Fearlessly Curious Quants

Toward well-rounded MFEs in finance and data science.

Painting of a figure painting a line graph on canvas that looks like graph paper.When Gifford Fong, BS 67, MBA 69, collaborated with Prof. Mark Rubinstein in 2001 to develop Haas’ Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) program, it was to fill a niche. Fong leads Gifford Fong Associates, a Bay Area boutique firm specializing in the valuation of complex and illiquid investments and asset management. For complex finance, his employees need to understand the theories and industrial standard practices of the underlying financial markets.

Prior to Haas’ pioneering MFE program, those roles were filled by PhDs in engineering or math, says Linda Kreitzman, who also helped start the program and is its executive director. “These people were obviously brilliant, but they didn’t have the necessary intuition in finance,” she says.

MFE graduates, on the other hand, are some of the most sought-after in the country because of their ability to anticipate the implications of disruptive new industries, such as fintech, blockchain, and artificial intelligence. The program—the first of its kind in a business school—consistently ranks first or second nationwide and recently added a data science curriculum.

With the death of Rubinstein last May, Fong made a founding gift to the Mark E. Rubinstein MFE Fellowship Fund to help Berkeley Haas continue to recruit the smartest students.

“Mark was a true Renaissance man who was dedicated to the excellence of research and teaching,” says Fong, noting Rubinstein’s impressive knowledge of Shakespeare and ancient Greek and Roman history in addition to his having developed the first Exchange Traded Fund. The fellowship will fund MFE students who share with Rubinstein a deep and fearless intellectual curiosity—and an interest in the arts and humanities.

Eric Reiner, an MFE lecturer, also made a generous gift. “Mark was one of those rare individuals who truly define the world around them across multiple dimensions,” Reiner says. “It’s an honor to be able to commemorate someone as unique and inspiring as Mark through the Rubinstein MFE Fellowship Fund.”