Sitsofe Kodjo

Director and Senior Trading Strategist, Bank of America, United States, 33, Togolese

Could you tell us about your background?

I have a science/engineering background, with a university degree in math (from Lille, France) and a master’s from an engineering school (Mines ParisTech Graduate School). I got acquainted with finance in my final year almost by accident. I was immediately very interested because the field provided an outlet for my math/engineering skills to something that was both practical and intellectually appealing. After graduating in 2000, I got my first job, in the Boston area, working for a consultancy. I did risk analysis and consultancy for two years, then, as I was drawn to the pricing and risk management of derivative products, I accepted an analytics position at Bank of America in Chicago, where I worked in the group in charge of the analytical infrastructure for trading and risk management; in 2005 I moved to New York and joined the interest rate quantitative group. The group focuses on the mathematical modelling of interest rates for derivatives pricing and risk management. I have recently begun working on counterparty credit risk and am now in charge of a multi-asset model used for trading and hedging counterparty credit risk.

How does the PhD fit in?

First, I have always had a thirst for more solid foundations in finance. As I have a math background, I tend to approach finance from that perspective. For several years now, I have felt the need to develop solid finance and economics intuitions. The PhD allows me to gather knowledge and build understanding of the foundational financial and economic concepts. Second, I wanted to broaden my horizons. I have been working almost exclusively on derivatives pricing; the PhD features a lot of different courses in investment management and corporate finance. For me, this is a unique opportunity to gain broad exposure to the different areas of finance. Third, I was looking forward to working alongside talented people of different backgrounds.

The recent financial crisis has highlighted need for a higher level of theoretical knowledge on the part of finance practitioners. I think having more and more professionals with theoretical groundings of the sort provided by PhD studies will be a boon to the financial industry. Beyond acquiring knowledge, my expectation is to acquaint myself with ideas and practices that will shape the financial industry tomorrow and to help foster them. This is an awesome opportunity to draw inspiration from fellow candidates, and to gain insight from the exceptional scholars we have as faculty. I also hope to benefit from EDHEC-Risk Institute’s expertise in risk management to learn about new developments in that area.

What are your first impressions?

They are very positive and aligned with what I thought about the programme and EDHEC-Risk Institute. Executive track students have to meet the same requirements as residential students. And as the coursework has made clear, this is a doctoral programme. The limited but thorough presentations of financial economics and corporate finance we have had over the first week of class have encouraged me to look into these topics in more depth. Besides, the participants in the programme are very serious about learning: they ask a lot of questions and offer insightful comments. There are people of many different backgrounds, but everybody has the same passion for finance and a thirst for knowledge. Another thing is maturity: people in the programme know exactly what they want and seem to realise what efforts will be required to achieve their objectives. It is very stimulating to have peers who show the same commitment to knowledge.

Have there been a-ha moments?

In financial economics, after three or four days of building up the theory, the economic rationale behind concepts that we use in derivatives pricing such as stochastic discount factors and pricing kernels became clear. At the end of the first week, I headed back to work with a better understanding of the economic underpinnings of some of the concepts I have been using for a long time.

Who would you recommend this programme to?

I recommend the programme to any finance professional seeking to gain a solid grasp of the core concepts of modern finance. Investment managers, traders, quantitative analysts, risk managers alike can benefit greatly from this programme. Graduate students interested in a reputable and practiceoriented PhD in Finance should also consider this programme as they will have the opportunity to rub shoulders with seasoned practitioners.

Why did you choose EDHEC-Risk Institute?

For a long time, I looked for a serious PhD programme that would accommodate professionals. I came across the EDHEC-Risk Institute programme on the Internet. After a few hours of intensive research and due diligence, I became convinced that it was the right programme for me. I then contacted EDHEC to learn more about the application process. From my student years in France, I knew EDHEC was one of the top-tier French business schools. While the School’s reputation as a top institution played a role, the most important factor in my decision was the outstanding core and affiliate faculty involved in the programme. I do not know of any other PhD programme that brings together so many high calibre and renowned scholars and at the same time accommodates professionals.

Do you have an idea of what you would like to work on in the context of your dissertation?

There are so many interesting topics that the choice is actually not easy. My natural tendency is to choose a topic in relation with my current work, which is the valuation of counterparty credit risk. But I’m completely open-minded at this point. As I advance through the classes, the dissertation topic should become clearer and clearer.