From NC to MN: Pursing a career in finance

Posted on June 02, 2017

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Born into an immigrant family from Columbia, Jeffrey Cardenas’s mom always stressed education. Cardenas didn’t disappoint. From community college to graduate school to a career in finance, Cardenas has consistently challenged himself to make the most of all aspects of his life—in school, work, and play.

With offers from SunTrust and Ford, Cardenas chose a finance position in Minnesota with U.S. Bank—quite a stretch from the climate and activities of his North Carolina childhood. But like education, he has embraced his new environs with enthusiasm, by taking ski lessons, learning to ice skate, and even attempting ice fishing. He also sails boats and plays soccer and tennis in the summer.

Cardenas’ outdoor passion is matched only by his financial acumen. A soft-spoken, patient team player, he thrives as a Senior Quantitative Analyst in U.S. Bank’s Credit Risk Management Department. Cardenas spends half of the year validating and stress testing credit risk models used for the The Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR), Dodd-Frank Act Stress Tests, and early Current Expected Credit Loss (CECL). With the remaining time, he tests internal credit risk models.

Work such as Cardenas’ has real-world impact. It helps ensure regulatory compliance and also may  influence stock price and dividends paid. Cardenas validates a variety of credit portfolios using different types of models and methodologies, for example a commercial and industrial portfolio, using a simple ARIMA model; a residential mortgage portfolio, using linked binary logistic regressions; and a CCAR Retail Leases portfolio, using a Dynamic Transition Matrix model.

“I really like how we get a portfolio and become an expert in a short amount of time. Once a report is filed, they come to us to test. There’s pressure, but it’s a good feeling to learn so much and make a positive impact on another department, building models and forecasting things that are not easy to forecast. I like the continual challenge of problem-solving.”

Cardenas finds the forthcoming shift from CECL to CCAR the most interesting aspect of his current work. CECL taking over CCAR in 2020 is a hot topic, and his team has been tapped to assist with drafting templates, creating testing, and generating procedures. “We’ve been asked what we think because CECL is brand new. What we do will have ripple effects because CECL will probably be used for 20 – 30 years,” says Cardenas.

Cardenas is grateful that he learned the theory of different models and how to code them in SAS during his MA in Applied Economics program at the Bryan School, as it applies directly to his quantitative field. His education in finance only continues—with the implementation of CECL in 2020, he knows there is much to learn. In the future, he hopes to move into a management position or become a model developer.

For now, Cardenas will continue to embrace all Minnesota and his rewarding finance career have to offer.


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