The saying “follow your dreams” might be better stated as “follow your passions” since passions often lead to places we hadn’t anticipated or imagined. Hamza Chiheb (MFin ’17) points to following his love of math down unexpected paths as he builds an exciting career in finance. With support from the Princeton alumni network and his peers in the program, Chiheb is positioned to pursue fulfilling experiences and opportunities.
In 2016, with both his Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Physics and his Master’s degree in Applied Mathematics from Ecole Centrale in Paris, Chiheb interned at Citigroup in London. After interning, he worked as a credit risk quant at the World Bank and then as an FX options trading analyst intern at UBS.
After gaining experience in the finance industry, Chiheb decided to pursue a second master’s degree—a Master’s in Finance—from Princeton University. Currently, Chiheb is an Equity Derivatives Structuring VP at J.P. Morgan in New York City.
Lindsay Bracken, BCF’s Manager of Career Development, Alumni Relations, and Corporate Affiliates, recently reached out to Chiheb to gain his insight on the importance of following your passions to a fulfilling career.
If you’re a Princeton BCF alumnus who’s reached a milestone in your career, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out to Bracken (email@example.com) to stay in touch and tell your story.
Bracken: What led you to pursue a second master’s degree in finance? Why did you choose Princeton BCF?
Chiheb: I have always loved studying math. After taking a few finance courses during undergrad, I discovered that finance is a great application of mathematics and decided to pursue a career in that industry. Therefore, I wanted to further my education in the field, especially after doing a gap year and gaining experience interning at various financial institutions. I have always dreamed of studying and working in the US, and Princeton’s BCF program was the perfect combination of location, class size, curriculum, and quality of instruction. It’s a beautiful campus, close to major cities, and has a small enough class size for one-on-one instruction. A differentiator of BCF is that it’s very closely linked with other departments such as ORFE, Economics, and EE/CS, which offers provides a really well-rounded education. In addition to the core classes required by the program, we were given the flexibility to choose classes in other departments that interest us, which was a huge selling point for me.
Bracken: What aspects of Princeton BCF’s program or courses prepared you for your current position?
Chiheb: A large variety of BCF courses prepared me for my current position, including stochastic calculus, probability, macroeconomics, statistics, and machine learning, just to name a few. The Princeton BCF program is a unique combination of theory and application, which aligns with the types of jobs that I want to do. For example, many of the financial and statistical models that I use today are ones that I was exposed to during the program. The program also had a very diverse cohort where I collaborated with and learned from my fellow classmates.
Bracken: What does your role as an Equity Derivatives Structuring VP at J.P. Morgan look like?
Chiheb: My job is a mix of very different roles. It involves interacting with and servicing clients as well as providing them with timely pricings for equity derivatives structures that are market-dependent. Moreover, the main role of a structurer is to propose new, innovative trade ideas, find and implement ways for the firm to recycle risk, and create strategies that could potentially unlock value for our clients. A key focus of my role is also very analytical and data-driven; I’ve been able to leverage what I learned at Princeton in data science, statistics, and coding to analyze large amounts of financial data in order to help extract value, provide differenced analyses for clients, and contribute to business strategies. There is also a product-based side to my role, which includes automating and streamlining pipelines and processes by leading and working with tech teams. I see the role of a structurer as a technical salesperson: I work with Quantitative Research and Trading to understand the models and the various risks of the products we trade while also communicating the complexity of the products to sales and clients.
Bracken: Why did you decide to work on a COVID-19 research paper, and how was your experience with it?
Chiheb: During my time at Princeton, I discovered a deeper interest in applying statistical models to various scientific problems. When COVID-19 started, it seemed like a logical and instinctive decision to work on a highly relevant and important question such as the pandemic. Throughout the process of cleaning data, building models, analyzing results, and putting the paper together with my co-authors, I gained invaluable experience and an understanding of what rigorous scientific research looks like. I had the privilege of working with two statistics professors who were incredibly knowledgeable, and although the process was laborious at times, it also taught me how patience and hard work could be extremely rewarding. The research paper is one of my proudest achievements, and I am grateful to have been part of it.
Bracken: Princeton BCF has a strong alumni network. Did you cross paths with any alumni in your career, and how did you take advantage of this network in your career building?
Chiheb: Given the impressive and diverse placement of the Princeton BCF program, I was able to meet alumni at various financial institutions across the world. I’ve had the opportunity to connect and have meaningful conversations with several alumni, and they also gave me very valuable career advice. Given the small class size model of the program, I have stayed connected with most of the people from my class and other classes, where each of our respective networks becomes those of others. In this way, I’ve been able to grow my network and establish meaningful relationships. Being part of the BCF also gave me access to the Princeton alumni network as a whole, which I’ve used to help build my career.
Bracken: What advice do you have for current and future MFin students?
Chiheb: The Princeton MFin program offers a range of classes, so I recommend taking advantage of learning from the variety of incredible professors. It would also be beneficial to explore other departments and take classes outside of your comfort zone to establish a more well-rounded understanding of the field. Additionally, I would say don’t be afraid to reach out to alumni in the network and build relationships early; they have a lot of experience that turned out to be helpful for me. My final piece of advice is to develop and maintain meaningful relationships with your classmates and peers.