Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

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Today is Convocation Day for all our Rotman Master’s and PhDs. We caught up with Neil Zheng, FSA, Associate Actuary at Manulife Financial and official Rotman Master of Finance alumnus (as of today after he walks down Convocation Hall in all his regalia glory!) to get his thoughts on his MFin journey.

When did you decide to apply to the MFin program?

I was late in the game! I emailed the admission office after the final deadline in early July and expressed my interest to start the program that was starting in two months. I received an invitation for a chat with Academic Director shortly after that.

What did you chat about?

I asked her how different this program would be relative to a part-time MBA program. She firmly convinced me that it was the right choice for my career trajectory. As a working finance professional, you need to stay focused while having comprehensive knowledge of the field. The Rotman MFin gave me the depth and breadth of finance knowledge that I was seeking.

How did you find the process?

The preparation wasn’t onerous at all. Alex guided me through the application process. I quickly filled out the online application form, got 2 reference letters, and chatted with my financial advisor about financing the tuition. The whole process was pretty smooth I have to say!

Has the MFin helped you with your career?

The program is so thoughtfully designed. It gave me a solid understanding of all financial areas. Most importantly, the program gave me the ability to chat about finance with so much more confidence. I was hired into my company’s Corporate Development department a few months before graduation, and I would like to think there was a causation/correlation to this program.

Now that you are graduating do you have any words of wisdom for people in the application process?

Just do it. 2 years is short. The benefit is lifelong.

Bonus question: You’re our first actuary. How did you come across the MFin?

There is disconnection between what an actuary can learn from the onerous exam system and real world financial markets. As an actuary, you may know the theory of valuation or risk for many financial products, but you know very little about how they are transacted, sold, marketed, originated or all the intentions behind the legal contracts attached to the financial products.

The program gave me what I have missed. My boss’s boss told me that an M&A deal consists of only 15% of valuation and 85% of deal dynamics, the latter of which is far more important to make the deal successful. This dynamics involves the ability to socialize among parties, the ability to understand intent, the deal structure, negotiation, and bidding strategies, all of which you will be exposed to in one way or another through this program.

This article was posted on June 20, 2014.

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