Careers & Student Outcomes

Qualitative Experience Leads to Quantitative Career

Just four years after finishing his master’s degree in financial engineering, Himanshu Kumar ’19 is a vice president at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Himanshu Kumar, a 2019 graduate of the Stevens School of Business financial engineering master’s program, put himself on the fast track to success by slowing things down.

Recently promoted to Vice President and Quantitative Analyst fo Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s portfolio management and investment analytics team, Himanshu began his academic career at Stevens after working as a system design engineer for more than three years in his native India. He wanted to make a move into the financial world, and after exploring opportunities in Singapore and London, he decided Stevens was the best fit because of its proximity to New York City, its academic program and the opportunity to maximize his return on investment because of a scholarship.

“The courses they provided in mathematics and coding, along with the hands-on financial lab offering access to Bloomberg terminals and other data sources, were exactly what I was seeking,” he said. “People were working on good projects and were accessible to talk to. I remember a very talented Ph.D. student who was working on a trading infrastructure. Being able to be hands-on like that and very close to Wall Street interested me.”

Like most graduate students, Himanshu was eager to get started on his professional journey, but unlike most, he realized he needed time to adapt to a new culture and academic environment and put his internship search on hold for the first semester.

“I stopped applying that semester because I wanted to learn more about the craft, rather than just get a job,” he explained. “I paused the whole journey. I don't know if I would advise everyone to do that, but I just wanted to learn. I was in a new country and there were so many new things happening around me. I just wanted to take a little step back and try to reorient myself.”

Himanshu Kumar stands behind a podium addressing a crowd while a panel of people sit behind him.While his hunt for an internship might have been on pause, Himanshu found other ways to set himself up for career success. During his second semester, he helped re-form the Stevens Society for Financial Engineers (SSFE), serving as President from February 2019 until his graduation in December of the same year. He also began working with faculty members like Ionut Florescu, program director of the financial analytics program, and Emmanuel Hatzakis, program director of the finance and financial engineering programs, on building his network of contacts, sharpening his resume and learning how to reach out to alumni.

“In India, I had never heard of the concept of cold emailing someone to get a job,” Himanshu said. “I was from a very good college in India and usually companies come there to hire you. But here, you have to do the networking. It helped me learn how to talk to people. And then we organized this very big alumni panel discussion with another finance society. It was a great event, and I realized there were a lot of alumni doing great things in a lot of different areas of finance. After that, I started reaching out to people on LinkedIn and applying for internships.”

Himanshu’s first internship in the summer of 2019 was working with quantitative derivatives with Gorham Convexity Strategies, a hedge fund in Stamford, Connecticut. While it was his first internship in finance, his two semesters focusing on academics served him well.

“It was very intense for sure because I used to sit close to my portfolio manager,” he remembered. “The trading floor environment is very different from a normal, corporate American environment. It’s very intense and very disciplined. If they wanted an options model or wanted me to create a dashboard around it, or if I had to create a trading signal to trade millions of dollars on, I thought I was very prepared because I went through all the courses very diligently. I was able to do most of the projects in a short time, so they were quite happy with me.”

After returning to Hoboken in the fall of 2019, Himanshu completed both his academic work and a second internship in machine learning at TransRe, a leading international reinsurance organization. While it was interesting work, his desire to stay in banking was the focus of his job search.

Himanshu had a full-time job offer from a West Coast hedge fund, but a conversation with Professor Hatzakis, who worked as the Chief Investment Officer in Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Global Wealth and Investment Management Division immediately before joining the Stevens faculty in March 2019 during Himanshu’s second semester, ultimately made packing much easier.

“I talked to his friend, who is my current boss,” he said. “I did my homework on what they were doing. They were very quant heavy, and I wanted my first role to be quant research and mathematics heavy. When I talked to him, I really loved the way he explained those concepts to me, even though I was a student, and he had no obligation to do that. He taught me in that first conversation, and I decided to pursue the opportunity to join a bank.”

The position was by no means guaranteed. While the conversation introduced him to what was possible, Himanshu still had to go through a rigorous interview process that included meetings with more than half a dozen people for more than seven hours and a full presentation. But just like the trading floor back in Connecticut, his experience at Stevens had prepared him to meet the moment.

“In the class FE800 (Project in Financial Engineering), you create a project, and every week you give a presentation to the class and the professor about which stage your project is in, and they give instant feedback,” he said. “The whole exercise helped me because I was able to present that project in the final stage of the interview with my current team. It was natural to me because I had presented it so many times in my class. A lot of the questions that they asked during the presentation at the interview were questions that were asked before by our professors and classmates.”

Himanshu was hired as an Assistant Vice President and Quantitative Analyst in March 2020 and promoted to his current role as Vice President this past February.

“Obviously, you have to do proper research for every project, but the base knowledge has always been there,” he said. “There hasn’t been anything foreign to me because we covered so much in my master’s degree curriculum. It was always portfolio theory or prediction models, which we had already done in our coursework. I was also able to take computer science courses in machine learning, deep learning and how to apply those in the production setting. Being someone with a good technical background and into research adds value to our team, which is very research-oriented.”