My experience with the Open University (OU), Part 1

If you are reading this post, chances are that you might be considering studying at the Open University (OU) and you are searching online for information to help you make your final decision. 6 months ago I was in your position as I was frantically searching to see if my potential £18k investment in my education was justified. I was particularly interested in the below points which arguably are what might interest most prospective students.

– career prospects
– prospects for pursuing further studies
– course rigour
– teaching quality
– general experience

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Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking

It is very common to hear that public speaking ranks high among the list of things that we might fear. Some studies have also looked into claims about the fear of public speaking ranking above the fear of death[1]. The purpose of this post is not to discourage you with more facts about how much we dread talking in front of people but is meant to give you some ideas that you can act on so that you can overcome your anxieties and become a successful speaker. This post is a summary of what I have learned from reading books on public speaking, observing and learning from professional speakers but more importantly things I have learned from my own mistakes.

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The World Quant University (WQU): Application and Overview

A free MSc in Financial Engineering sounds crazy but it looks like this is exactly what World Quant University seems to be doing. With an ethical goal of making education globally accessible to capable students, regardless of their financial situation, WQU launched their programme in 2015 by Igor Tulchinsky and has been gaining popularity, especially in the past few years.
The course is fully provided online and covers a wide range of topics/subjects that would be taught on a Masters in Financial Engineering.
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LSE Masters in Finance (full-time and part-time) Part 2: Year 1

Back in June, I wrote Part 1 of this post where I provided some introductory information regarding the course. Part 2 will focus more on the contents of the course along with some feedback regarding the difficulty and some tips for students who are currently enrolled.

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Working with recruiters (as a candidate)

As a financial professional, you will reach that stage in your career where you start getting emails and calls from recruiters regarding new job opportunities. What do you do? How can you best maximise your interactions with recruiters to achieve your career goals? I am writing this post as someone who who has benefitted a lot in landing jobs via recruiters, so I am keen to share my experiences with you.

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5 Popular Stocks in Japan that Offer Yutai Gifts (July & August 2020 Update)

In this post I will present to you my yutai stock picks for July and August 2020. It’s worth noting that July wasn’t a yutai heavy month, especially compared to August and September. Yutai investing might be fun but without wanting to sound too repetitive, I always like to add as a disclaimer that you shouldn’t just pick a stock solely because of its yutai. Rather yutai should just be considered as a perk in addition to the underlying return opportunities that the stock presents. Needless to say, given the uncertainty surrounding financial markets and COVID cases rising in Japan, I would be cautious before making any new purchases.

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My Experience in Joining a Toastmasters Club

This is a post for those people who are considering joining a Toastmasters club.
If you are not familiar with Toastmasters, I would summarise it by saying that it provides a structured format and friendly environment for people who want to improve their presentation skills. Toastmasters also allows its members to get hands-on experience in organising and conducting meetings so time management and hosting skills can also be developed. This official Youtube video provides a general overview of how these sessions are planned and what responsibilities each member can take during the events. I only joined two months ago and I would like to share my experience with you so that you can evaluate if this is something that you might want to get involved with.

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LSE Masters in Finance (full-time and part-time) Part 1: The Application Stage

This post will cover LSE’s MSc in Finance and it will be divided into 3 separate parts: (1) Application Stage (2) Year 1 (3) Year 3.

Having graduated from the course myself, I would like to share some information which prospective students might find useful in evaluating the course prior to applying. As a disclaimer, I have no affiliation with LSE and with the exception of the factual information regarding the course, most of the content represents my personal opinion.

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5 Popular Stocks in Japan that Offer Yutai Gifts (June 2020 Update)

A year ago I posted Top 5 Popular Stocks in Japan that Offer Yutai Gifts where I shared a popular list of yutai stocks. Given the interest received for that post, I created an updated list for 2020 that I would like to share with you. Some of my picks remain unchanged and it wouldn’t be interesting simply just re-introducing the same stocks so I will be doing something slightly different. Rather than ranking the “Top” stocks, I will introduce to you 5 stocks that pay out interesting yutai gifts.

There is a lot of material in Japanese, very often promoted by online brokers or other blogs and newsletters, but I couldn’t find a lot of content in English which is what led me to start this series of of posts.

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The FRM Exam


The FRM which stands for “Financial Risk Manager” is a designation awarded by GARP (Global Association of Risk Professionals). The qualification is highly respected by risk practitioners and provides candidates with a solid understanding and appreciation for the subject of risk management. Exams are held twice a year in May and December. In this post, I will introduce the exam, talk about some study resources that I used and my experience in obtaining the charter.   Exam Structure The exam is multiple choice and it’ composed of two parts, each one lasting 4 hours. Part 1 consists of 100 multiple choice questions and tests candidates on foundational topics in risk management. Part 2 instead looks to extend the knowledge gained in Part 1 and focuses on the application of these concepts.   Exam Topics and Weights Part 1

  • Foundations of risk management (20%)
  • Quantitative analysis (20%)
  • Financial markets and products (30%)
  • Valuation and risk models (30%)
FRM Pie 1

