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“We help make the future more predictable and manageable”

Dzhangir Dzhangirov, Senior Vice-President at PAO Sberbank and Lecturer in Risk Management II master’s course at ICEF, sheds light on how students build careers in risk management, how economics can be friends with technology, and how integrated approach benefits the teaching process.

“We help make the future more predictable and manageable”

- What led you to become a lecturer and contribute to creating a new generation of economists?

I started lecturing more than 15 years ago. The idea of creating a new generation of economists was not even in its infancy at the time. What led me was my desire to make some of the economic issues clear to myself and to wider audiences. The understanding that by teaching Banking at a university it is possible to help students identify their professional paths came later when I became a full-fledged lecturer.

- How do you manage to juggle lecturing and your high responsibilities at Sberbank so successfully?

I can’t say I have been lecturing a lot in recent years. I normally share the course with my co-lecturers, being responsible for 2 or 3 topics in a module. And I must say course sharing has borne fruit, because the Banking and Risk Management issues are now delivered to students from the perspectives of several different experts, which in itself is a benefit and a one-off experience.

- Why Risk Management? And can you describe the main tasks of risk officers at Sberbank?

The core task before any risk manager is to be able to identify future scenarios and to predict which of them are likely to be most negative and whether losses can be minimized. This involves a variety of practical things – metrics modeling, IT systems architecting, constraints implementation, to name a few. Getting them all work as one at the interface of Mathematics, Economics and IT can be a very exciting job. Still, the most appealing thing about Risk Management is that its gives tools to reduce uncertainty and to make the future more predictable and manageable.

Building a risk management system is kind of an investment. Particularly, the IT systems can be very costly. And it requires constant reviewing, which means your personnel should always stay relevant with the state of things. It’s essential that risk consultants are able to keep themselves abreast of the current levers as they emerge on the financial markets, and each newly emerged development would have to be adjusted to the setting a company operates in. Much of what is being practiced at Sberbank is no longer a practice with large banks operating globally. And there can never be two identical risk management systems, because they will inevitably have their own degree of automation, functional distribution, and model sets.

- What do you think sets Risk Management at ICEF apart from its counterparts?

The course Risk Management II is highly hands-on and builds largely on case studies, both previous and currently dealt with at Sberbank. The knowledge we are giving students is absolutely up-to-date and originates from our first-hand experience and expert opinions.

- How would you assess the level of students’ knowledge?

At ICEF, there’s a huge difference between first-year and second-year MSc students. While with the first-year ones it’s easy to tell who’s an Economics major and who’s an Engineering, the second-year students are far more equal in this sense. The average level of their knowledge tends to be very high, as is the interest students display in the subject. Otherwise I would’ve given up teaching long before my 10th year at ICEF.

Actually, the course benefits not only its participants but the bank as well, because it allows fresh graduates to make immediate contribution when they enter the workplace.

- So, what sort of processes are officers at your Risk Department responsible for?

Many different processes. Even though the word for us is one – risk managers – we have different financial backgrounds and work-related duties. Some of us are responsible for modelling, some for IТ architectures, risk control hierarchy and the red tape it entails. Some review credit applications and spend most of their working time dealing with managerial tasks. This is a large, fine-tuned framework, and its leaders need to have a really good communication system in place for it to continue to work fine.

- Does your bank offer traineeship places or jobs to ICEF graduates?

Many of our team are ICEF master’s and bachelor’s degree holders. Some of them got onboard after successful completion of their traineeship programs, and some by winning the advertised positions. That said, there is one screening procedure at Sberbank for job candidates and the traineeship candidates. ICEF is a source that appears to meet our staffing needs best, because its graduates score consistently high in our employment tests and interviews.

- What would be the jobs fresh graduates land at Sberbank or you want to be filled by fresh graduates? And are there any areas of knowledge students can be advised to focus more on in order to get onboard with your Risk Department?

Data science requires the knowledge of mathematics, programming, and data management; product or process development – the knowledge of specific subject areas; credit analysis – of corporate finance, cash flow modeling and dedicated applications. Important is also the candidate’s potential for capacity building and that they are fast learners. Given the rate at which risk management evolves, it’s essential for us to know that the candidate will be able to adapt to new segments fast.

- How dependent is risk management on technology?

Highly dependent. Risk management often deals with large bulk of data that needs to be processed and analyzed in a very fast mode. Our system uses more than 50 IТ products with diverse functions. With them, complex calculations and credit decisions are a matter of seconds, constraints are monitored online, and so on. Finance is just one sector out of many which have been tapped by technological achievements. In our digitalized economy, this process is inevitable.

- What are the current trends in the professional domain of a risk manager?

Risk management is a part of all large banks globally, expanding itself into segments other than finance and banking – intellectual property, for instance. I’d say that the Russian markets look highly promising and interesting in this respect as they offer a wide scope for knowledge application and, hence, more career opportunities.

Sonya Spielberg, specially for HSE