Proper functioning of Banks and Fiduciary Institutions is important because they are not only gatekeepers of the economy but also the most reliable indicators of the financial stability of a country.

Samarth Khurana, our next pathbreaker, Associate Solution Advisor at Deloitte USI, works as part of the Model Risk Management team, helping banks manage their risk and operate efficiently.

Samarth talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about always being intrigued by the field of economics and its applications in data driven models for policy making and risk management.

For students, science and economics have a lot in common in terms of quantitative analysis as well as a strong statistical and mathematical understanding of models, to arrive at an evidence based conclusion !

Samarth, Your background?

My name is Samarth Khurana. I was born and brought up in Panipat, Haryana. I attended St Mary’s Convent Sr. Sec School in Panipat. Sports has always been a major part of my life. I am a state-level badminton player. Badminton has not only taught me how to stay calm in high-pressure situations but has also helped me develop other skills such as teamwork and leadership. During school, I was entrusted with several leadership positions. I was appointed as the sports captain of the school for the year 2015-2016 and the Head Boy of the school for the year 2016-2017. These positions helped me develop accountability as well as work on my leadership skills. I came across economics for the first time in my 11th standard and really enjoyed studying it. Therefore, I decided to specialize in it. 

 What did you do for graduation/post-graduation?

I graduated from Dyal Singh College, Delhi University with a Bachelors (Hons.) in Economics and from Indian Institute of Foreign Trade with a Master’s in Economics (with specialization in Trade and Finance).  

What were some of the influences that made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional sand uncommon career?

The basic strategy to ace a multiple choice question is to increase the probability of getting the right answer by eliminating the options that are clearly wrong. 

Since our educational system is set up in such a way that we don’t know what to expect or what lies on the other side of all these streams, for me, choosing a stream after the 10th grade was like answering a multiple-choice question. Everyone expected me to major in science because I have always been pretty good in school, but I always knew that it wasn’t for me. Sometimes knowing what you don’t want instead of what you really want can do wonders for you. Therefore, science was always out of the question. Fortunately, my parents have always supported my decisions and given me the freedom to select my own career path. I wanted the stream to be a mix of theory and practical, so I decided to pursue commerce with math. Fortunately, economics came naturally to me, and since then I’ve always pursued my interests rather than what’s expected of me.

Financial economics and macroeconomics are a few of the subjects that always intrigued me. I have always been interested in the intersection of these two domains and how they influence each other. To explore the same, I took on several courses and internships to better understand different macroeconomic schools of thought (Austrian Economics and Modern Monetary Theory) and the banking sector (Economics of Money and Banking-Columbia University). During my masters, I got a chance to explore these areas further through several courses, such as Derivatives and Risk Management, Banking & Financial Intermediation, and Financial Economics. All these experiences helped me develop an interest in banking and risk-related profiles and led me to choose a career in model risk management.

Tell us about your career path

For me, it has always been about exploring and learning new things. Throughout my undergrad and postgrad, I did several internships to explore different interests of mine.

During my under-graduation, I interned with the Office of the Minister of Health, Delhi NCT (for 2 months), wherein, apart from handling the social media platforms of various verified handles, I also worked on election-related data. I was part of the core team that was responsible for opening 150+ Mohalla clinics in Delhi NCR. It helped me work on my stakeholder management, communication, and data handling skills. I also interned at Virgo ACP as a Finance and Accounting Intern for two months which helped me build my corporate experience.

During my masters, I got an opportunity to work at several esteemed organizations. Most of my internship experience during my masters revolved around data analysis or policy research work. I did the following internships during my post-graduation.

·   ResearcherInfinite-Sum Modeling Inc. (ISM)

I got a chance to work at Infinite-Sum Modeling Inc. (ISM) through my college placement cell. At ISM, I got a chance to learn the use and application of Computable General Equilibrium Models (GTAP). I co-authored an article titled Digital Transformation and International Trade” with Dr Badri Narayanan Gopalakrishnan. The article was published in the Bombay Stock Exchange Brokers’ Forum VIEWS magazine, September edition. I also wrote a research paper with Dr Badri Narayanan Gopalakrishnan, which is due to be published in December.

