While many finance professionals struggle with either pursuing a CFA designation or completing a graduate program in finance, Arvind, MFin ’23, thought: why not do both?
Arvind, an experienced business analyst, pursued the CFA designation with the goals of developing new skills and challenging himself. However, upon completing the CFA program, Arvind realized it wasn’t the end of his journey in finance education. There were additional skills to develop and further challenges to take on.
“There were particular areas that really piqued my interest, like portfolio analysis and the analytical components of regression and predictive data. I said to myself, ‘why not look into fintech a little more?’”
This deep curiosity in financial technology led Arvind to Rotman and the Master of Finance program.
“I looked at a few different finance programs in the Toronto area. But a few things stood out about Rotman. There’s the FinHub and how it produces a lot of research that is used by the likes of the Bank of Canada and the banks on Bay Street. Smart people are using the research Rotman produces. There’s the faculty, and the opportunity to hear about their research firsthand, and then there’s the finance lab, with access to Bloomberg terminals.” Arvind says.
The curriculum also ticked all the right boxes. In addition to covering relevant topics, such as machine learning and AI, the program features group work opportunities, and, perhaps best of all, sections are taught by world-renowned faculty such as John Hull.
Arvind felt this would be what could take him to the next level.
How the CFA program differs from the MFin program
Though the CFA and MFin programs are both challenging in their own ways, Arvind sees two major differences between the two.
Firstly, at Rotman, students discuss real companies and situations.
“You’re interacting with people all the time in the MFin program, you’re learning from them and seeing different perspectives,” says Arvind. “The information sinks in deeper when you’re actually applying it to a real situation and working through a real problem as a group, compared to answering multiple questions on a topic.”
Secondly, the MFin program focuses heavily on group work.
While some might be hesitant about the idea of group work because of the different personalities and ways of working, Arvind sees being able to work as a team as an essential skill in almost every role.
“You have to put things aside and look at this as a learning experience. You’re in this together, so let’s all get together and learn. When you have this kind of attitude, it’s 100% beneficial.”
Also, the wide range of experiences that students bring to the program can enrich learning and understanding. Arvind has found ways to contribute in certain courses.
“In one course, we were looking at machine learning, so coding is part of it. I’ve had experience working with Java and feel comfortable looking at lines of code, and because of this I was able to help my classmates who were less familiar. This basis was very important when we jumped to the advanced concepts.”
In other areas, Arvind has been the recipient of support. For example, fixed income is an area he would not describe as his forte, but with the help of one or two classmates who work in that area he was able to get a better understanding of the key parts.
“I feel it is important to put aside your fear and be honest in the program — don’t be afraid to ask questions."
"There is no shame in not knowing something. With team members in particular, you build up a rapport so it is easier to ask a question that might ostensibly sound silly or stupid. They can help you work through the question so you understand it,” he says.
“I’ve learned to engage in discussions and debates without fear. You actually learn a lot more.”
Taking a business analyst’s approach to learning machine learning and Fintech
In his day-to-day as a business analyst, Arvind, who has several years of experience in the hotel and restaurant industry leading complex projects introducing new cash flow products, such as purchase-to-pay systems, is used to asking questions to get to the heart of the matter. It’s about fine-tuning your listening skills, focusing and making sure to convert the information you capture into something meaningful, he says.
These are skills Arvind has taken into the classroom.
“In the machine learning course, I went in deep, really trying to understand the material covered as best I could. I really rolled up my sleeves and got involved, and started to find inconsistencies. I would then explore these with Professor Jacky Chen, questions that landed on Professor Hull’s table and got him involved” he says.
“My experience as a business analyst helped with this — I want to understand the big picture and then slowly start to break it down into pieces. I basically go inwards and that helps me to understand complex subjects, and machine learning is a very complex subject!”
Exploring FinTech was a key reason Arvind came to Rotman, and it has become one of highlights of his time here.
“Learning about FinTech has sparked interesting conversations with the professors, which has helped me gain clarification and inspired me to explore new ideas. It’s been the most impactful part of the program for me.”
Read part two of our chat with Arvind.
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