247af5fAt this point, you’ve probably familiarized yourself with Christian Cooper, Wiley’s FRM(r) Exam Review instructor — but today you’ll get to know him a little bit better! We’ve asked Christian to shed some light on his personal journey to pursuing the FRM designation, as well as his experiences since becoming certified.

When and why did you become interested in risk management?

As a trader, I am managing risk second by second, even overnight positions. Knowing what overnight macroeconomic data may move markets, being aware of what commodity or political shifts may impact the markets, are all a part of forming a world view that ultimately defines the risks I have on the books. More importantly, I noticed a cultural divide between traders who look at valuations and risk managers who think of potential outcome over a 10-day or even one year period of time.

They don’t always speak the same language so I wrote the FRM program with the intent to bridge that cultural divide because it can become very costly on the trading desk. I want risk managers who understand how I think and see the world and it is important for traders also to understand how risk managers see the world in order to maximize the potential value of any trading desk be it rates, credit derivatives or futures.

What pushed you to pursue an FRM designation?

I already had the CFA and was looking for an additional challenge to stay sharp. It is easy to get pigeonholed after a few years working with any one product. I believe the FRM is much more difficult than the CFA so it fit that bill perfectly.

But the program itself is very complimentary to the CFA; the FRM is much more quantitative and credit & derivatives focused while the CFA is more qualitative around portfolio construction and equity focused. There is just a tiny bit of overlap around some of the basic quant stuff.

What has been the most rewarding part of your career thus far?

Being able to go to Afghanistan and Iran as an expert in finance to work on economic development has been great. My work in Kabul really turned out to be a total failure but, I learned from it, and am now in conversation with both the US government and Iranian government on potential projects there in a post-sanctions middle east.

What has been the biggest challenge in your career?

The more senior you get, the more people you manage and are exposed to and, invariably, the greater likelihood that you will come across unethical or just unlikeable behavior. There is no textbook for doing the right thing and making sure you avoid the land mines is the most important thing. Reputation is priceless and the moment that it is questioned, you are toast. I see so many times people get caught up in minor things like just mismarking a trading book a little bit to shave off a little bit of loss, or moving the volatility surface to make the overnight risk look a little better.

Major problems don’t instantly happen. The challenge isn’t to know when you are standing on a land mind, the greatest challenge is knowing there is a land mind a mile away and making sure you guide your team around that.

What ultimately led to your partnership with Wiley?

I am a huge Wiley nerd. I love everything John Hull and Paul Wilmott have ever written for Wiley and what got me started in my career was how much I taught myself reading those guys early in my career.

I moved to New York with a job offer but nowhere to sleep or without knowing anyone. It was not unusual for me to go to a library after a full days work with a Wiley book and try and figure out how I was going to survive. Wiley was kind of like my life raft. So, given my affinity for the company, I approached Wiley with my legacy FRM program.

What we have now released over what will be a 2-year development process is taking the core of my original program and making everything fully online, including lectures I record all myself and about 2000 – 3000 pages of content (including all the questions) I also all wrote myself to be a fully integrated, adaptive, exam focused platform where practitioners can be challenged and fully ready by exam day.

It has been an extraordinary learning process for me too to take my little baby and now see it shipping world wide every single day. Incidentally, all this started as a single I Idea and a power point presentation I gave back in 2008. It has come a long way.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone interested in the FRM designation, what would it be?

First of all, the exam is not for risk managers. I kind of don’t like the name but the CFA also isn’t just for analysts. If you want the gold standard of quantitative rigor without the years required in the actuarial exams, the FRM is probably the right fit.

Register for the test and don’t change your test date. Even if you know you are going to completely bomb. Actually, once they put the test in front of you, your immediate reaction will be “that’s it?” because you are expecting this encyclopedia of an exam. Having that comfort will be huge. I never failed an FRM exam but I did fail parts of the CFA. It burns but you are a better candidate because of it.