Eiffel Sun (MMF 2015) is a skilled data scientist as well as a subject matter expert in programming automated reports and dashboards, designing and building databases, and implementing data quality checks. Last year he put his talents to work on designing the MMF Data Analytics eLearning course. More recently, he joined SourceOne Financial as Vice President and Chief Data Management and Technology Officer (CDTO).
We spoke to Eiffel about his time at MMF and his career journey.
Eiffel has a natural interest in quantitative finance. He studied statistics and mathematics during his undergrad. He took a few courses in economics and finance as well, and by then had a few years of trading experience in the stock market.
Eiffel chose MMF for his graduate degree because in his view, it’s among the best quantitative finance programs in North America. The four-month internship appealed to him, as did the fast-track nature of the program, which allowed him to complete his master’s degree in 12 months. He hoped to learn everything he needed to know about quantitative finance so that he could secure a good job in the banking or consulting sectors.
From a curriculum perspective, Eiffel admits that MMF is an incredibly intensive program. In just eight months, students learn everything from stochastic processes to option pricing and risk management.
“MMF was definitely my best choice. After all these years I’m still proud of myself for being an MMF alumnus,” he said.
MMF is very proud of Eiffel as well. His rapid rise in the finance world makes him standout among his peers. His quantitative finance career began while was still in the program, with his internship at Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. He began his job search as soon as he joined the program in August, and he applied for about 20 different jobs, securing interviews with half a dozen employers. Then, Teachers’ invited him to three interviews with different teams, and eventually he was offered a position in their Alternative Investments Group.
Eiffel felt very fortunate to be on the trading floor daily, where he was able to observe and learn how portfolio managers discuss their investment strategies, how they consume information from the market, and how that leads to their investment decisions, such as trading strategies and portfolio construction.
He found the MMF internship experience to be extremely helpful, as was the support of his supervisor at Teachers’, Christophe L’Ahelec, who is now at University Pension Plan. Christophe gave Eiffel lots of interesting projects, along with the right tools and proper authorization to dive into the data and find something interesting. The first steps in those projects were data extraction and data cleansing, which built on his interest in data engineering and analytics.
After graduation, Eiffel spent some time at Scotiabank in two different roles: first as a Business Analyst in Commercial Banking, then eight months later he was promoted to Manager in Group Treasury, covering treasury analytics for Scotiabank’s International Banking business. Eiffel says that moving up the ladder in an organization the size of Scotiabank varies depending on experience and initiative, with initiative being a key factor. He notes that, of course, in any position you have a mandate to fulfill. But Eiffel recommends that if you can squeeze in a bit of extra time to do something that really interests you, that’s kind the initiative that can move a person froward. If the results of that extra effort beat the expectations of your manager, Eiffel believes that’s the secret to moving up the ladder in a large organization.
Eiffel highly recommends that any fresh graduate consider going to one of the big institutions after they complete their program, simply because big institutions will teach new grads industry standards. In his case, he learned how to process data, how to generate a report, what information should be included in reports, what kind of documentation is needed to support the model, and how to deal with auditing.
In 2018, Eiffel left Scotiabank to do something really exciting: He joined MCS Analytics as Head of Data Analytics and Business Intelligence. He was also made a partner in the firm. He says making the leap from a big institution to a start-up was one of the most important decisions in his life. MCS Analytics was founded by Malency Wainright, his previous boss in Commercial Banking at Scotiabank. When Wainright decided to move to consulting so he could help clients, small business, and mid-size financial institutions, Eiffel joined him. He liked what he was doing at Scotiabank, but the prospect of doing different projects and helping people with their business challenges excited him. Eiffel gained extensive knowledge from every client that he helped. The experience was great, and Eiffel enjoyed every minute. He made lots of connections with different small business owners, and with different clients and groups. “I feel like I know everybody in Toronto now,” he said.
They say that if you want to get something done, you should ask a busy person and clearly, Eiffel is a busy person. In 2021, while still working full time at MCS Analytics, he took on a contract role at SourceOne Financial, where he now works full time as Vice President and CDTO. He’s learned a lot about leadership in that role, and about the role data plays in leadership.
“Data is the bridge between all departments. Data connects all the isolated islands and empowers people to make critical business decisions, or project the future based on the historical facts and industry benchmarks,” he says. “Teams work more effectively when they’re on the same page with key metrics. They know exactly what their daily impacts are to other functions, and within the company. Interpretation of data is the bridge between executives and analysts.”
Eiffel believes a senior level data manager should be able to explain high-level trends and demonstrate what triggers movement at the most granular level. Eventually, combining data and analysis will give deeper insight into the major business-related mechanics, and priduce better, data-driven decisions. “That is the leadership of data,” he said.
His passion for data and his ability to manage multiples projects led him to design MMF’s Data Analytics eLearning course while he was still on contract at SourceOne Financial. We wondered how he stayed organized with so many projects on the go.
Eiffel acknowledges that designing MMF’s Data Analytics course was a lot of work, and he thanks Greg Hajjar at Optimal RMR for his patience while the project was underway. Eiffel’s strategy was to give himself a small task every day, complete it and move on. By concentrating on small tasks daily, he was able to stay focused and that helped him get everything done.
The MMF eLearning Data Analytics course was a labour of love. Eiffel believes data skills are among the most important skills for any project. Even if you have a perfect model, clean data is still needed to get everything running smoothly. Eiffel says there are many different perspectives that can be derived from the data as well. In the Data Analytics course, he introduces a tools he’s used for a long time that is very efficient for processing data to extract, transform and load. The course shows how to use the tool effectively to get information from the market, and then store it for later use as well.
Eiffel appreciates that investing in professional development is key to staying relevant. He earned his CFA charter in 2021, after passing his CFA II exam in 2018 and gaining the required four years of investment experience. He holds FRM certification as well. He feels that both CFA and FRM are very relevant to what MMF grads will do in their careers, and he highly recommends that people take CFA first, and FRM second.
Above all, Eiffel believes that effective time management is key. He works a little bit longer into the evening, a little bit earlier in the morning and on weekends to accomplish things. After so many years, he’s learned to live with it. He feels he has work / life balance, and he enjoys what he does. We asked him what advice he would give to himself as a new grad, now that he has seven years of hindsight.
Eiffel acknowledges that when he first graduated from MMF, he was in a rush to accelerate his career. He worried a lot about how he would grow as a professional.
“The advice I would give myself, and to every MMF alumni, is to try to relax, to calm down and just be patient with yourself. Sometimes it’s ok to slow down a bit, and the key is to enjoy every moment of your journey.”