Vanderbilt University MSF Program

The Vanderbilt University MSF program is one of the top Master in Finance choices among applicants and interested students. Regretfully, I feel like I don’t feature it enough on my site. Well time to change that! I am lucky enough to have a brand new student review of the program and an in depth one at that. This review is very detailed and provides great insight into all the opportunities that you can expect when attending the Vanderbilt Master in Finance program.

1. Why a Master’s in Finance? Why Vanderbilt?

After having cut my financial teeth as an analyst at a mid-sized VC fund working with technology start- ups, I was certain that I wanted to pursue a long-term career in financial services (specifically financial advisory/consulting). If I was going to advise corporate financial managers on complex financial situations or issues, I knew I had to have an in-depth and thorough understanding of Finance. The Master in Finance degree provided an opportunity to gain a broad understanding of finance with the option to dive into specific subjects like valuation, risk management, corporate finance etc.

The Vanderbilt University MSF boasts some fantastic finance faculty. From Hans Stoll (Put-Call Parity) to Bob Whaley (the VIX, volatility index), the department has leading professors in the field (some of whom are solely dedicated to the MSF program). Vanderbilt MSF placements within financial services have been growing rapidly (especially in the Northeast and in banking sectors like healthcare, energy, and industrials), and after some research, I learned that the last few classes had been pretty diverse both in terms of academic and internship experience which I did not find at many other schools. Finally, after talking to current students and alums, all around student satisfaction and perceived ROI seemed to be really good.

2. Pros/Cons (if any) of the degree/Vanderbilt program?

Pros

As an international student, I find the class demographics at Vanderbilt to be very appealing. My goal in traveling halfway around the planet was NOT to learn alongside a class made up primarily of other international students. I wanted a different experience socially and in academic group work, and that’s what I got. The class make-up is about 75% domestic, and that was not the case for many other Masters in Finance programs in the US.

Very tight alumni network. Class sizes are smaller than most schools and thus you tend to build really close relationships both with fellow MSFs and MBAs.

The two people essentially leading the program (Prof. Kate Barraclough in academics and Blake Gore in career services) are absolute rock stars at Vanderbilt, and they work exclusively with the MSF program. Their dedication in helping MSFs realize their career goals is outstanding. Long before I arrived on campus, they knew who I was and what I wanted out of my Master in Finance experience – and were already working one-on-one with me to make it happen.

Vanderbilt has a highly ranked MBA program, and this was important to me during the admissions process. I love the integrated classes with MBAs. It really helps to be in a class with 28-30 year old former banking and consulting analysts to pick up some real world insights and experiences.

The flexibility in choosing my courses is great, especially for someone like me who has broad and non-traditional interests.

Cons

Finding a great job and dealing with graduate level coursework in 9 months is pretty intense. It is not for the faint of heart.

As an international student, I wish there was better brand awareness in some parts of the world. (Well, guess it is up to me!)

The admissions interview process (numerous rounds) was grueling. I was definitely challenged to dig deep. But, once I eventually met my classmates, I understood why Vanderbilt goes through the trouble to evaluate not just IQ, but EQ. My classmates are as interesting and helpful as they are intelligent.

3. Who would you recommend an MSF for?

Anyone who needs an in-depth education in finance with an emphasis on analytical and modeling skills. Great for students aspiring to get into financial services (especially asset management or equity research).

4. Anything else. Feel free to talk about placements, groups you were in, campus experience, Nashville, anything you want.

The momentum in the careers services area at Vanderbilt is hard to overstate, and having spoken to alums from years past, career support has really taken off in the past 3-4 years with new faculty and staff. Stats are routinely beating previous trends with quite a few bulge bracket offers at firms like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, and Credit Suisse. There are also significant recruiting pipelines to many mid-market IB firms like Stephens, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey and Raymond James. Asset management funds such as BlackRock have recruited from the program for a while now and are pretty widespread even from a geographical perspective. The Big 4 firms have always been huge recruiters, hiring MSFs into their Transaction Advisory and Consulting practices. MSFs have also made it into rotational leadership development programs at various Fortune 500 firms. For example, one of my first alumni contacts was with a Vanderbilt MSF alum at Microsoft’s Financial Leadership Development Program.

Networking is a very integral part of the culture at Vanderbilt Business School. From the weekly social “kegs”, where MSFs get to interact with MBAs, to multiple alumni events and company networking sessions, students always have the opportunity to build professional relationships and meet a diverse group of people. On a scale from 1-10, Vanderbilt is an 11 when it comes to being a “social” school.

Nashville is a really exciting town and is a huge center for live music! The city is home to plenty of great restaurants, bars and sporting attractions (Titans and Predators). Of course, the sports things was really new to me as an international student, but getting to experience football season at an SEC school (see, I’m learning!) was amazing. The tailgates are legendary and oftentimes sponsored by our student government.

Given my interest in entrepreneurship and technology, I was really excited to learn that Google recently selected Nashville as one of the seven cities to participate in Google for Entrepreneurs Tech Hub Network. This has led to a spur of start- up activity in the city with a big inflow of start- up funds and technologists with regular events bringing the community together. In addition to many opportunities to intern for and network with these professionals, there are numerous opportunities offered through Vanderbilt to wade into the space. For example, one of the most popular classes at the B-School is “Launching Venture” taught by serial healthcare entrepreneur and head of the EC (Nashville Entrepreneur Center), Michael Burcham.