Leo Liu

Leo Liu
Class Year
Kunming, China
Areas of Interest
Financial Economics
Previous Education
Tsinghua University

What brought you to business school? Why did you choose Columbia?

Before coming to Columbia Business School, I had already worked for a few years in the Chinese hedge fund Lerui. There, I found my work requires quantitative research, and that programming is becoming more and more important. I didn’t learn enough of that as an undergraduate. But I wanted to stay in the finance industry, so a finance program with programming is what I needed to expand my career prospects.

What the MSFE at Columbia differs from other financial engineering programs is that it’s at a business school, with top finance and economics professors. The scale is very small, there are fewer than 20 students in a class. And it’s a two-year program, so I have more time to learn and prepare for my future career. This program is the perfect option for me.

What’s your favorite part of the MS experience so far?

I have the time to focus on theories again, while knowing the potential of applications of these theories. Much of the content is new, but it’s all built upon my previous knowledge and my work experience. I found this to be the perfect chance to refresh my skills and knowledge. It’s a completely different learning experience and I’m really enjoying it.

How have you been involved in the student community?

I joined two clubs: Columbia's Student Investment Management Association, and Columbia Quant Club, the former being from the business school, and the latter being from Columbia University. I attended so many interesting lectures in my first year, and in the second year, I’m the teaching assistant for three courses. It’s a very valuable experience to know the other students and help them to learn. Due to COVID, we had many more opportunities to connect virtually because I can be more flexible with my office hours and the students are more willing to participate since they can dial in any time.

Which faculty member(s) and/or courses influenced you the most, and how?

Michael Johannes is a big influence; he teaches three courses in the first year of MSFE. I worked hard and got good grades, then in the summer term, he offered me the opportunity to be his teaching assistant, and this has become my unforgettable memory at CBS. In the last term, he also invited me to join the Admissions Committee, where I learned a lot about what good qualities are important to future success.

What are your long-term career goals? How has your MS experience translated into growth in your career?

I want to be successful in the investment industry. The word “long-term” is somewhat tricky; no one knows what the trend will be in 10 years. However, the most important lessons are to keep an open mind, leverage the best of my past knowledge and experiences, and keep learning new technologies. My current short-term goal is to become a good quantitative researcher.

What’s your top advice for new students?

Have a clear goal of what you need to learn, and learn it well. Don’t consider the cost because wasting money and time is irrelevant. Stay active and plan early; if you have any questions, ask them and don’t be shy. Seek help from the wonderful coaches in the Career Management Center. Accept advice from your Columbia alumni. Connect with your professors; they are very kind to students, and they may even offer opportunities you never knew existed!

What will you take with you from your CBS experience?

The knowledge I’ve learned, the connections I’ve made with professors and classmates, and the many positive memories. Although COVID hit us in the middle of my studies, we thrived and witnessed the responsive and effective transition to hybrid teaching mode. This is too unique to forget, and greatly enriched my study experience!