Some of the University of Waterloo’s best financial and mathematical minds have come together to conduct research, seek answers and promote discussion of one of the most pressing economic issues of our time — financial risk.

Thomas Coleman, Director of WatRISQ“What we are trying to do is raise our international profile so that Waterloo becomes known as a place where high-quality quantitative research takes place,” says Thomas Coleman, the former dean of mathematics and now director of the Waterloo Research Institute in Insurance, Securities and Quantitative Finance, or WatRISQ.

“There is a sense that Canada has played a leadership role internationally, and that here in Waterloo we are playing a major role, says Coleman. “We’ve become part of the world conversation.”

WatRISQ, he says, brings together the university’s foremost researchers in actuarial sciences, computer science, econometrics, finance and statistics, and attracts participation from other experts from around the world for its seminars and workshops on risk management. There is regular interaction involving members of government and the financial community.

Coleman was born in Montreal, grew up in Toronto and completed his mathematics degrees, with an emphasis on combinatorics and optimization, at Waterloo. He returned to Waterloo in 2005 to become dean of mathematics after eight years at Cornell University in New York State. While at Cornell, Coleman co-ordinated a program that put some of that university’s best financial academics in touch with the Wall Street financial community. “We did gain some success and awareness. It was not easy to develop a connection with them from the academic side, but we were able to accomplish some projects.”

Now, since the financial meltdown of 2008, more questions are being asked and the answers provided by WatRISQ have never been more in demand.  To meet that demand, WatRISQ is offering online programs to business leaders with a level of mathematical understanding to help them deal with the unsteady world economy.

“Many people do not understand the mechanism,” says Coleman. “They don’t understand why Iceland went bankrupt because people in California didn’t pay their mortgages. Financial risk is not just a national issue. We have to have an understanding of how things are internationally.”