In Praise of Risk-takers
Niko Man, a fourth-year student of the Risk Management Science programme, confessed that when she chose the major, she could hardly imagine how risk could ever be quantified or managed. ‘I have always been interested in and good at mathematics and computer programming, but was not sure how to turn these into my future career. Then I heard this programme requires both of these skills. That was all I knew about the programme, yet I somehow felt and liked the thrill of risk in taking it, so I jumped in.’
Prof. Yau Chun-yip, Director of Studies of the programme, is aware that many people have little concept of risk management. He explained it by comparing it with quantitative finance: ‘Though risk management and quantitative finance have some similarity in content, in fact they should be regarded as two separate and distinctive disciplines. Broadly speaking, risk management is the assessing and managing of the exposure to risks—these risks include not only financial risk, but also health risk, legal risk, political risk, environmental risk and so on. On the other hand, quantitative finance focuses on the subfield of financial risk and is about the training of business and financial soft skills.’
As the epoch of big data arrives, the practices in the risk management industry has been revolutionized by instantaneous and voluminous data. Advanced knowledge in data science and data analytics such as statistical learning and data mining have come into play. The first undergraduate programme of its kind in Hong Kong, the Risk Management Science programme has been the pioneer in nurturing well-trained professionals in the risk management fields since its establishment in 2000.
It is hosted at its natural home—the Department of Statistics, where the quantitative and theoretical foundation is strong and solid. In its specialized curriculum, emphasis is placed on the analytical and critical aspects, such as mathematical modelling, statistical analysis and simulation techniques in financial risk management.
‘The unique training and support provided by the Department of Statistics not only facilitates the in-depth development of risk management professionals, but also fosters students’ adaptation to the ever-changing, knowledge-based society,’ remarked Professor Yau.
As Niko launched herself into the studies, her knowledge of and interest in this subject grows. ‘In the first two years, I was required to take courses from many different disciplines, like mathematics, computer programming, economics, finance and statistics. In my third year, I finally understand that these are just foundational knowledge that I need to utilize to understand the complicated and abstract concepts of risk calculating.
‘This programme equips me with practical knowledge of managing risk in the financial market and prepares me well for the professional examinations. I also learnt from the reading courses, where we read many inspiring books, that risk management is not only about investment. It actually permeates our daily lives.’
When asked what she found most valuable about the programme, Niko said, ‘The professors here are all friendly and patient in guidance. Some of the risk management concepts and algorithm are extremely hard to understand. Students are always welcome to ask questions outside of class and the professors are always happy to explain everything at great length. I remember once a professor spent an hour after class to patiently expound on what he had just said in a two-hour lecture.’
As for her fellow students, Niko described them as ‘nice and funny’. ‘We work hard and play hard. The department is closely-knit, since we have student societies that allow us to make friends across years of study. There are also a lot of activities held by the student societies, so we have more opportunities to hang out with each other.
‘We often help each other out in study and at work. We would bring up the academic questions we have difficulty in understanding and solve them together. We would also refer internships and part-time jobs to one another.’
Like Niko, students of Risk Management Science typically came with a strong suit in maths and science, and aspire to pursuing a career in the financial industry. Two full-time first-year undergraduate students of the programme will be awarded the Advantage Trust Statistics Scholarship upon admission based on admission results. The Fan Fang Qi Ying Memorial Bursary is offered to student with demonstrable financial need.
To ensure its new students adapt and thrive, the programme draws on its extensive alumni network in the financial community. ‘The Programme organizes various alumni sharing seminars and workshops for its students from time to time. These sessions are designed to nourish students with industrial experience and insight, therefore bridging the classroom and the business world,’ said Professor Yau.
Practicum is offered as a credit-bearing capstone course. Students will set foot in risk management agencies such as trading funds, banks and insurance firms, and are required to undertake a project under the joint supervision of the course instructor and a member of the hosting agency. ‘Students with excellent working performance usually receive return offers,’ said Professor Yau.
To those who have been setting their sights on the programme, Niko has this insider’s advice to offer: ‘The programme requires a good foundation of calculus and a strong sense to the financial market. Having some computer programming experience, critical thinking skills and financial knowledge would be a plus to better handle the intricate concepts in risk management courses in later study years. Otherwise, it might be even harder for you to pick up the more complicated concepts afterwards.’
Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2018