Five Questions on Quantitative Investment Strategy with Jessica Guan ’04 Master’s in Finance, Vice President, BlackRock
By the Eller Finance Department, for MSF Connect: Alumni News
What type of professional experience have you had so far?
Most of my professional experience has been related to various aspects of portfolio construction process for quantitative equity investments. Mainly, the process involves mean-variance optimization, which is essentially risk-return tradeoff given the objectives and constraints. I spent several years working on the equity risk factors, and currently I am a product manager of the portfolio management system used by our quant funds.
What surprised you about portfolio management?
Apart from market insights, there are many dimensions to the success of an investment strategy. Execution and discipline are more important than you might think. In the context of quant investments, the ability to source and analyze information and the ability to gain desired exposures with minimum transaction costs, for example, differentiate asset managers.
How did the combination of education and experience lead you to your current role with BlackRock?
My job at BlackRock requires a thorough understanding of quantitative investment strategies and how to execute them. What I learned from school, such as economics, modern portfolio theory and valuation, is the foundation for everything else. The applied portfolio management course was particularly helpful. Earlier experience in my professional journey taught me how much more there is out there to learn. Ability to quickly grasp something new is more important than how much you already know.
What is the favorite part of your job?
The world of quant investing is facing new challenges and opportunities as technology evolves and the amount of data grows exponentially. BlackRock takes pride in being the technology leader in the investment industry. Big data and artificial intelligence are big themes for us. It’s exciting to be working in this area at this age and time.
What advice do you have for current MS Finance students ready to start their careers?
Keep an open mind and try different things. Stay self-reflective to discover your passion and strength. Your career is a very long journey so find something you enjoy doing is key to long-term success.
Top image by nattanan23, courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Jessica Guan courtesy Jessica Guan.