Mathematical finance

Mathematical finance, also known as quantitative finance and financial mathematics, is a field of applied mathematics, concerned with mathematical modeling of financial markets. See Quantitative analyst.

In general, there exist two separate branches of finance that require advanced quantitative techniques: derivatives pricing on the one hand, and risk and portfolio management on the other. Mathematical finance overlaps heavily with the fields of computational finance and financial engineering. The latter focuses on applications and modeling, often by help of stochastic asset models, while the former focuses, in addition to analysis, on building tools of implementation for the models. Also related is quantitative investing, which relies on statistical and numerical models (and lately machine learning) as opposed to traditional fundamental analysis when managing portfolios.

French mathematician Louis Bachelier is considered the author of the first scholarly work on mathematical finance, published in 1900. But mathematical finance emerged as a discipline in the 1970s, following the work of Fischer Black, Myron Scholes and Robert Merton on option pricing theory. Mathematical investing originated from the research of mathematician Edward Thorp who used statistical methods to first invent card counting in blackjack and then applied its principles to modern systematic investing.

The subject has a close relationship with the discipline of financial economics, which is concerned with much of the underlying theory that is involved in financial mathematics. Generally, mathematical finance will derive and extend the mathematical or numerical models without necessarily establishing a link to financial theory, taking observed market prices as input. Mathematical consistency is required, not compatibility with economic theory. Thus, for example, while a financial economist might study the structural reasons why a company may have a certain share price, a financial mathematician may take the share price as a given, and attempt to use stochastic calculus to obtain the corresponding value of derivatives of the stock. See: Valuation of options; Financial modeling; Asset pricing. The fundamental theorem of arbitrage-free pricing is one of the key theorems in mathematical finance, while the Black–Scholes equation and formula are amongst the key results.

Today many universities offer degree and research programs in mathematical finance.