Auður Ásta Baldursóttir

Programme: MSc Risk Management & Financial Engineering

Nationality: Icelandic

Undergraduate education: Industrial Engineering, University of Iceland

MSc Risk Management & Financial Engineering 2019

About you

What work experience/internships did you have before beginning with Imperial College Business School?

Before studying at Imperial, I had worked as a Financial Advisor at Íslandsbanki, one of the largest banks in Iceland. I held a full-time position during summer and a part-time role during the months that I had school. I had also worked as a Teaching Assistant at the University of Iceland. Working in a bank spiked my interest for the financial sector and was one of the reasons why I wanted to pursue a MSc related to finance.

Why did you decide to study an MSc Risk Management & Financial Engineering at Imperial College Business School?

I had studied Engineering for my undergraduate degree, and I wanted to study a Master’s degree in something related to finance. However, I also wanted a degree that would expand on my mathematical and coding skills, as well as wanting to apply to a highly regarded school. I found Risk Management and Financial Engineering when I was browsing the Imperial College Business School website. It was the perfect combination between finance, maths and coding.


What aspects of the programme do you most enjoy the most?

Looking back, I think that one of the best things about this programme is how much you learn in a short period of time. Beginning with the summer modules, Imperial makes sure that you have the needed foundation for the programme. In September, we had to undertake modules based around Python and R, as well as statistics and market modules. At the time it felt like a lot, but during the later modules you realise how useful it is. In my opinion, I want to learn as much as possible and Imperial has exceeded my expectations in helping me to do so. Another thing that I like are the electives; students with different interests are given the opportunity to take a path that suits them and their career ambitions.

Which has been your favourite module so far and why?

So far it has been Empirical Finance. I think it has a lot to do with the teacher and how he approaches the material. The autumn term focused more on teaching mathematical methods and equations and less on the real-world application. During the spring term, you learn real applications for these mathematical equations and techniques. Empirical Finance made me realise how useful the previous modules had been and created an interest in an area of statistics that I did not have before.

What has been the most rewarding part of the programme?

When you realise how much you have learnt in a short period of time - it is amazing to look back at all the hard work that you have put into the programme and see how much it has paid off.

What has been the most challenging part of the programme? 

The fast pace of the programme has been the most challenging for me. You must stay on top of your studies every day so that you don’t fall behind. For me personally, not having a background in finance has also been challenging. I had only taken two finance related modules in my undergrad and therefore I have had to catch up. However, Imperial helps you get up to speed with summer and foundation modules.


How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?

The cohort is large, so we were divided into two streams. To help with making sure that everyone had the opportunity to get to know each other, we created a WhatsApp group to chat. Plus, the cohort has had many social gatherings during the year, which helped us connect as a group.

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?

I would say Dr Christopher Hansman. His teaching methods are great, he is clear and willing to answer all questions. His assignments were perfectly related to the material in the programme and prepared students well for the final exam. He always uses relatable examples during his lectures, which makes it easier for students to relate to the material. It also makes the material so much more interesting to learn when you can see all the possible ways to apply it.


What clubs, societies or other activities have you been involved in at Imperial?

I am a Student Ambassador for the programme. I would highly recommend students to take on one of the roles that the finance department offers. As well as giving you leadership and communication experience, it also allows you to be part of something bigger.


What are your future career goals and how have they been realised since being at Imperial?

Since starting at Imperial my future career goals have been constantly changing. Every module introduces you to something new and exciting. I decided to put my focus into my studies and have therefore not been applying to a lot of jobs. Even though I have not been applying as much as other students, Imperial has showed me that this programme opens various doors for me. Over the next months I have a lot of options when it comes to applying for roles.

How did the services from Careers help in your professional development/securing employment?

I have had help from Careers to improve my CV and make a cover letter. I think it’s great that Careers ask you to create a standard CV before starting the programme, as it forces you to restructure it, meaning you are practically ready to apply for jobs when the school year starts.

London Location

Do you think studying in a central location such as London is beneficial for networking and career opportunities?

Yes, there are so many networking and career opportunities in London. The Business School hosts a lot of events and lets us know about events that might be interesting for us to attend. London offers such a diversified working platform, having everything from the world’s largest banks to financial startups.

Where do you live in London and why did you choose to live there?

I live in Angel and it takes around 40 minutes to travel to Imperial. I decided to live there because I am renting a flat with three other people that go to UCL and LSE. The neighbourhood is amazing, but it would be nice to be a little closer to Imperial.

When you’re not studying, what do you enjoy doing?

You can literally do anything and everything in London. When I am not studying, I visit new neighbourhoods, try out new restaurants and on sunny days I like to study in a park close by.

What have been the benefits and challenges of moving to London?

I had some difficulties when moving to London since I decided to rent an apartment. What surprised me the most about moving to London was the time it took to open a bank account, sign up for an internet service and the intense focus on direct debit. I would recommend that everyone renting a flat in London to do all these things as soon as possible after they move.


Looking back to when you were applying for the programme, did you attend any online webinars or on-campus information sessions?

When applying for the programme, I did not attend any online webinars. I only used resources that were available on the website and then I contacted a former Imperial student to get some more detailed information. However, I attended a webinar after I got accepted about housing in London, which was very helpful.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about applying for the programme?

I would say that don’t hesitate to apply, especially if you are looking for a programme that combines finance, mathematics and coding.  Don’t worry if you feel like you don’t have a strong enough background in one of these three areas. Imperial makes sure that you get up to speed with everything with their summer modules and foundation modules. This programme takes a lot of hard work, but the reward is much greater!

Programme: MSc Risk Management & Financial Engineering

Nationality: Icelandic

Undergraduate education: Industrial Engineering, University of Iceland