In conversation with Saurabh Mathur, Project Specialist Risk & Information Management, at American express. Before working at American express, he worked as a Field Engineer at KEC International Limited. We would like to understand the role and responsibilities of a Project Specialist in Risk & Information Management from him.
I am a part of the Operational Risk Management division (primarily called Operational Excellence) supporting AMEX's Commercial Services business. This division's role is to act as the first line of defense and protect our business from the risk of loss to earnings or capital from inadequate or failed processes, people or information systems, impacts from external environments such as lawsuits fines, etc. My role is to provide support to different programs run in this division as well as other business partners by conceptualizing and building technology solutions such as automated solutions, MS Excel-based spreadsheets, etc. based on a problem at hand to solve. Being part of a global team, I have to support requirements coming out of different international markets, hence letting me work across different time zones. By and large, the nature of work is more qualitative (non-numerical) than quantitative (numerical) where we maintain risk to tolerable limits via qualitative measures such as risk monitoring and oversight, testing and control mechanisms, scenario analysis, ORE's, etc.
My day usually starts at 7 AM where I have a cup of tea and check my emails from last night. I check for important emails and meetings that are lined up for the day. Based on that, after completing my morning chores I start my work day usually from 11:30 AM onward. Since I'm supporting different time zones, I work with a staggered schedule like if I have meetings with our UK counterparts I block some between 1 PM-4 PM after that I re-login a 7 PM to support the US market which invariably ends late at night. In between that, I complete the work assigned to me. So no permanent work schedule but it depends upon items that are lined up for the day/week.
Well, one thing I know for sure is that there is no strict career path to operational risk management. But the common factor I have seen with my colleagues is that they were involved in dealing with some of the other critical issues the business was facing and helped to remediate them. It didn't matter if they were part of Sales, Operations, or Marketing but at some point, they involved themselves to solve a critical problem. I also had a similar experience which further intrigued me to take up risk management as a career and I'm here ever since. My journey started as an Electrical Engineer working for a major power sector giant and after that, I got an offer from American express to work in their operations division. I spent some time there and by virtue of that critical experience, I decided to move into Risk Management. For the past three years I have executed different programs which come under the operational risk management framework, such as Business Continuity, Data Loss Prevention, PRSA (more commonly known as RCSA), etc. .
This role requires a lot of critical analysis and thinking ability, good communications skills, and innovative mindset to deliver results. Having an eye for anomalies is again a good trait to have. Being flexible to work in terms of supporting different time zones is crucial as this requirement is synonymous with every risk management role in a global financial institution that is out there.
You obtain a more diverse skillset as you deal with a variety of projects. You get the opportunity to interact with senior management regularly which enhances your visibility across for better career progression. Makes you more agile and comfortable in dealing with uncertainty, which nowadays is a prominent sought-after skill.
Long and tiring work schedule.
Though I haven't personally experienced it from an industry perspective, career stagnation has come up to be a big challenge in this line of profession. But the landscape is slowly evolving and risk management is becoming a leading choice as a career.
1. To start, get your foot in the door of a major global financial institution. It doesn't matter where you start, the experience will inevitably add to your foundation for a risk management role. That's the beauty of it. It is important to understand the business first to manage its risk and the better way is to grab roles that are at the center of business like Operations, Marketing, back-end finance & accounting roles, and even customer servicing. In my experience, these roles provide a solid foundation for risk management roles further ahead.
2. After you have done that you can solidify your chances to nab a risk-based role by building your network inside the organization and up-skilling yourself through industry certifications such as FRM, CFA, etc.
You can build your network by interacting with colleagues from the risk management division, understanding their day-to-day work, letting them know what you are doing, expressing your interest in working there, etc. In big financial institutions, your interaction skills will help you secure a role and even progress in it. A combination of these two will set you apart from your competition and improve your chances of getting that role.
3. Finally, please remember to be a performer. You can do that by involving yourself in a big business problem and try to find a solution even if it requires you to put in additional efforts along with your regular responsibilities. After all, our goal is to stand out from the crowd.
I wouldn't term it as generic advice but this is something that has worked for me and many others.
“The views & opinions expressed in the article are that of the author. The blog contains the opinions of the author and doesn’t reflect the opinions of any organizations with which the author may be associated. The graphics are for illustrations purpose only we do not mean to plagiarize anybody else’s content”
“I’m a Commerce graduate from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata and have completed CA (Rank holder), CFA(USA), FRM(USA), CAIA(USA), CCRA, CIPM, AIM and CS. At present, I am a visiting faculty at St. Xavier’s College, NSE, BSE; B-Schools like iLead, BIBS along with several other institutes; am a full-time trainer for CFA, FRM and SFM – CA Final. Provide trainings at organizations like Tata Interactive Systems, Volvo-Eicher(VECV), Genpact, AIITA, EIRC-ICAI, Saregama, Quaker Chem, Century Ply, AUM Capital etc. on Finance and Advance Excel.