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Julio Sanchez
Julio
Sanchez
Executive Director - Head of Quantitative Models
BBVA

I studied for a bachelor’s degree in Finance at Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico. Once I graduated, I began work as a Fixed Income Portfolio Manager at BBVA, the largest bank in Mexico. The first year was rather complicated because there is a huge difference between the theory studied in school and the real market, so I decided to enroll in the CFA program and continue my professional development. Subsequently, the management and business model at BBVA underwent an important structural change and different types of analysis began to be introduced. At that time, I had become an Asset Allocation Portfolio Manager and had my first introduction to quantitative finance. I completed studies for an MBA at EGADE Business School to develop the soft skills that are indispensable in any industry. Then, in another structural movement at BBVA, it was decided to open an area specializing in quantitative models and I was selected to be the director of this area. In order to prepare myself for this career evolution, I decided to study the CQF. 

The CQF caught my attention because it is a very complete certification that covers a wide range of areas from mathematical theory to machine learning as applied to financial series. I did consider other educational options, but I chose the CQF because of the diversity of topics, the experience of the professors, the duration of the program, and the excellent fit with my current job requirements. Further, the pre-course Math and Python Primers was very helpful. The modules are challenging, but the professors are very good at explaining the material and always willing to give advice and references to help reinforce the knowledge. Overall, I could say the CQF is an excellent opportunity to learn quantitative finance from both theoretical and practical perspectives. Of course, one cannot expect to be an expert in quantitative finance in only six months; the added value of the CQF is that it provides the necessary knowledge to understand a great range of topics and perspectives of quantitative finance, so that one can later specialize in the areas of one's choice. My own path was very rewarding and in fact, I won the First in Class Award for my cohort, which was a very pleasant surprise. It never crossed my mind that I could win it; for each one of the exams, I just tried to do my best. When I saw the results, I focused on the feedback given by the professors, although I was also always curious to know how the other students in the class had faced the problems, how their programming style had developed, and if there were more efficient ways to solve some exam problems. 

Since completing the CQF program, I have tried to apply my knowledge in analysis and modeling with information from the Mexican market. As part of this effort, I have continued through self-directed study – extra resources such as the CQF’s lifelong learning and alumni lectures have helped me a lot. Currently there is a lot of literature on quantitative studies as applied to developed markets, but for emerging markets, such as Mexico, there is still so much to explore. My ambition for the future is to continue learning and applying machine learning and artificial intelligence in the Mexican market. They can definitely bring a lot of value in portfolio management and generate better returns for clients.

My advice to new CQF delegates would be to dedicate as much time as possible to the certification; it is a big sacrifice, but it is worth it. Time management is essential, as some subjects are more difficult than others and it is necessary to study each subject in-depth, including doing the recommended reading. The better your time management skills, the more efficient the learning process will be, and the less stressful it will be for you through the exams and the final project. The CQF certification provides a solid foundation of knowledge on various quantitative topics. It is very helpful to have such an understanding and it will serve as a basis for you to go deeper into any of those topics on your own over time. The CQF is a great educational experience; enjoy it!

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