My Journey to Valuation via the CQF
My path to the CQF and beyond has been long and varied, with several changes of direction along the way. With a middling academic track record and a steep improvement curve, I managed to get into St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata where I majored in Commerce. I enrolled and cleared the intermediate level of the Chartered Accountancy course where I was introduced to finance, which motivated me to pursue a career in the investment industry. I completed all the levels of the FRM® and the CFA® Program and this helped me obtain my first job as a Market Risk Analyst at Credit Suisse. For a while, I considered going for an MS in Financial Engineering, but I did not want to face the opportunity costs of leaving work for two years.
Fortunately, I discovered the CQF program and although I wondered if I would be able to handle the complexity of mathematics in the course, I had a solid background in finance and was comfortable with programming, so after some time and reflection, I signed up for the January 2020 cohort. I then used the math primer and faculty support to build up my mathematical knowledge from scratch. So, this is how my CQF journey began.
One of the most appealing aspects of the CQF was that I could complete it over time in a very flexible way, while managing my work at Credit Suisse. In the end, I was able to finish the CQF program in six months. It was essential to stay organized and I spent four hours a day studying. On the weekends, I’d review the lectures and work on the problem sets or exams. I had a lot of catching up to do on the mathematics side.
There were many illuminating moments along the way. During the first exam, for example, one of the key questions was about portfolio management. As I started writing the answer, I found it very easy and thought I would finish it fairly quickly. However, once I began working through it, I actually got stuck and had to think more deeply about it for several hours. In the end, I came up with my own analysis, assumptions, and hypothesis and it changed my perception of the problem itself. It was quite amazing – it was not just a textbook case; it was a practical scenario that compelled me to think beyond my own limits. There were many similar moments during the CQF program – where insights came from serious engagement with real-world problems in quant finance.
Another note-worthy point about the CQF is the modules on Machine learning and data science. The faculty will guide you through the core concepts and then in the examination, you will synthesize everything you have learned and more. The course teaches you how to push your own learning, not only by reading the assigned books and materials, but also by exploring the internet and stretching your limits to gain a greater understanding to complete the tasks at hand. No one can teach you everything about AI/ML in a classroom session, as the field is already vast and expanding exponentially. Looking at my own progress, at the beginning of the CQF program, I did not even know what a neural network was, and by the time we reached the final project, I was able to design one myself. It was really satisfying to see my own model running and giving an output – further building a useful foundation for future work.
I have been quite active on LinkedIn for several years and am building my personal brand. I post articles/videos related to Microsoft Excel, quantitative finance, programming, and motivation. After I completed the CQF course, I was not actively looking for a new job, but I was interested in discovering new opportunities. One day last year, I randomly got a call from a recruiter from PwC IAC and that turned into a great opportunity - now I am working as a valuation professional, which is a job I have wanted for a long time. This has been a substantial step up professionally, in title and responsibilities, with a significant increase in compensation. Clearly, the CQF certification helped me gain the required skillset and knowledge to convert this job, where the work is basically around the valuation of complex derivatives, interest rate and commodity swaps, incremental borrowing rates, hedge effectiveness testing, and so forth.
As I settle into this new role, I’m also planning to sit in on the CQF alumni sessions to guide those who are looking forward to taking the course. I’m also planning to polish my skills in AI so that I can solve real-life problems and challenges at work using machine learning and deep learning. Looking back, I loved the CQF program for its flexibility, rigor, and the tangible and immediate impact on my career. If you put the time and energy into it, you will be well-equipped to demonstrate the required skills, stay up to date with the ever-changing technology and advance your career.
To find out how you could transform your career with the CQF program, please download a brochure or join the next online information session to hear more and ask questions to the CQF Program Director.