Alumni Story: Shaun Levitan, Chief Operating Officer (COO), Colourfield
I studied at the University of the Witwatersrand, where I did an undergraduate degree in Actuarial Science and went on to do an Honors in Mathematics of Finance. Thereafter I qualified as an actuary, which involved completing a Masters in Actuarial Science and taking exams administered by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (headquartered in the United Kingdom).
My career began at Alexander Forbes, which is the largest employee benefits company in South Africa. My responsibilities included asset liability modelling and specialist investment consulting for pension funds. My role allowed me to solve real-world financial problems by combining my understanding of liabilities with my knowledge of investments.
In 2010, I co-established a new company called Colourfield, which was the first dedicated liability-driven investment management firm in South Africa. Today I am the COO and Executive Director of Colourfield which is the largest provider of LDI solutions in Southern Africa. We manage assets in excess of $3 billion. Our bespoke solutions include a thought leading goals- based investment framework developed with Nobel Prize Laureate, Professor Robert C Merton.
At the heart of Colourfield’s technology is the use of leading-edge academic theory. My desire is to advance the worldwide thinking in goals-based investment for defined contribution funds which requires additional specialized expertise. I applied for a PhD program to EDHEC Business School, where cutting edge research is being done in finance. I was accepted, but was advised to complete the CQF to fill in some gaps in my knowledge.
One of the greatest benefits of the CQF is taking real world topics, working through them in an exam or project, and then seeing how you can apply this approach in the workplace
Together with two of my colleagues, we took the plunge and joined the CQF program. Nothing quite prepares you for the program once it actually starts! - from the range of concepts covered in the Primers early on to the pace of the lectures once the lectures begin. Very quickly we were reacquainted with calculus, linear algebra, and solving differential equations. Programming too – by the end of the CQF, you will find that you know your way around Python and will be able to implement machine learning models. One of the greatest benefits of the CQF is taking real world topics, working through them in an exam or project, and then seeing how you can apply this approach in the workplace, whether it's the Black Litterman model, a mean variance portfolio frontier, or even machine and deep learning techniques to predict stock price movements.
Looking back on the CQF experience, I’d make particular mention of the lecturers who contribute to the program. Most of them have written textbooks on the topics they cover – so their expertise is deep and yet they are approachable and engaged with the class. The faculty and staff have also put a lot of time into making sure that the material is current, and any new topics are covered in a thorough and timely manner. The program has kept up with the times; take the machine learning modules, for example, which are rigorous and valuable. I was coding in Python and wrote up all my assignments in LaTeX. For me, it really was a boot camp for my PhD work, which started this fall.
Now that I’ve completed the CQF, one of the things I appreciate the most is the access to the Lifelong Learning Library and the fact that it keeps growing.
I also enjoyed getting to know my fellow delegates through our WhatsApp group; a real camaraderie amongst fellow delegates developed over the course of the program. Now that I’ve completed the CQF, one of the things I appreciate the most is the access to the Lifelong Learning Library and the fact that it keeps growing. There are also a number of quant-focused conferences and they attract wonderful speakers. The CQF is hard work to be sure. Essentially you are using two evenings a week at a minimum to go through the lectures, and then additional time on weekends to attend labs and complete assignments. However, the sacrifice is well worth it and you will gain an exceptional qualification and leading-edge knowledge.