Leslie & Jeff! - Preethi Kankanala, Financial Math Intern, December 2015 Graduate

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The Financial Math program’s Executive Board welcomes 3 new members.

NC State's Financial Math program is excited to announce three new members to the Executive Board- Mike Bauer with AllianceBernstein, Sheila Baptiste with Credit Suisse and Rick Carter with National General Insurance.

Updated list of members can be found here.

The Executive Board is comprised of industry leaders and Financial Math alumni. Board members provide guidance, expertise and contacts to the program's two Directors. We sincerely thank the Board Members for their participation and commitment to the Financial Math program and its success.

Congratulations to our May 2015 Graduates!

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Congratulations to everyone who graduated this May 2015! We are proud of your hard work and wish you many years of success.

We our proud to announce that our recent graduates received offers and have started working at Bank of America, Genworth, SAS, BB&T, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Maxpoint, & Aohey, LLC.

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Re-cap IAQF’s “How I became a Quant” at NC State

On Friday evening, Nov 14th 2014, NC State’s Financial Math program and IAQF (International Association of Quantitative Finance) hosted the event “How I Became a Quant”. The panel included Financial Math alumni, Jared Bogacki with BB&T and Albert Hopping with SAS, as well as Altrius Capital Founder, Jim Russo and current student Jeff High with Captrust. They each took turns sharing their career path stories with the audience and answered questions about quantitative careers. Dr. Jeff Scroggs, Director of the Financial Math program, acted as the moderator for the event.

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To start, Jim Russo talked about his background and starting his company, Altrius Capital in 1997. He enjoys quantitative finance and visited investment firms to learn more about the field, which included networking with his best friend who got an MBA from Princeton and worked at Bernstein (Alliance Bernstein). This inspired him to open his own investment management and financial consulting business in New Bern, North Carolina. Altrius Capital also has an office in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina and is growing fast.

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Next, FM Alumnus, Albert Hopping shared his career path story. He got his Bachelors in Physics at NCSU and then worked in the energy industry as a Risk Analyst. Several years later, he enrolled in the Financial Math program at NCSU and learned more about quantitative analyzing. He found it be interesting and amazing. Thus, this led to his current role at SAS where he applies quantitative analysis to his daily work. You can read his personal interview here.

Jeff High is finishing up his Financial Math degree at NC State. He did his undergraduate studies in Finance and Financial Economics, and then got a job at Wells Fargo. In 2006, he noticed his job became more and more quantitative. During 2007 to 2009, he worked at another investment firm and managed a team in Valparaiso, Chile while supporting New York, London, and Hong Kong trading services. Due to the 2008 financial crisis, he came back to US and and started his Masters in Financial Math at NC State while working at other investment firms. He realized technology skills are very important, which he is enhancing through the Financial Math program.

Lastly, FM Alumnus, Jared Bogacki shared his career path and has worked at BB&T for more than 10 years. He is currently a manager about shared his expertise and advice to current students on getting a job in the field. Jared and Albert both emphasized the importance of communication as a top soft skill to sharpen as it is required to be successful in the industry.

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After they shared their stories, Dr. Scroggs asked them about careers and salaries in the Financial Math industry, and work and life balance. Mr. Hopping said there is a high correlation between working hard and receiving high rewards and benefits. Thus, the harder you work, the more you are rewarded. But that comes with longer hours and stress. Mr. Russo made the point that if you enjoy what you are doing, the long hours and hard work will pay off and the stress is worth it because you are doing something you value. Mr. Bogacki agreed and mentioned the importance of having passion in what you do. Being overly stressed and not enjoying your job is not ideal and students should choose a career path that closely aligns with their interests, talents and passion.

They also talked about specific courses and types of technical skills students need to gain to be successful. All panelists stressed to not only focus on academics but to enhance business and soft-skills such as communication, interpersonal and problem solving skills. Being able to clearly articulate ideas, processes and models to clients and business colleagues is very important. Mr. High gave personal examples of his own experiences to emphasize the importance of gaining and improving technical and soft skills as significant factors in succeeding with one's own career path.

