Quant Guide 2017: EPFL

Lausanne, Switzerland

QUANT 19 EPFL-2.jpg

Master in Financial Engineering | metrics table at end of article

The English language master’s programme in financial engineering offered by the Swiss Finance Institute at Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) aims to connect mathematical theory with the practice of modern finance. Eighty per cent of students have a science background but, alongside stochastic calculus, quantitative risk management and derivatives, they learn about more earthly matters of microfinance and corporate restructuring.   

“We designed this programme in such a way because we want our students to be quants but not just model monkeys; we want them to be able to clearly understand what the assumptions are and how it all fits into the real world,” says Julien Hugonnier who leads the master’s. “This is reflected in the composition of our department. We have mathematicians but we also have straight finance professors.”

This blend provides good preparation for a financial career in Switzerland: many of the programme’s graduates end up working in portfolio management or broader asset management, rather than as traditional quantitative analysts. 

“In portfolio management, we’ve seen a lot of big data and a lot more emphasis on treating large datasets,” Hugonnier says.


In the past two years, new courses on data science and big data application in finance have been added, with modules on fintech and blockchain in the pipeline. “We have a huge computer science school at EPFL – we’re now collaborating with them to develop a course in this direction,” he adds.

The institute also organises seminars by practitioners every autumn, aiming to connect professionals with students who will soon enter the job market. 

A six-month internship during the final semester is a compulsory part of the programme. A dedicated person at EPFL keeps in touch with companies on a full-time basis, which often results in exclusive internship offers. 

On completing their internship, students write a dissertation on a topic agreed on by a supervisor at the company and a professor. When students formally present their thesis, the company can give feedback on the programme and the student. “It’s usually a big source of feedback,” says Hugonnier.

Alumnus Colla Rensch interned at hedge fund BlueCrest Capital Management and continued to work there as a research analyst after graduating in 2015. 

“I was able to pick up pretty fast at work how they were operating and what I could add to what they were doing,” he says. He now works at a hedge fund founded by his colleagues at BlueCrest.

Many students on the master’s take part in competitions, such as the CFA Institute Research Challenge – in which teams of university students from around the world, working with a mentor, compete to produce the most thorough analysis of a company’s stock.

EPFL metrics

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