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Varrlyn consultants on their banking projects and learning on the job

For a young consultant looking to rapidly build knowledge and networks within the sector, or develop new skill sets, Varrlyn presents a unique opportunity to learn on the job. This is something Damla Kavdir has learned first-hand. Relocating to the Netherlands six months ago, she has been working on a transformation project with one of the country’s major banks. But not in the area she initially trained in.

“Prior to joining Varrlyn, I was working as a risk analyst for a bank in Turkey,” Kavdir explained, “focused on interest rate risk, and so I was on the business side of the job.”

“Now, I focus on the IT part of the job. While it has taken a while to adapt to the new tole, I can honestly say Varrlyn and the recruitment team did a very good job.”

Through Varrlyn, Kavdir has been working as a Business Analyst within the asset liability management (ALM) domain – the backbone of a bank. The project she is working on could revolutionise how the bank handles its ALM, enabling balance sheet managers to develop flexible plans for the future – and strengthen results in the process.

Kavdir explained, “The final product will see data fed to internal calculators, which can anticipate liquidity and risk, while applying both flexible and predetermined scenarios to make forecasts on financial performance. This is important as it will allow banks to plan for the future, and strengthen the balance sheet.”

According to Kavdir, the importance of this change has been illustrated in detail by the pandemic. The first year of Covid-19 in particular was “the most difficult in history for bankers,” as the crisis took them by surprise – while delivering scenarios that rendered traditional responses to the economic cycles of boom and bust less effective.

However, with scenario-based planning in place, banks will be better prepared for “unexpected fluctuations or bursts” in the future. With the effects of climate change causing extreme weather events more regularly, the threat of war spreading beyond Ukraine, and geopolitical schisms like Brexit to US/China trade sanctions all on the horizon, this kind of preparation could be critical to the future security of banks.

Digitalisation

Raghuveer Bhasuru has also been in a period of transition with Varrlyn. Originally from India, he moved to Europe four years ago, but only arrived in the Netherlands in the last year. For the last nine months, he has also been working in the same area as a Business Analyst.

His work focuses on the data consolidation process within the bank’s treasury domain. Bhasuru explained. “The history of treasuries was in Microsoft Excel – with macros written into the Excel files. It was a long and manual process, to make the reports that were necessary to calculate the liquidity position of a bank. After that long process, you’d try and calculate what is the assets and liability gap, or the interest rate impact.”

“Digital technology is now allowing us to optimise and streamline the entire process, and the speed with which the process is delivered.” As a result, “the whole value chain is being digitised, and our work is part of that transformation,” said Bhasuru.

One of the projects the Varrlyn consultant has been working on involves the Interest Rate Risk in Banking Book (IRRBB) – a regulatory requirement in the financial services market, which focuses on calculating risk, and ensuring banks have buffers in place to survive downturns. If interest rates go up or down, especially in the current volatile environment, banks must know how much value is at stake for them.

Bhasuru went on, “You have to calculate for that – but in order to do it effectively, you need to keep the entire balance sheet centrally. One of the tasks in my project is therefore to integrate various sources into a content platform; from the corporate bank division to foreign business units as far as Australia.”

“Every group does its own activities, but we need to bring all the data into a central database before we can measure the risk of the whole banking group. Then, using this data to calculate how much is at risk according to various interest rates, the bank can plan how much it needs to keep aside as a provision.”

The rigour required by such regulations formerly cost banks a huge amount of time and energy, but the project Bhasuru is involved in modernises the process. It utilises the cloud, meaning data can be input from multiple sources across the bank – cutting out a layer of manual input, which might previously have taken weeks.

“Powered by digital technology, this makes the process more effective, and enables the bank to update its predictions in real time.”

Learning curve

Colossal, monolithic spreadsheets are a problem which Kavdir is all too familiar with. For her, one of the most rewarding aspects of her work with Varrlyn, is the chance it gives her to change the nature of her former job.

She noted, “As former risk analyst, I am trying to create a solution for my former self! In my old job in banking, I was the one struggling with a complicated Excel sheet. Now, I am trying to build a completely new tool to solve this exact challenge! So it’s a recognisable problem.”

At the same time, Varrlyn has also presented multiple opportunities for both Kavdir and Bhasuru to prepare their own skill sets for future work. As Kavdir moves between two distinct kinds of work, she has benefitted from this supportive environment – and added that she would continue to do so.

“Personally, I still have lots to learn in this environment,” Kavdir continued. “At the start, the IT side was all new to me. In the early phase, Varrlyn was very supportive, if I had any problems with adapting, I was provided training and mentoring – which I continue to benefit from in the future.”

On top of workplace education, another of the positives within the consulting industry for new professionals looking to build skills and networks, is that their work often crosses paths with executive teams of clients. Varrlyn is no exception to this. Even non-senior consultants at the firm see their work put into practice by leading figures within organisations they partner with.

The figures Bhasuru helps configure are reported in the bank’s annual statement, for example. The CFO of the bank is a regular visitor and user of the results collected by the project. This means that through his role, Bhasuru supports – and is often in contact with – the highest decision-making functions of the bank.

Speaking on the way this enables him to grow as a professional, he added, “For me it is an opportunity to learn all the functions of a bank. Within this central function, and be a pillar within a bank, interacting across departments, interacting with business users, it has been a great chance to learn.”