  Part 2

  • Market risk measurement and management (20%)
  • Credit risk measurement and management (20%)
  • Operational risk and resiliency (20%)
  • Liquidity and treasury risk measurement and management (15%)
  • Risk management and investment management (15%)
  • Current issues in financial markets (10%)
FRM Pie 2

  Please note that the weights have recently changed so if you have been using 2019 material you might want to look at recent changes in topics and weight to give yourself the best chances in passing the exam. The following article does a good job of summarising the changes for part 1.     Pass RatesBionic Turtle provides a table and graph of pass rates from 2010 to 2019. A ten-year average pass rate is calculated from the 20 exams, resulting in an average pass rate of 45.9% for Part 1 and 58.6% for Part 2.   Requirements for FRM Charter Passing both levels and demonstrate two years of relevant work experience to qualify for the designation.   Study Resources In preparing for the exam I used to study resources by the following training providers (please note that I am not affiliated with any of these companies):   Schweser

  • Similar to the CFA materials, the materials are well structured in highlighting the key points
  • A ton of questions and mocks to practice from

Bionic Turtle

  • Videos are very visual and easy to follow
  • Specialised in FRM and questions were of good quality

        Whether training providers are worth it or not, depends on your current background and time commitments. While it’s not impossible to pass the exam with just the official GARP textbooks, training providers will be able to help you focus on passing the exam by focusing on the key topics with short, clear and concise summaries. I personally think training providers provide decent value so if you are able to get any good deals (pass guarantee deals) or if your employer is paying for the material, you should definitely consider using these additional resources.   Difficulty, My Experience, Etc. Similar to any professional financial designation, I would say that the difficulty of the exam is very subjective based on your exposure to the concepts which are covered on the exam and your background. If are completely new to Var, Expected Shortfall and a lot of the basic concepts that pop up on the exam I would put in a solid 200-300 hours   Exam Strategy A lot of the advice that I give in my posts about the CFA exams also applies to the FRM exam. Exam taking techniques are very important in these types of professional qualifications and the most important points can be summarised in the following bullet points:

  • Having a clear strategy for scoring points on the exam: Take a few mock exams and asses your ability and check if your current areas of strength are sufficient to get a pass.
  • Time management before and during the exam: make sure to have a disciplined schedule in preparing for the exam. Bring a watch to the exam and make sure you are pacing yourself to avoid running out of time.
  • Eat healthy, exercise and stay in good shape to ensure your study hours are productive.
  • Enjoy the journey.

Some questions/remarks that I come across very often about this exam   Isn’t the maths on the exam very advanced? A lot of the statistics and probability on the exam might be intimidating depending on your background but I don’t think the maths tested on the exam constitutes a barrier in taking the exam. In my opinion, a lot of the concepts that are tested look for a general understanding from a generalist practitioner’s perspective.   How long do you need to prepare for the Exam? If you are a financial professional or a student who has already had a lot of exposure to the topics that are covered, I think 100-200 hours (per level) are a good estimate.   Should I take both levels 1 and 2 in a single sitting? It will depend on the time and dedication that you can afford to spend on this exam. I personally recommend taking levels 1 and 2 on different sittings (which is what I did) but if are scoring solidly on the mocks and you feel ambitious enough then go for it. However please be aware that if you were to pass level 2 but fail level 1 you would have to re-take level 2 which is not ideal.   Job Prospects I guess this is a very important point that a lot of prospective candidates are interested in. I can speak based on my 10+ years of experience in the financial sector and having been both a hiring manager and an applicant.  

  • I don’t think the exam holds the same weight as the CFA Charter or a master’s in financial engineering or Risk related subject from a prestigious uni. Also compare to the CFA, which is broader, people have the perception that FRM is only limited to risk management (to a certain extent they are correct).
  • Within Risk or Risk related areas, the qualification holds a solid weight and proves to employers that the candidate has a general understanding of the core topics within risk in addition to awareness of key regulatory events within the industry.
  • Just like any other qualification though, it is not the sole indicator of your ability to do well in the job so it won’t be your golden ticket to your dream job within risk.

Having looked at LinkedIn, eFinancialCareers and other job sites, the impression that I get is that jobs which have the FRM qualification seem to be concentrated within Market Risk. Quoting Schweser: Certified FRMs are most likely to be risk analysts, risk managers, credit risk analysts, market risk analysts, regulatory risk analysts, operational risk managers, or risk chief officers. With the exception of risk chief officers (yes, I need to improve my network) this statement is fairly accurate. Conclusion If you are working within risk and you are looking to cement your knowledge of the subject and looking to add to your CV, I would strongly recommend taking the exam. Compared to the CFA exam I believe that the effort/reward ratio for this exam is higher and I have started seeing more job postings that list FRM as a good to have under candidate requirements. Some Material that I found useful regarding the EXAM A good overview of key exam dates for 2020. This article outlines some of the reasons why FRM pass rates are low so it’s definitely worthwhile reading to avoid making some of the most common mistakes that candidates make. I personally think: 4 Waiting too long to start studying, 10. Not using enough practice tests and 11. Passing easy practice tests leading to over-confidence are the most common pitfalls.

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