This week from the AIMS Senegal class of 2013, Cheikh Mbaye takes us on a journey into his life after AIMS.
Q: Tell us about your academic journey before AIMS.
Cheikh: Before joining AIMS, I had obtained a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in fundamental mathematics and computer science at the Gaston Berger University in Senegal. I was introduced to AIMS by an AIMS alumnus who had freshly graduated from AIMS Senegal as part of their first cohort. He convinced me to apply because I felt excited about the discussion we had about AIMS when we first met.
Q: How would you describe your time at AIMS?
Cheikh: I joined AIMS as a young graduate with a purely theoretical background, finding a way to put those theories into practice. AIMS gave me this opportunity and beyond. It strengthened the mathematical and programming skills I acquired at Gaston Berger University. Additionally, it created the opportunity for me to follow the discipline of my dreams; mathematical finance, a tool for industries and sovereigns providing sophisticated quantitative methodologies in helping professionals managing financial risks.
AIMS offered me the possibility to understand the analysis of the mathematical properties of Brownian motion to model the stochastic change in stock price. I am very grateful to Prof. Damien Simon for giving me the opportunity and to Prof. Abass Sagna for supervising my Master’s thesis at AIMS.
Although the AIMS program is a very intensive one, it still provides an avenue for cooling off some pressure while gaining experience from different cultures and specialisations.
Q: Tell us about the impact AIMS has had on you.
Cheikh: Mathematical finance is a well-known subject in developed countries but not very well taught in Africa. AIMS, on the other hand, provides a perfect foundation for its students in that area. In my current position, I am working on the scope of internal model development for credit risk. This area allows banks to build models that guide them to assess their risks. The model takes into account financial contracts that can lead to complex-structured products. The process requires profound knowledge in mathematics, programming skills and analytics.
Q: What would you describe as your success story after AIMS?
Cheikh: I will begin with my graduation with a Distinction at AIMS. It provided an opportunity to be enrolled in one of the most prestigious Master’s in quantitative finance in the world. I enrolled for the Master’s II program in Probability and Finance at the Sorbonne Université (former Université Pierre et Marie Curie) in collaboration with the École Polytechnique in Paris. I also received partial funding from AIMS which supported my studies in Paris. After successfully graduating from the Master’s program, I obtained a PhD research fellowship in Credit Risk Modelling; this was funded by the National Bank of Belgium and based at the Universté Catholique de Louvain. After my PhD, I had a one-year contract as an Assistant Lecturer at the National School of Computer Science for Industry and Business in Paris before joining the Dexia Group as a Risk Modeller in Brussels.
Q: Which of the SDGs is most important/relevant to you? How do you plan on addressing it in your work?
Cheikh: Among the SDGs, “No Poverty” resonates most with me. First, no poverty means continuously having access to funds according to how actual economic models are built. Secondly, I am working as a credit risk modeller whose primary role is to assess a bank’s risk when financing the economy via the sovereigns or private sectors. This role can help Africa and the world at large to reach the “No Poverty” target.
Q: What is your message to current AIMS students and young people across the continent?
Cheikh: My key advice would be to try to follow all the courses as much as you can while putting a big focus on the subject of your specialisation. This allows you to take all the opportunities that AIMS offers you while focusing on what you want to do in the future.