I have always been interested in understanding how the world works from a scientific point of view and my academic background is in physics. I studied at Witwatersrand University, one of the top universities in South Africa. After my undergraduate degree, I went on for a master’s degree, also in physics, and during that time, I was introduced to investment banking by a friend of mine from the university.
To me, it was an interesting space – challenging and different from what I was doing in science. I decided to try a graduate internship first and ended up joining Rand Merchant Bank, one of the largest investment banks in South Africa, mostly working in electronic trading risk space. Although I liked the work very much, I realized that I was lacking some of the fundamentals in finance and I started looking for a course or program that would satisfy my appetite for more knowledge of finance. I considered the FRM, but I felt it was missing a hands-on, practical component.
It's been two years since I completed the CQF and it’s been an outstanding experience, taking me from a place of very little financial knowledge to a point where I can apply the practical skills I acquired every day.
As it happened, I also began reading Paul Wilmott’s book An Introduction to Quantitative Finance and learned about the Certificate in Quantitative Finance (CQF) that way. I checked it out online and found that it was a very good fit because I was interested in mathematics and programming and was also interested in finding out how to bring it all together in finance. I was quite comfortable with machine learning and so in the final project I stretched a bit further into an area I was less familiar with and worked on credit default swaps, which really helped me appreciate what had happened during the financial crisis. It's been two years since I completed the CQF and it’s been an outstanding experience, taking me from a place of very little financial knowledge to a point where I can apply the practical skills I acquired every day. Now I am still working in the same bank as an electronic trading risk manager, where we are looking at the risks in algorithmic/automated trading. We analyze the level of automation that is involved and then we advise on the types of controls or measures that must be put in place to mitigate risk. It's an intense space, with many products being traded, and I rely quite a bit on the knowledge of fundamental pricing principles I gained in the CQF to understand the instruments and how the traders are using them.
I rely quite a bit on the knowledge of fundamental pricing principles I gained in the CQF to understand the instruments and how the traders are using them.
These days, I'm continuing to learn as much as I can about algorithmic trading techniques. As CQF alumni we have access to the Lifelong Learning, and we also have our original course textbooks, which provide great information that I have at my disposal any time. For those considering the CQF now or in the future, I would say that one important factor is patience - it's an intense program and you need to commit significant hours in order to be successful because there is a lot of learning happening in a very short amount of time. It was an excellent starting point for me, first getting the mathematics right and from then on it was all about going through the course material and being well prepared for each lecture. It was an amazing and eye-opening experience to see how the fields all come together. If you are someone who is passionate about finance and programming, this is a great choice for gaining deeper insight on the mathematics and mechanics behind quantitative finance.