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MFin ’20 students on the new Financial Innovations class, why it’s smart to stay on top of the latest trends

April 23, 2020

Photo of MFIN grad Laura Garzon As Laura Garzon (MFin ’20) has advanced in her career in finance — taking on progressively more challenging roles in sales and marketing — she’s seen the growing impact of new technologies.

“At every professional development event, in the media, and even in casual conversations, I keep hearing about why finance professionals need to take up coding and learn about the latest technologies,” says Garzon, who is a sales associate with CIBC’s prime services group, advising institutional clients on electronic trading, lending and financing.

“Basic coding skills don’t cut it anymore, it’s the era of big data on Wall Street and Bay Street. Banks and financial institutions are after talent that has a grip on technology.”

With this in mind, the Rotman School regularly evaluates its offerings with advice from the FinHub, The Financial Innovation Lab, so that it can continue to deliver a Master of Finance program that covers the latest innovations shaking up the industry. Earlier this academic year, in September 2019, the program introduced a new Financial Innovations class to the core curriculum. Taught by Professor John Hull, the new course covers a range of topics — including machine learning, blockchain, payment systems and roboadvisors — that have become required knowledge for every finance professional. Beyond the classroom, MFin students can also take advantage of bootcamps, organized by the TD Management Data and Analytics Lab, on blockchain, Python and R.

Coding and cutting through the noise

It’s this focus on the latest technologies in the context of finance that brought Garzon to the Rotman School and the Master of Finance program.

She considers herself lucky to be among the first students to complete the Financial Innovation class. Getting the chance to roll up her sleeves and use the tools that she had only heard about proved to be eye-opening.

“Everyone in the industry is talking about Python right now,” she explains. “I appreciated that all of our assignments included a coding component so that I could really learn the language.”

“The MFin program teaches you how to frame intelligent questions and cut through the noise.”

—Laura Garzon, MFin ’20

Beyond coding, the class dives into different emerging areas of finance including neural networks and natural language processing. In their last class, groups of students presented key concepts in fintech so they could learn from each other.

“Now if someone were to mention machine learning or neural networks or another emerging area of fintech, I know what they mean,” she says.

“There are so many new buzzwords, so much confusion, and in this climate, companies might toss out jargon to disguise themselves as cutting-edge fintech companies. The MFin program teaches you how to frame intelligent questions and cut through the noise.”

Insights you can take to work

Photo of MFIN grad Stanton StrasserMeanwhile, for students like Stanton Strasser (MFin ’20), the real value of the class is how it goes deep into relevant cases.

Strasser, who works in asset management and specializes in commercial and residential real estate projects, keeps a close eye on housing prices and real estate markets.

Coincidentally, one of the cases that Hull assigned to the class involved using a data set to model and predict future housing prices.

“It was completely applicable to my work. You could imagine that if I were given the right data set, I could replicate algorithms and predict condo prices,” he says. “It opened my eyes to the value of good data: it’s something I will push for in the future.”

Lectures on new and emerging areas of finance also made a huge difference for Strasser.

“It’s hard to find people who understand the fundamentals of blockchain and new payment systems, but at Rotman we get to hear from the experts — professors like Wendy Rotenberg and Andreas Park.” he says. “No one is selling us anything, it’s just straightforward, unbiased views on the issues.”

“Rotman has an excellent faculty that is constantly keeping pace and addressing the most current topics in finance.”

Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »

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