Dian Jiao from SAIF MF 17: Focus on the Financial Dream with Effort and Strength on the World Stage


Dian Jiao’s journey at Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance (SAIF) began in 2017. After graduating from the School of Mathematical Science of Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) with the best grade, he chose SAIF Master of Finance (MF) Program to further study and transit into the financial sector.

At SAIF, he won the opportunity to visit Columbia University for a dual-degree program after multiple rounds of selection and competition. From Shanghai to New York, he maintained outstanding academic performance while taking internships at world-class companies. During his study at Columbia University, Dian Jiao distinguished himself from competitors from all over the world and successfully won many enviable job opportunities, including a full-time offer from Citibank and another from a leading US-based quantitative fund with the assets under management (AUM) of over US$100 billion. In the context of the tightening of work permit policy in the United States, the academic performance superior to local graduates from top American universities and colleges also demonstrated Dian Jiao’s international competitiveness.

For Dian Jiao majoring in science, success cannot be achieved overnight, but rather the result of extreme self-discipline and hard work. The growth journey at SAIF has also concentrated his efforts and strength, while visualizing his dreams.

Never Complacent

Searching for the Most Suitable Stage

Dian Jiao has always been the "trophy child" in the eyes of everyone ever since his childhood. In high school, he emerged in the National High School Mathematics League and was recommended for direct admission to the Mathematics-Finance Undergraduate/Master Pilot Program of Shanghai Jiao Tong University. For the plain sailing on campus, Dian Jiao thinks otherwise. He claimed, "I am not a person who is at ease with the status quo."

Because of the "uneasiness", when studying at the undergraduate program, Dian Jiao gave up the path of a direct master's degree in the same major. Instead, he actively applied for other programs and wanted to explore other territories.

After some exploration, he made two major life choices. First of all, he planned to transfer from mathematics to finance. "The essence of finance is the reallocation of assets, which drives the positive circulation of capital to make the world a better place. It is very valuable." For Dian Jiao, the original intention of changing his specialty was to find the true meaning of his career rather than chasing a popular domain.

Once the direction of his personal development was set, the second choice was to find a stage that really suits him. He picked up SAIF MF Program as the starting point for his dream life, after deliberate decision-making,"First, as a top-ranking and strategic institution, SAIF leads the business schools in China and even in Asia in terms of faculty, resources and academic standards. Second, I enrolled in the dual degree program jointly offered by SAIF and Columbia University, in which the participants will not only receive the education resources of two world-renowned schools, but also get the diplomas of both leading institutions. The value and international vision of the Program are remarkable. And third, when applying for the Program, I was highly impressed by the friendly and meticulous team of SAIF faculty and staff. I really love the atmosphere at SAIF, just like a home out of home."

In 2017, Dian Jiao was recommended for direct admission to SAIF, thanks to his first-ranking performance and a GPA of 4.00. Although his goal was fulfilled, Dian Jiao wasn’t content with the past achievements. Always humble, he said shyly, "The quality of SAIF students is quite impressive. I am honored to learn from other outstanding classmates from different backgrounds.”

Empowered by SAIF and Columbia University

Seeking Professional Transformation

In the senior year at SAIF MF, Dian Jiao successfully applied for the opportunity to pursue a dual degree in financial engineering at Columbia University with excellent academic results. In his view, this combination of double degrees is perfect, "SAIF’s curriculum focuses on the study of financial theories, so that the students can establish a comprehensive and systematic understanding of finance and lay a solid and specialized foundation. In contrast, the curriculum at Columbia University concentrates on the fields of mathematics and computer science, which highlights financial engineering and the cultivation of skills."

It was an extraordinary challenge to get the diplomas of two world-class institutions in the duration of a single master program. The high standards and strict requirements of the two schools also urged Dian Jiao to be more self-disciplined and learn how to better deal with pressure and time management.

In two years, he never missed a class for any reason. Even for some courses with remote option available, he was still be present on time, in order to ensure classroom efficiency and better face-to-face communication with instructors. In the last semester at Columbia, Columbia ’s exam week and SAIF’s deadline of graduation thesis collided with each other. Dian Jiao admitted that it was one of the most stressed periods in his life. Taking courses in both schools, completing his internship and successfully finding a job, Dian Jiao has a simple secret weapon that he has always stick to, that is, to do the right thing in the right time and stay focused. He believes that as long as you keep focused and efficient and 80%-90% of the learning is thoroughly understood and completely absorbed in the classroom, it will naturally minimize the pressure of after-class reviews. It is critical to properly arrange each time slot and concentrate on the right thing in the right time.

Eventually, Dian Jiao’s graduation thesis was selected as the “Excellent Graduation Thesis of the Year”, while he also got straight As in all four exams at Columbia during the exam week. Over the two years, he won the full scholarship of the Program twice. Whether at SAIF or Columbia, Dian Jiao won A+ grades in many core courses.

These dazzling achievements witnessed the perfect financial transformation of Dian Jiao as a man of science. Regarding the transformation, Dian Jiao smiled and said that the undergraduate experience in mathematics facilitated instead of hurdled his advancement. "The study of mathematics has made my thinking more rigorous and diverging, and at the same time cultivated an academic attitude to trace back to the source. These elements are highly helpful for my study of finance.”

A Dream of Finance

From SAIF to Worldwide

SAIF's education not only targets at the improvement of comprehensive quality and abilities, but also encourages students to combine knowledge with practice. During the first summer vacation at SAIF, Dian Jiao was a little hesitant about internship. "I didn't expect that the tutor would come to me and discuss bout the arrangements for the summer internship. Such detail-oriented meticulosity touched and inspired me deeply." The one-on-one candid communication with the tutor cleared Dian Jiao’s concerns, who started to actively seek internship opportunities.

At SAIF, Dian Jiao heaped a number of summer internship offers from world-leading organizations, including Macquarie Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Morgan Stanley Huaxin Securities and Shanghai Stock Exchange. At Columbia, he was also selected for an internship at Citibank. Sharpened in the real-world context of finance, Dian Jiao was maturing, and his dream of finance became more specific. "Given my expertise and personality, I hope to further evolve in the field of quantitative investment."

Leaving his alma mater and setting sail for a new stage of life, Dian Jiao attributes his smooth career path to SAIF’s comprehensive training and the background of multi-disciplinary education. "Concerning the reasons why I won the international professional competition, on the one hand, one of my strengths is the solid accumulation of mathematics knowledge, especially statistics. More importantly, I would like to thank SAIF for advancing my financial expertise in all aspects and solidifying the fundamentals of finance. Most of the students studying financial engineering abroad have a background in science or engineering, who lack knowledge in finance, which limits their growth." In Dian Jiao’s opinion, for science and engineering students who intend to transfer into the world of finance, SAIF is the best choice.

Getting a satisfactory offer from a US quantitative fund is only the starting point of Dian Jiao’s financial career. This young man has a clear roadmap for his future, "In five years, I hope to become a fund manager in the company and then return to China for further development." To be back to China, devote to quantitative investment research and drive the development of quantitative investment in China, it is one of the key reasons why Dian Jiao gave up the offer from Citi and joined the existing company. It will also be the dream he will consistently pursue for in the future.

After the cultivation and transformation in two world-known institutions, Dian Jiao today has some new insights of the globe and the future. "With further opening up, China's financial sector will be more regulated, globalized and specialized. In this context, I believe that the emerging segment of quantitative investment will usher in its surge and expansion."