The audience had an opportunity to ask several questions about interview tips, types of interview questions expected in interviews, and other tips to succeed in the Financial Math industry. Thank you Jim, Albert, Jeff and Jared! Everyone enjoyed hearing your career stories and expert advice. The evening ended with a reception held in SAS Hall.

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Meet our Financial Math Alumni- Brandon Blevins

Meet Brandon Blevins, Product Controller at Credit Suisse in New York City. Brandon graduated from the Financial Math program in 2009. We were glad to catch up with him in Manhattan and learn about his job and life in the city.

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Part I: Education & Job Background

1) How did the program prepare you for your job?

Brandon: The Financial Mathematics program gave me the background about quantitative finance. It provided me with the basics on how financial assets work, how models applied to assets, and how interest rate curves work.

2) Describe your job.

Brandon: Currently, my job is Product Controller at Credit Suisse. The main point of Product Control is to ensure that the Profit and Loss (PL) generated by portfolios reviewed gets to the general ledger of the bank, which then is reported to shareholders and board members who make financial decisions based on Credit Suisse earnings.

My day involves reviewing risks on books, making sure risks are within tolerances, and P/L are in line with the risks. For example, suppose you have net Vega on a single position of $100K. The volatility moved on the position by 100 basis points and you did not make or lose any money on that position. Did that make sense? It is the Product Controller’s job to make sure it does makes sense. If something is wrong, we flag it. We make comments on any big moves, big losses, and provide reasons why money is lost.

Part II: Analytic techniques

3) Does your company use stochastic models? If it does, what kind of models are used? Is there any reason for choosing these models?

Brandon: We use Black-Scholes formula to build up implied volatility curve. Options with the same underlyings and maturity but different strike prices have different implied volatility. The same options with different maturities may also have different implied volatility. Thus, implied volatility is a function of strike price and maturity, and we can define a volatility surface. We also use jump-diffusion models to model certain protocols. For example, is there a big court case coming up in the next few years for a specific company, or does this specific company have any big products coming out in a few years? That is where jump-diffusion comes into play.

Part III: Risk management

4) How does the crisis and the regulation policies enacted afterwards affect the behavior of your company?

Brandon: Radically. Since then, many parts of businesses have been shut down. Interest rate products have been drastically cut by 90%, because the Feds have kept rates low. There is a huge push to move everything onto exchange and standardize all products. Any flow business has been hit hard such as the credit default swap (CDS) market. Junk bond market has been on fire lately. But it did excite the mortgage back portion.

5) The goal of risk management is to achieve a balance between returns and risks. Thus, with lots of capitals and human resource spent, risk management may, to some extent, reduce a company’s profits. Now suppose you are a leader of a financial institution. Driven by the motivation of maximizing the profits, will you pay enough attention for risk management?

Brandon: Lead traders will listen to risk management and work in conjunction to set risk limits and VAR measures. If the limits get breached, everyone will look at it.

6) You used to be an interest rate derivative analyst, but now you are focusing on equity derivatives. So in your opinion, what is the difference between the interest rate derivative market and the equity derivative market?

Brandon: Interest rate market and equity derivative market start to look alike with low volatility. The bond market did very well in the past, but now it hover sideways because of the flat yield curve environment. Equity market is experiencing the same problem. Rates are not moving and are low.

Part IV: Suggestion & Advice

7) What skills set are important to succeed in your field? And what kind of courses will you recommend for current students to take.

Brandon: Networking! Make sure people like you, so they will recommend you. I landed all of my jobs because I knew people who worked for companies that I wanted to join as well. I got the interviews because people recommended me. Therefore, students should get out there, meet people, talk to them, learn from them, make relationship with them, and then they will recommend you for jobs. Just get connected! People can put you in positions to succeed, and give you opportunities to help you succeed. If they like you, they want to you succeed.

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Thank you Brandon!