Columbia Business School's Master of Science in Financial Economics (MSFE) provides students with an opportunity to do PhD-level coursework while gaining the technical skills necessary for business application.
Led by Harry Mamaysky, professor of professional practice and director of the Program for Financial Studies, the MSFE program attracts intellectually and professionally driven applicants from around the world with its unique balance of doctoral-level rigor with practical know-how. With a 2022 class size of just 25, students benefit from a tight-knit, diverse community and close relationships with faculty.
MSFE graduates enter the workforce armed with the quantitative prowess and computational facility necessary to understand quickly moving, data-driven markets. It’s a combination of skills that prepares them for employment in a remarkably wide range of settings, from investment banks to finance technology companies to policy-oriented organizations.
Here, six recent graduates describe their experience in the MSFE program and how it set them up for success.
Erick Martinez, 39
Vice president and foreign exchange/emerging markets strategist
Barclays Investment Bank, New York
After working as an economist for the Central Bank of Mexico, Martinez wanted to transition to a more market-oriented career. He credits the MSFE program with helping make that happen.
His new role at Barclays requires a balance between economics and technical analysis to help clients navigate the current challenging macroeconomic climate. MSFE classes such as finance theory, asset pricing, empirical asset pricing, and behavioral finance set him up for success.
“In those classes, I learned a comprehensive set of models that became my toolkit to tackle relevant questions and develop analyses at work,” he explains.
Martinez relies on skills learned in econometrics courses to translate those models into specific results and estimates, and in programming and machine learning classes to develop models and simplify work.
“It’s not only about coding, but also about using a framework in finance to develop views, forecasts, and trade recommendations that add value to the business,” he says.
In addition to the career-building skills he learned, Martinez also values the network he built with his MSFE peers.
“I keep in touch with many of my former classmates, including some every day through chat,” Martinez says. “We are always exchanging market views. Everyone is in different positions now, so it’s nice to hear thoughts and feedback from them.”
Looking ahead, Martinez hopes to continue working in macro-strategy, expanding his focus from Latin America to additional emerging markets.
Tara Philip, 30
Bank of America, London
Arriving at Columbia Business School immediately after completing an undergraduate economics degree in her native India, Philip got right down to business. She gained a strong start to her career with an internship at Bank of America in New York while she was working toward her master’s degree.
“One of the great things about Columbia is that you are in the city, so on a day you don’t have class, you can just hop on a train and get downtown for an internship,” says Philip. “I got this job a week after I graduated.”
That’s when she joined the same team she had interned for, this time as a full-time associate. It took her only three years to rise to vice president, moving to the bank’s London office in August 2020.
Now, five years beyond graduation, Philip says she still uses skills she gained at Columbia Business School daily and even revisits papers recommended by her professors. In addition to the quantitative skills she learned, Philip appreciates the confidence she gained through the program.
“When you spend two years in such a rigorous program, you can look at, say, a market anomaly and feel confident that you know what you’re talking about,” she says.
Philip has also found the the School's alumni network an invaluable resource as she grows and builds her career.
“The representation of the business school in the finance field really helps,” she says. “Any time you meet someone else who went to Columbia Business School, there’s an instant connection.”
Meha Sadasivam, 28
PhD candidate, Columbia Business School, New York
After earning her master’s degree, Sadasivam opted to remain at Columbia Business School as a PhD candidate in the finance department. Her time in the MSFE program helped confirm her decision to pursue a doctorate.
“It’s a very rigorous program that also allows you to do internships along with your heavy theoretical coursework,” she says. “It was a good place for me to decide whether I wanted to do the PhD, because I also got exposure to the quant side of things and an industry perspective.”
It also gave her insight into new ways to use the skills that she had already gained working as an engineer in India before coming to the School.
“I never took economics before coming here, but the fact that I could use my engineering skills in a completely new context was incredibly cool,” Sadasivam says. “I was already exposed to a lot of coding, but the MSFE program helped me understand how to interpret data and quantify certain measures and put them into equations and models.”
Transitioning to the PhD program was seamless, since many MSFE classes — including the asset pricing sequence, corporate finance, and econometrics — overlap with the required PhD coursework.
“Exposure to research through working with professors, or through academic papers discussed in various classes, was also very helpful,” she says. She is also building on technical skills she gained, citing coding-focused courses such as Natural Language Processing and Big Data in Finance.
