Many interested in a career in finance are probably inclined to apply to MBA programmes, but a few may prefer a more specialised master’s degree. Unlike a typical master’s in finance or applied finance, NTU’s Master of Science in Financial Engineering (MFE) is ideal for candidates who are keen to receive rigorous training in logical thinking, develop their quantitative skills and apply these skills in the finance industry.
In a tight economy where good jobs are tough to come by, there is one specialised finance course offered by Nanyang Business School (NBS) in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, where over half the class gets job offers before the MFE degree has been completed. The placement statistics improve significantly 3 months after the course ends.
Sameer Kamat, founder of MBA Crystal Ball, interviewed Professor Charlie Charoenwong – Academic Director of the MSc (Financial Engineering) Programme at NBS, to find out more about how a specialised master’s degree from Singapore can help you start an international career in the finance industry.
About 60% of our students get job offers before graduation with about 80% to 90% securing their jobs within three months of graduation.
MBA Crystal Ball: Let’s start with the basics. What is financial engineering?
Professor Charlie Charoenwong: Financial engineering is the application of mathematics, statistical skills and computer programming techniques to solve challenging problems in finance. Because of the high barriers to entry, careers in this area tend to command attractive remuneration.
But most important of all, financial engineering offers very satisfying and challenging work to those who enjoy exercising their logical reasoning and quantitative skills. Successful graduates can expect to find interesting work in banks, asset management firms, trading firms, accounting firms, and other financial institutions.
MCB: Why should international students consider studying in Singapore for their master’s degree in financial engineering?
Prof: Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is well-recognised globally. In 2016, NTU was placed 13th in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) ranking of the world’s top 100 universities, ahead of many traditional Ivy League and European universities including Yale, Johns Hopkins, Cornell and King’s College London. QS also placed NTU 1st in the world among universities below the age of 50.
Being a multi-disciplinary programme, the MFE courses are taught by the faculty of two schools in NTU – the Nanyang Business School (NBS) and the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (SPMS).
The Nanyang MBA was ranked 29th in the Financial Times’ 2016 Global MBA Ranking, and NBS’ Executive MBA (EMBA) has been repeatedly ranked high in the ‘Financial Times’ rankings of the world’s top 100 EMBA programmes.
MCB: Are there cultural or language issues that international students studying in Singapore must be aware of?
Prof: Singaporean Indians constitute about 7.5% of the local community, and they form the third largest ethnic group in the country. Moreover, quite a number of the foreign talent in finance are also of Indian origin.
English is one of the official languages in Singapore, and is widely used in formal business settings.
MCB: Are there enough job opportunities in Singapore for international students after completing a Masters degree in finance?
Prof: The MFE programme draws many international students from India and China with a handful of students also coming from the rest of Asia. As a global finance hub, Singapore is one of the most popular locations for global talent in banking and finance.
Many international students study in Singapore with the aim of subsequently building a finance career here as well. Out of the 5.61 million population in Singapore, almost 40% are foreign.
Majority of the local as well as international graduates from the programme are able to find suitable employment in Singapore as well as overseas.
MCB: Is the finance specialisation at Nanyang Business School region-specific (i.e. Singapore focussed) or international in nature?
Prof: NTU’s MFE Programme is modelled after a similar programme offered by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, USA. And our full-time students are required to take four courses taught in CMU’s Pittsburgh campus.
CMU’s Computational Finance programme was ranked the top Financial Engineering programme in North America by QuantNet in 2016.
MCB: If MFE students don’t get a job in Singapore, how is the NTU brand perceived in other countries (like India)?
Prof: We have had MFE graduates who choose to return to their home country, quite often India or China. The NTU brand is well-recognised among the global firms, and many of our homebound graduates are hired by the international banks and financial institutions in their home countries.
MCB: How student-friendly is the work-permit application process in Singapore?
Prof: Our foreign MFE graduates typically work in Singapore on Employment Passes. About 60% of our students get job offers before graduation with about 80% to 90% securing their jobs within three months of graduation.
MCB: How many international students get jobs in Singapore after graduation?
Prof: Most of our foreign graduates successfully obtain employment in finance-related work in Singapore upon graduation. A few have subsequently moved to other global finance hubs like London, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
MCB: How big is the MFE alumni network? What jobs have they taken up in the finance industry?
Prof: Our MFE Programme started in 1999 with a small cohort. Over the past few years, we have increased the capacity to accommodate about 40 to 50 students each year. Through the years, our MFE alumni have grown in strength, and are now employed in all the major local and international banks and other financial institutions in Singapore, performing quantitative tasks in areas like algorithmic trading, product structuring, valuation, quantitative portfolio management and quantitative risk management.
Our alumni can also be found in all the large accounting firms mainly in derivative valuation roles. In fact, our alumni have been a tremendous asset to the job placement of our new graduates.
Image credit: Nanyang Business School