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Q&A with Jacky Chen and Jabir Sandhu

Valedictorians to the MFRM class of 2017

As the first valedictorians of the MFRM program, Jabir and Jacky are proud to look back on a year of highlights, including the time they cleaned up at a Canada-wide case competition. Read the full story:

The two of you have been chosen as the valedictorians for the first ever MFRM class. How does it feel?

Jacky: It's a great honour. The two of us were class reps, and we worked hard to represent the needs of our fellow students. So it’s great to have this recognition. It’s a stamp of approval that shows our efforts have been appreciated.

Jabir: It's also a privilege because for the first time we'll be able to speak of our accomplishments and experiences - not just in front of our classmates, but also faculty and our families.

What kind of things do you think you'll be reflecting on in your speech to the class?

Jacky: One of the themes will be the amazing diversity of the class. The student body is evenly split between men and women, between domestic and international students, and between those with work experience and those who came directly from their undergraduate studies. That kind of balance is unusual in any master’s program.

Jabir: It adds so much to the student experience. A lot of learning we do is through group work. So if you have someone from industry, or with a different background than you, you can learn from their experiences. You can learn as much from your classmates as from your teachers.

“It was the first time that we were able to come out and say… maybe the MFRM program teaches you more than the programs at other schools.”

Any highlights from the program?

Jabir: Our class had some real high points that we plan to share in our speech. We won the TD Risk Management Case Competition. And at the PRMIA case competition our class took home four of the five awards, and came in first and second place.

It’s nice to get this sort of recognition, coming from a new program. We're competing against all the other universities in Ontario, other universities in Canada too. It was the first time that we were able to come out and say, yes, we're actually doing something right. And that maybe the MFRM program teaches you more than the programs at other schools. Because we were able to outperform those teams.

There were other highlights. During the industry projects that we did in December and January, the people to whom we presented were quite impressed. To the extent that a few of our classmates got job offers afterward.

Jacky: In terms of the caliber of the class, you just need to look at my fellow students and what they’re doing now. They’re working in some prestigious institutions – the major banks, the central bank and insurance companies. They’re all covered. I hope to talk about that too, and what the students will be doing in the future.

You’ve found there’s a strong market need for graduates from this program.

Jabir: Definitely. Since the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, there’s been a big demand for risk management professionals. Regulations have changed the way that banks need to operate. It’s essential for them to have people who are aware of these regulations and how to implement them. And that’s the need that the MFRM program is designed to answer.

Jacky: The program is unique because it's quite applied. Before the MFRM was introduced, the training for risk professionals tended to be theoretical. Rotman changed this by saying, we need people who can get up to speed on day one, as soon as their job begins.

I really came to appreciate this strength of the program when I started working. I mean the combination of quant training and discussion of the hot market issues, and add to that the business school training that a reputable school like Rotman can provide. The mix of the theoretical and applied learning has been very helpful to me in my new position.

“After such an intensive program, there’s going to be a great feeling of relief.”

What’s it like to be in the program?

Jacky: The program is definitely very intense. But it gives you great preparation for working in the industry, since finance is a demanding industry. As MFRM students, we often start at nine o'clock in the morning and go to five or six in the evening, and often start our studies after that. We do ten courses in eight months, and a project in between. That forces you to improve your efficiency and productivity, your ability to think and act quickly.

At the same time, the intensity of the program helps you get build strong relationships with your classmates. During those long days, you’re working together and getting to know each other well.

Jabir: Overall it’s a terrific offering. The program can take a fairly ‘green’ undergraduate student and turn that person into a professional who is ready to work in the industry.

It’s about more than just improving your quant skills.

Jabir: There are other programs that teach you just the quant skills. For example, you can do a degree in mathematics and learn that part. The nice thing about Rotman is, you get the quant side but you also get the application. For example, we had a course in the financial lab where you actually use real-life trading software and that's where you're evaluated. You actually do a trading simulation. It's very similar to what you'll be doing at your day to day job if you're a trader.

Another thing is that the program focuses on your presentation skills, your communication skills. Every week in our Operational Risk course, we had to do a five minute presentation to the class. That really helped us and it was something we got to use later on in our industry project presentation.

Jacky: Because the MFRM is offered by Rotman, it also gives you access to industry professionals. Our program was sponsored by the Global Risk Institute. Almost every week we had a GRI speaker come to our class. These were senior executives working at banks or funds. Having exposure to these people in very senior positions is something that you could only get at a leading business school like Rotman.

You’re also benefitting from the School’s faculty strengths.

Jacky: The dean of the Rotman School was the former deputy governor at the Bank of Canada, and knows a lot about risk through his handling of the global crisis of 2008 and 2009. And some of the leading thinkers in risk management teach in the program.

Jabir: Our professors are quite approachable and down to earth. They’re here to help if you have any questions in your academics or even in your career. They’re also great teachers. They can take a very complex idea and make analogy or simplify it in a way that makes it easy to understand.

Jacky: Having such great faculty also brings more attention from industry. Our professors are a big reason we can get all these guest speakers and banking executives to visit us regularly and share their experiences.

Now that the program is wrapping up and Convocation is nearly here, how are you feeling?

Jacky: I actually had my undergraduate Convocation last year at the exact same spot, but it was so different because I was worrying about my future. Now I have a full-time job that I really like, and I’m starting my career. There’s a lot more certainty in my life. And after such an intensive program, there’s going to be a great feeling of relief. Finally getting the certificate, and being able to show it to my parents sitting there.

Jabir: Definitely there will be a feeling of accomplishment because, for all of us, we worked very hard over the past eight months. We were at school for 12 hours a day just doing work and group projects. It will be great to mark the end of that journey. Getting the diploma and making the transition to the next phase of our lives. That is definitely a moment of excitement and pride.

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Convocation 2017
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