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Master’s In Finance: Max Lamberti, UC Berkeley (Haas)

Student Name: Max Lamberti

Graduate Business School: University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business

Describe Yourself In 15 Words: Max Lamberti is my name, quant finance is my game!

Master’s Graduation Class: 2020.

Undergraduate School and Major: McGill University, Physics.

Current Employer and Job Title: TransMarket Group, Algorithmic Trader.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far:  In my current role, I develop automated trading systems. This has been an interest of mine long before I enrolled in the MFE program, when I was trading crypto currencies as a side-project after college. Back then, I developed a system that could go from generating trade signals to placing orders in the market in a completely automated fashion. Not a simple task, considering it requires the confluence of several fields such as finance, statistics, programming, and computer systems. As a personal trader leveraging my own capital, the scale and possibilities were limited. Today I get to pursue this field on a professional level with many more resources and opportunities, which I am extremely happy to have achieved.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: In our first term, BlackRock came to the program with a set of quant research projects. Of course, many of us were eager to secure one of these coveted projects. I started working on my proposal immediately and put together a prototype that uses Natural Language Processing (NLP), a field of machine learning related to the processing and analysis of text data, to quantify how similar publicly-traded companies compare to each other based on their filings with the SEC. The goal of this is that the NLP outputs could be used to explain correlations between company stock returns, which would be useful either as a trading strategy or for portfolio construction. Based on my prototype, I was lucky enough to secure one of the research projects, which allowed me to further develop this prototype under the mentorship of professional quantitative researchers and access some of the company’s world-class data resources.

What led you to choose a Master’s in Financial Engineering over an MBA? I first heard about financial engineering around the time of the Brexit vote during my final year of college. At that time, I was looking at how investors could use options to hedge their positions or speculate on the outcome of the election. My dad gave me Paul Wilmott’s textbook on quantitative finance to help me get acquainted with the field. I discovered the classic quant finance topics like derivative pricing and volatility modelling to be surprisingly exciting. Up to that point, I hadn’t realized some of the awesome mathematics that drove the financial markets of the world. As I dove deeper, it became clear that a master’s degree in financial engineering was best for me.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Besides the quality of the program, one big benefit of the Berkeley Haas MFE program is the proximity to Silicon Valley. This proximity gives Haas students more opportunities to work for tech companies than students from comparable east coast programs. For the pre-master fintech startup data scientist I was, I didn’t want to close that door just yet. The Berkeley Haas MFE gave me the optionality I needed to explore other career paths.

Looking back, this was invaluable. During the MFE program, I was able to secure an internship at Amazon Web Services, which is a company I am incredibly excited about because I think cloud computing is the best thing since sliced bread. Although it was a great experience, it gave me the clarity I needed to fully embrace the quantitative finance path and equipped me with skills for my current role in trading.

What has been your favorite course and how has it helped you in your career? My favorite courses have been empirical methods, market microstructure, and derivatives and dynamic asset allocation, which all directly apply to my day-to-day job. One anecdote that I love to share is how I was able to push a project over the finish line when things got tight in my past internship at Amazon Web Services.

It was my final week, and I was deploying the statistical analysis system I had been working on over the internship. When deploying the system to production, it emerged that one of the components was blacklisted by the build system because the licence of the open-source Monte Carlo sampler I was using didn’t allow commercial use. However, as part of our derivatives class, we studied multiple methodologies for Monte Carlo sampling. So, in the short timeframe I had left, I was able to write my own custom sampler and deliver the product.

What role did your school play in helping you to land your first job out of the program? The Berkeley Haas MFE program is well-known for its proactive approach to placing students in industry. For example, we had organized sessions to help us prepare for all aspects of the job-finding process. Through its many industry connections, Haas hosted two career fairs and sourced new job opportunities on a weekly basis throughout the year. I think it was only the first or second week of classes when we had a major investment bank come to campus for interviews! The staff played an invaluable role sourcing opportunities and preparing students to succeed in the interview process.

Besides the support from the school, students met in study groups to refine resumes, conducted mock interviews, and solved those riddle-type of questions you only seem to find in interviews. Ask any of my classmates how often you need to race 25 horses on a five-horse track if you want to find the three fastest horses —  they know the answer!

How did your classmates enhance the value of your business school experience? I like what one of our professors said to us in our first class of the program: “Congratulations! You’ve all made it here. But from now on remember this: The competition is out there, it’s between you and the other programs, it is not here in the classroom and not between you and your classmates.” I think this advice set an important tone for us, especially since we are a competitive bunch by nature and our MFE class has a lot of group projects and collaborative components.

Our class was very diverse in skill and interests. We had students who had years of industry experience, students who came straight from undergrad, students who wanted to be quant finance researchers, and students who wanted to be tech data scientists. Looking at this diverse composition, you could create some great synergies for capstone projects, like combining a stats expert, a seasoned programmer, and a financial markets veteran. 

Who was your favorite faculty member and how did this person enrich your learning? Choosing a single faculty member is impossible. I’ve had many great experiences with professors and staff all in their own ways! The most enriching learning experiences I had were with professors who could put together theory and application. Either by bringing in proprietary datasets for the students to dig into, or through personal experiences and anecdotal war stories from their days in industry. 

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s graduate Master’s program? Dive deep into interesting personal projects, particularly those that show your interest in quantitative finance and financial engineering. Many candidates have great GPAs and test scores, and those will help you get through the initial screening process. However, if you want to set yourself apart from the pack in interviews, one of the best ways to do so is to dazzle your counterpart with the impressive coding or data project you’ve been developing in your own time.

What was your best memory from your Master’s program? The ski trip! We were fortunate enough to go on a ski trip in the spring before the pandemic swept the states. Take your studies seriously, but don’t take life too seriously. Pursuing a master’s degree is a once-in-a-lifetime event and being able to unwind and enjoying the time with your classmates is a part of that journey.