Sivaram Ganapathy was keen to build on his distribution role in banking to one that was more technical. Aware of the need to acquire strong financial technical skills, he decided to pursue ESSEC’s Master in Finance (MiF), which is highly reputable and technically challenging.
His investment in himself paid off even before he graduated. He secured a position in a structuring team for capital markets with Standard Chartered Bank in Hong Kong. Ganapathy says: “The MiF equipped me with the right skills and allowed me to position myself well to secure this job.”
When selecting a Master’s programme, the ESSEC MiF appealed to him for several reasons. The most notable was its strong academic standing, as it came in 3rd in the Financial Times’ 2017 Master in Finance global ranking. “I was looking at a few schools and ESSEC really stood out in terms of its reputation in the market and the strong technical focus of its programme,” he says.
“Experts in the field, as well as senior members and many French colleagues from my company, recommended this programme to me. They all had positive comments about the school and alumni.” Ganapathy also liked the fact that the programme offered the flexibility to study in both Singapore and France.
Another significant draw was that ESSEC’s MiF offers specialisation in one of these tracks: Corporate Finance, Financial Markets and Asset Management. This let students tailor the programme to meet their career aspirations. Ganapathy chose the Financial Markets track.
He says: “The option is really important because students would want the programme to complement their interest in the industry. I chose Financial Markets because the courses offered under this track were more technical in nature. Thanks to this, I became skilled in advanced modelling and programming whereby I had to master two different programming languages.”
Not only did the programme give him a solid foundation in financial engineering, it also taught him a new way of understanding and solving modelling challenges. “The program shapes one’s mind to think as a finance professional. Through exposure to case studies and live market data, students are primed to tackle real challenges when they enter the industry,” he says.
“In fact, you are better prepared than some of your colleagues in terms of being up to date with the latest technology. It gives you a substantial advantage.” Ganapathy found courses on Financial Econometrics and Portfolio Optimisation particularly helpful.
He explains: “The econometrics course let us understand statistics in a financial environment. We applied statistics and translated simple probability into complex financial matrices before applying them to live market data.” In the portfolio optimisation course, students competed with one another to use available market data to create the best fund portfolio.
Ganapathy explains: “Our lecturer structured it as a game for us. Students each picked their own basket of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and optimized their portfolios using theories learnt in class. It was very challenging to synthesise the theories taught with live market data. It was also very demanding to do all these using only programming code. Looking back, it was fun and certainly one of the highlights of the programme.”
One aspect of the programme that really stood out for Ganapathy was the overseas study trip. Students get to choose between two major financial hubs - New York and Hong Kong. Ganapathy travelled to Hong Kong and spent a week visiting major investment banks, private equity and security firms.
He says: “We were split into different groups according to our specialisations. My peers and I who were from the Financial Markets track networked with professionals in Structuring and Sales & Trading. “On top of that, the school encouraged us to leverage our study trip by meeting people we knew. Given that I had already applied for a few jobs in Hong Kong, I took the opportunity to attend interviews while I was there.”
One of these interviews led to Ganapathy getting a job in a structuring team for Capital Markets with Standard Chartered Bank. Another aspect of the programme that Ganapathy found hugely beneficial was student diversity, with approximately 50% of the cohort being international students.
“It was an interesting experience being with international students as they bring diverse ideas to the team and it allows you to explore new ways of solving problems,” he says. Ganapathy advises those who consider doing the ESSEC MiF to ensure they are fully committed before they start. He explains: “The programme is extremely demanding. Students need to have a strong desire and drive to do well.”
“ESSEC graduates have a strong reputation and are well-recognised in the industry. As such, the demands for the program are high. Students who graduate from the programme are well-prepared not only in terms of working in the financial industry, but also adding value to it.”
“The ESSEC MiF is really unparalleled in terms of the extent to which financial technical skills are taught with a view to groom competent professionals for the industry.”