If you're looking for a course that will land you the new most desirable jobs in banking and financial services, a CFA exam pass, an MBA from Wharton or a Masters in Finance from the London School of Economics may no longer be entirely necessary. Increasingly, both junior and senior staff in 'hot' finance jobs like strats are taking online courses instead.
Based on publicly available profile information, we looked at the most popular courses among junior investment bankers, quants, traders, risk managers, strats and machine learning professionals in investment banks globally. A few stood out and we've listed these for you below. If you aspire to self-improvement during the lockdown, you could start here - unless of course you're already overworked or very busy baking banana bread.
It's worth noting that while these courses might improve your CV/resume they're unlikely to get you a job at a top bank on their own. Most people in the industry have passed relevant bachelors or masters courses at university and then studied these online courses as a top-up. However, they might make a difference at the margin.
The Coursera data science specialization
This is an introduction to data science taught by professors at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Although public health experts might not seem the best teachers for people aspiring to finance roles, they will at least give you a grounding in public health data (which seems eminently useful in the circumstances). At least one MD at Citi has taken this course in recent years.
The Coursera machine learning course
If you're really looking for a course to improve your employability in finance though, it's probably Coursera's machine learning specialization which is run by Andrew Ng, Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University and the Coursera co-founder. It was, in fact, this course that gave birth to all the rest and resulted in the Coursera's existence at all.
Large numbers of people in finance have taken Ng's first course, not all of them working in machine learning directly: systematic traders and strats at Goldman Sachs list it on their resumes, as do strats at Bank of America and elsewhere.
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Coursera's courses for algo trading and machine learning
If you want to go a bit more niche, Coursera also offers courses specialized in machine learning for traders. There's an introduction to trading and machine learning used by quant analysts at JPMorgan. There's also a course in machine learning for trading taken by algo traders at Citi (although this has less than four stars).
The algorithmic trading course from the Quant Institute
Less popular than the Coursera courses above, the 'executive programme in algorithmic trading' from the Quant Institute still features on the CVs of strats and algo traders at leading banks. Faculty members include Ernest Chan, who previously worked for Morgan Stanley and in statistical arbitrage trading strategy research at Credit Suisse.
Coursera courses in quant modelling, financial engineering and algorithmic toolboxes
Back to Coursera. Plenty of quants, aspiring quants, quant traders and aspiring quant traders have also taken the company's niche finance courses: there's a quant modelling course from Wharton that's popular with Goldman strats. There's also a financial engineering and risk management course from Columbia that seems to appeal to risk managers.
For more generic learning, Coursera also offers an algorithmic toolbox course that features on banking resumes but can be applied in any industry.
Udacity machine learning and data science nano degrees
While it's mostly about Coursera, Ng's creation isn't the only place offering online courses popular with finance professionals. Machine learning engineers at Goldman have also taken Udacity's data science nano degree, while JPMorgan machine learning professionals have taken Udacity's machine learning engineer nano degree. Systematic traders seem more interested in Udacity's course in AI for trading.
Online courses for junior investment bankers and traders
As banks introduce data science and automation in all areas of their business, it might help anyone to at least take a data cleaning or data science course - even if you want to work in M&A in an investment banking division, or to become a non-systematic trader. However, online courses aren't just focused on quant and tech roles: there's also plenty of evidence of junior bankers at leading firms taking courses like accounting and an introduction to spreadsheets and financial models both from Wharton, or an introduction to financial markets from Yale.
Good luck. As we said, online courses won't be a magic bullet - but listing them on your CV won't do any harm either, particularly as many people in the industry have studied them already.
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