Growing up, Jarod Acanfrio was certain he wanted to be a math professor, but his parents thought engineering would be a better fit for him. In the end, his chosen career as a financial strategist combines elements of both.
This spring, Acanfrio will graduate with a Master of Science in Quantitative Finance and Risk Analytics (QFRA) from the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute through the co-terminal program, which gives students the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree as part of their undergraduate studies. After that, he will start at Morgan Stanley as a fixed income strategist.
The position, which depends on skills in math, systems engineering, and economic analysis, is a testament to the interdisciplinary education he says he has received at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
“RPI has given me the ability to really explore all of my interests,” Acanfrio said.
As a freshman and sophomore at the university, Acanfrio focused on industrial engineering. Then, in the spring of his junior year, he became intrigued by finance. He decided to try to use tweets to predict the stock market, and while the work didn’t go as well as he would have liked, “it really sparked my interest in applying the methods that I had been learning in industrial engineering to the world of finance,” Acanfrio said.
His interest deepened during two summer internships with an insurance company where he was working on developing risk models for periods of financial stress. “That work I found very interesting. It was a very cool blend of my technical background, but to this new area of finance, where everything is so random and so much can change,” Acanfrio said.
Acanfrio moved from personal projects in finance to tackling the QFRA courses in earnest. He was learning about complex global markets, industry advances, and leading-edge financial theory – and he loved it.
He and several other Rensselaer students entered the Chicago Quantitative Alliance (CQA) Investment Challenge and created a market neutral portfolio that successfully outperformed the S&P 500. Acanfrio said he was able to apply the expertise he had gained during an industrial engineering internship at a medical manufacturer to determine a winning strategy. “Having an idea of the structure of these companies, how they use their cash flow, the types of projects that they take on and how long it takes for them to be successful, if they are at all, was able to help us formulate strategies about how to bet on these kinds of stocks and where we think they’re going to be trending in the future,” Acanfrio said. The team’s portfolio was one of the most profitable in the competition, finishing in the top five for returns.
Acanfrio said that his education has set him up for success in his career. “RPI is a challenging place,” Acanfrio said. “I think the best part of this school is that it prepares you for a high-stress future. I feel like I’m able to multi-task. I’m able to understand how much of myself I can put toward different activities. I’ve learned time management and when to say no to things.”
Acanfrio also credits his fraternity, Sigma Chi, with preparing him for life after college. As a resident of the Greek house, he picked up some valuable life skills, including how to clean up after himself, cook a meal, and perform routine home maintenance. The fraternity also helps students expand their interpersonal skills, Acanfrio said. “I think that you learn how to have a voice in a large group of people. You learn how to defend your ideas when you need to. You learn how to collaborate with people even if you don’t like them,” he said. “You just learn how to live.”