Sadasivam is on track to receive her PhD in 2026, and she hopes to find a job working at the intersection of policy and finance. She is considering research roles focused on climate policy and sustainability.
“I really like that financial economics is always evolving, and with access to increasingly better technology and more data, there are always new insights to take away — even when looking at some of the oldest puzzles or questions in the field,” she says.
Jimmy Kuo, 26
Thanks to his training in the MSFE program, Kuo was able to hit the ground running in his current role.
“There were a lot of things I was already aware of, so I didn’t have to learn everything from zero,” Kuo says. “I had learned about bond pricing and factors during my coursework, so I didn’t have to pick that up on the job.”
In addition, Kuo says he has thrived at work thanks to specific modeling techniques he practiced during his time at Columbia Business School, such as stochastic processes, time series regressions, and Kalman filters. When he first started in this position, he even found himself going back to his class notes from his asset pricing courses.
Kuo, who came to CBS immediately after earning an undergraduate degree in math and economics, uses these techniques and others to build systematic strategies for portfolio managers and come up with new signals to further refine existing models.
“The program is very technically demanding,” Kuo says of his MSFE coursework. “But the most interesting part is building a process and forcing you to think about something rigorously and systematically, rather than everything being on an ad hoc basis.”
Cait Walsh, 26
Global equities consultant, Systematic Investment Group
Bank of America, New York
Shortly after graduating in the middle of the pandemic, Walsh was hired for her current role, joining a team with which she had interned while at Columbia Business School.
Walsh, who worked as a Federal Reserve research analyst before grad school, wanted to transition to the private sector and complement her undergraduate economics degree with a more thorough foundation in finance theory. The MSFE program’s unique hybrid approach gave her the balance of rigor and practical application she was looking for.
Today, Walsh relies on the skills learned in the MSFE program to help clients build and execute equity portfolios in a systematically aware way.
“My job is really a direct application of all our second-year asset-pricing classes,” she says. “Without that knowledge, I think my job would be much more challenging to do and understand.”
She enjoys her team’s fast-paced approach and loves combining her soft people skills with the hard skills learned at school.
“I'm constantly being stretched to write good code and work with data,” she says. “But I have to not only make sure that the math underneath what we are offering is right, but also be able to turn that off and pivot into client conversations.”
Walsh says she looks forward to managing and growing her client relationships as she moves forward in her career, and she recognizes the pivotal role the MSFE program played in getting her here.
“I had no private sector experience,” she says. “I learned a ton at Columbia, and it completely changed the trajectory of my career.”
Rafael Ferreira, 28
Chief AI and model officer
Viridios AI, Boston
Having worked as a software engineer in his native Brazil, Rafael Ferreira decided to transition to working in financial markets and chose Columbia Business School’s MSFE program to help him make the change. He describes the program as “the perfect opportunity to combine my background in technology with a specialization in financial economics.”
Ferreira’s choice worked extremely well. Today, he works at Viridios AI, solving complex pricing problems in the relatively new carbon credits market. Ferreira heads up the company’s quantitative team, developing machine learning and asset pricing models.
Deploying artificial intelligence to determine the value of carbon offsets demands a specific cross-section of skills, which he was able to hone at CBS.
“My current role is literally in the intersection of finance, math, technology, and data science. I owe most of my financial and mathematical knowledge to the MSFE, which was very rigorous. My job requires a lot of intuition on the behavior of assets and a lot of creativity to model new assets that are being created in the carbon credit market,” he explains.
Ferreira leans on knowledge gained in several of his doctoral-level classes, including Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Empirical Asset Pricing. He credits the program’s “cutting edge” focus for preparing him for his current position, and he relishes the intellectual stimulation he gets to experience daily at Viridios.
“I get to work with physics and astronomy Olympiad medalists, doctors, and other world-class professionals in a day-to-day setting. To be able to lead such an amazing team helps me grow every day,” he says.
He looks forward to continuing at Viridios AI in the future, helping to “enable the carbon market to become more and more fruitful and successful.”
Ferreira strongly recommends Columbia Business School for anyone considering an advanced degree in business and finance.
“The school itself provides infinite resources, networking opportunities are endless, the professors are very accessible, and the school being located in New York City is just a huge bonus,” he explains.