·   Data Science Intern – Centre for Civil Society

I was a part of the Bolo English Project at the Centre for Civil Society. As a data science intern, I was responsible for cleaning and analyzing data of over 50,000 students for school profiling and preparing weekly reports to monitor the progress of Project Bolo English. I also prepared a dynamic google sheet from scratch to automate the entire process of data analysis.

·   Research AssistantCentre for Public Policy Research

I interned at the Centre for Public Policy Research for a period of 7 months. At CPPR, I was a part of CPPR’s policy Articleship Program. CPPR’s policy Articleship is a six month (3+3) full time program intended to offer hands-on experience to candidates in policy research and strategic initiative. I worked there as an intern for the first three months and then as a Research Assistant for the remainder of my tenure at CPPR. I was a part of the Kerala Economy Book Project at CPPR. As a part of this project, my main responsibilities involved doing secondary research on several aspects of Kerala Economy.

·   Research InternMacroeconomic Analysis & Policy Studies (MAPS)

At MAPS, I got a chance to explore Modern Monetary theory and wrote an article titled “Indian Economy and Covid-19 from an MMT”. 

·   Research InternResearch and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS)

Research and Information System for Developing Countries gave me an opportunity to further work on my skills and write a research paper titled “Digital Connectivity in South Asia”. This internship helped me get a better understanding of the process involved in writing a research paper.

How did you get your first break?

I got my first break through campus placement. Deloitte was one of the first companies to visit campus and I was lucky enough to get shortlisted by the company. 

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Being from an economic background, I had never previously been exposed to coding. Therefore, to work on my coding skills, I took on several courses on R and Python from Coursera and EdX. All these courses were instrumental in building my confidence and providing me with the necessary skills. Some of the courses that I pursued are:

1.     Data analysis with Python – IBM (Coursera)

2.     Fundamentals of Visualization with Tableau – University of California, Davis (Coursera)

3.     Analysing and Visualizing Data with Power BI – IBM (Coursera) 

4.     Python Project for Data Science – IBM (Coursera)

5.     Python for Data Science and AI – IBM (Coursera)

6.     Data Visualization and Dashboards with Excel and Cognos – IBM (Coursera)

7.     Excel Basics for Data Analysis – IBM (Coursera)

8.     Statistics and R – HarvardX (edX)

9.     Python and Statistics for Financial Analysis -The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Coursera)

Where do you work now? Tell us about your current role

I currently work as an Associate Solution Advisor at Deloitte USI. I am part of the Model Risk Management team. Model risk management is an essential part of any bank’s operations as it helps banks manage their risk and operate efficiently. For instance, it helps banks build and validate models that decide if an applicant should be given a credit card, models that estimate how much capital should be held in reserve to maintain capital ratio, or models that predict how a bank’s revenue and losses will look like in a stress scenario.

What are the skills required in your role? How did you acquire them?

Being a highly quantitative field, it requires professionals with strong statistical and mathematical understanding, in addition to a good knowledge of finance. Therefore, one must try and work on his/her quantitative skills. Having working knowledge of software such as R, Python, SAS, and SQL, and some visualization tools such as PowerBI or Tableau, can come in really handy.

Model Risk Management is highly dynamic in a sense that no two problems are the same. You get to work on different models and solve different problems, which keeps things fresh and provides one with an opportunity to continuously challenge themself and keep acquiring new skills. There are several courses available on online platforms, such as Coursera and EdX, which one can look into to work on their technical skills. 

 How does your work benefit society? 

Proper functioning of banks is very important for the financial stability of the country, therefore model risk management is a very essential exercise that every bank must undertake to manage risk and make enough provisions for stressful times. Additionally, it is very dynamic as you get to deal with different and interesting problems on a daily basis.    

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

I worked as a change leader with the World Youth Council wherein I taught badminton to underprivileged kids. It was a very enriching experience and I really enjoyed interacting with all the children. Apart from that, getting a chance to be a part of the core team that facilitated the opening of 150+ mohalla clinics is also something that is very close to my heart as it provides affordable healthcare services to everyone.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

In order to find what you really enjoy, you must be willing to try out different things and challenge yourselves. For instance, if you are an economics student, you must make a conscious effort to work on your technical skills and learn at least some software languages (R or Python) as it will come very handy whether you decide to go for a corporate job or for a research-oriented profile. 

Future Plans?

I feel like there is still much more left for me to explore in this domain. Therefore, going forward I wish to learn as much as I can and further explore this domain.