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How this MFRM ’19 found her voice with the risk management project

December 17, 2019

Photo of Irene MiaoFor Irene Miao (MFRM ’19), the most surprising part about the risk management project she took on as part of her master’s program at Rotman was the amount of speaking up she had to do.

“I assumed I would be left on my own,” she says. “I didn’t realize how much ownership I would have with this project and how frequently I would need to provide updates on my progress. I learned a lot about communicating to different audiences.”

Of course, throughout the project experience, she did a lot of the work she expected to do — she coded in R, learned project management fundamentals and acquired experience working in an office. At the end of the weeks-long project with KPMG’s risk management group, she presented her findings to fellow students, faculty and her industry sponsors at the Rotman School.

Learning that she was capable of effective public speaking — and even enjoyed it —was an unexpected perk that came out of the experience. It’s a skill that she still uses now, and continues to improve upon, as a risk management consultant with KPMG.

Diving into a real problem

Most students look forward to the project component of the Master of Financial Risk Management (MFRM) program. For nine weeks, students get a break from the classroom and tackle a real risk issue at a financial institution. It’s an opportunity for them to apply their knowledge, use new tools and network with industry professionals. The project — which they tackle in pairs — gives students relevant professional experience working as part of a team, which becomes especially important as they get ready to enter the job market.

For her project, Miao and her partner, Zain Alansari (MFRM ’19), were tasked with developing a forward-looking probability of default model. They spent the first two weeks scouring working papers and publications to better understand the macroeconomic factors that contributed to the probability that customers would default on a loan. From there, the pair started working with data sets and building a model R.

“I’m ready for my next big project.”

—Irene Miao, MFRM ‘19

It was the final weeks of the project, which were spent presenting their work to their supervisors and colleagues and refining their models, that were most transformative for Miao.

“Now, I am definitely more comfortable speaking in public and have a deeper understanding regarding IFRS 9,” she says. “We presented so often, and to so many different audiences, it became natural. And I think we both became better at explaining concepts more clearly.”

Ready for the next big project

It also helped that she was working with people who knew where she was coming from. One of Miao’s project supervisors, Phoebe Cheung (MFRM ’17), is a recent graduate of the MFRM program.

“I felt like we spoke a common language and shared many common experiences,” says Miao. “I could ask her about anything. She shared her thoughts on the program, the project and career planning.”

In the end, Miao’s hard work and time spent practicing paid off.

“They shone during the final project presentation,” says Cheung. “We were so proud of their progress, and it felt rewarding be a part of their transition. We told their professors how impressed we were.”

Miao left a strong impression. One of her supervisors at KPMG encouraged her to submit a resume and to keep in touch. Within a few days of completing her program, Miao was invited for an interview and subsequently presented with a job offer.

Today, she’s working closely with former supervisors and familiar faces, including Cheung.

“I feel prepared. From the MFRM program, I got an idea of how to merge my technical skills with my theoretical knowledge and apply them in practice,” Miao says. “I’m ready for my next big project.”

Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »

Irene Miao

Class year

MFRM ’19

Current Position

Risk Consultant
KPMG Canada
Toronto, Canada

Previous education

Bachelor of Commerce
University of Toronto

Master of
Financial Risk
Learn more»