From the Director

Morton Lane

August 14, 2018

Class of 2019,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the University of Illinois. You will be joining a fine University and a wonderful program. The Masters in Financial Engineering is currently ranked as the 6th best program in the USA by the TFE Times (formerly The Financial Engineer). Two things, among many others, distinguish your class. First, at 69 students, this will be our largest class ever approaching our currently planned maximum of 70 students. Second, when this class graduates in December 2019 it will be the 10th Class to do so. It is a significant milestone for the program, and your graduation ceremonies may take on a more festive air than usual.

However, as of today your graduation is eighteen months away. Between now and then we plan to keep you busy, stimulated and engaged. Your courses are demanding. Believe me. They are essential to your future career and we try to keep them up-to-date. For example, starting next week you will be required to take an introductory course in Machine Learning. Later you will have the prospect of courses in Deep Learning i.e. Neural Networks and Data Analytics. Knowledge of those subjects are what employers want their new Financial Engineers to bring to their organizations. They will also want your capabilities to ‘price’ options, ‘evaluate’ derivative hedges and ‘optimize’ portfolios. These classic requirements may not be getting the current publicity, but they are not to be overlooked.

In fact, the message to be taken from employers desires to have the latest technical knowledge in their new hires is that their desires will shift again, and again. Financial market and financial products shift and morph as well. An essential quality of a Financial Engineer is to understand markets, to understand financial products, but most importantly, to be able to use that understanding to adapt and change. To learn how to learn the new, so to speak.

Notice one other feature of these preceding remarks. I use the word employer several times. You are just starting your course work and many of you will striving to get high GPAs. Well and good. However, remember your prospective employers do not hire GPAs, they hire people. They want you as a person. Someone who is knowledgeable yes, but someone who is likeable, someone who can work with a team, someone who can communicate, get to the essentials, adapt, change perhaps even innovate. You should work as hard on those qualities just as diligently as your GPAs.

Good luck and welcome,
Morton N. Lane, Ph.D.
MS Financial Engineering, Director
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign