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Students flock to study quant finance in record numbers

3

Record numbers of students have signed up to study quantitative finance, as demand for the roles within investment companies far outstrips supply.

Fitch Group, the financial data and education company, accepted 600 enrollees on to its certificate of quantitative finance programme this year, a 20 per cent rise on last year’s intake and the highest level since it launched in 2003. A third of the students came from India and China, which have become hotbeds for quant recruiters.

“There is definitely a skills shortage in quant finance,” said Randeep Gug, managing director of Fitch Learning. “The CQF was designed to fill that gap.”

Since launching 17 years ago, more than 5,000 professionals have taken the qualification worldwide. The course, which costs about $20,000, is mainly delivered online and takes six months to complete.

Mr Gug said the CQF was initially popular with developers of exotic investment vehicles such as structured products. But after the financial crisis there was a wave of interest from regulators and risk managers trying to get their heads round the new complex products.

The most recent intake has typically come from asset managers and they are interested in how artificial intelligence and machine learning can aid investment strategies. A third of the CQF’s modules are on machine learning.

“The demographics have changed — now there are many more fund managers looking at portfolio optimisation,” Mr Gug said. “They are trying to get an edge and make a profit.”

Most of the Indian students on the course have been sponsored by global investment companies and banks, which are tapping into the country’s highly skilled workforce. Chinese enrollees, meanwhile, typically work for domestic investment managers and hedge funds that are growing and trying to compete with international players.

The CQF rivals university masters courses, which tend to be more theory-based. Students completing quantitative finance masters courses can expect to earn $90,000 to $120,000 a year working for US hedge funds, while those with PhD credentials are able to command $200,000 salaries, according to business school research.

Several universities have links with hedge funds, which donate money to dedicated quant programmes and benefit from recruiting graduates.

Man Group, the world’s largest listed hedge fund manager, has a close association with Oxford university, while Swiss group GAM has ties with Cambridge university.

Other alliances include Dutch pension fund APG and Erasmus University Rotterdam, along with AQR, the Connecticut-headquartered hedge fund, which has links to London Business School and University of Chicago.

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