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Barclaycard and SAS® help leading UK University deliver better-placed graduates

The University of Southampton's Centre of Operational Research, Management Sciences and Information Systems is partnering with SAS® and Barclaycard to give postgraduate students a more thorough real-life grounding in business analytics, resulting in more experienced and employable business professionals.

The University of Southampton's reputation for Operational Research, Management Science and Information Systems is unrivalled in the UK. Indeed, the University's Centre for Operational Research, Management Sciences and Information Systems (CORMSIS) is one of the largest such groups in the country, and spans the Schools of Mathematics and Management. It covers a wide spectrum of analytical techniques, from theoretical mathematical developments to problem structuring and knowledge management, and features internationally renowned expertise in risk, optimisation, finance and health.

CORMSIS also maintains strong links with industry, running over 60 MSc projects each year with external sponsors. In recent years, this has included a very strong relationship with global payments provider Barclaycard.  With one in five credit cards issued in the UK a Barclaycard, and 12 million people using it for personal credit, Barclaycard is also a long-term SAS® software user. Indeed, student placements in its Credit Risk area have provided School of Management & Mathematics graduates with a strong grounding in world-class analytics; Barclaycard placed three Southampton students for summer projects in both 2009 and 2010, later employing all six.

A 'hothouse environment'

The SAS Academic Programme works with the University to offer SAS analytics as an available course module, so graduates have an opportunity to emerge with specific 'fit-for-purpose' SAS skills. Barclaycard uses SAS in multiple areas of its business, the most obvious example in Credit Risk, where SAS is used to analyse marketplace trends. Teams use SAS to look at projected profit & loss for current products, new products, new channels, potential new countries, and new operating models. SAS-generated insight also underpins Barclaycard's ability to understand what's happening in the business right now, helping give confidence to its stakeholders, customers, financial analysts, and regulators, in particular to understand its risk exposure. This is therefore an ideal 'hothouse environment' for students hungry to develop their abilities in business analytics, hands-on management science and operational research: a fantastic opportunity to practice what they learn in a real-world environment, helping their career development and making them more employable.

Real-life outcomes

Southampton's six student projects at Barclaycard have all focused on 'forecasting the future', in areas including profitability, credit risk losses and the state of the economy. For example, says former MSc student Spyridon Douramanis, "My project was to build and compare behavioural scorecards used to predict the probability of a customer going 'bad' or 'charging off', which is when they miss a payment by 180 days." The project aimed to compare and validate data from three external credit bureaux: Experian, Equifax and Callcredit. Barclaycard has since employed Spiros as a Data Analyst for Credit Risk in Acquisitions. He adds, "This was my first exposure to SAS, and a good experience. I'm still using SAS in my job, six-hour's a day. My experience of SAS will help me in my career."

Nicholas Newbold's student project looked at how 300-plus macroeconomic indicators might affect four key credit loss variables used in forecasts. "A key indicator already used was Unemployment Rate, which was highly correlated to losses," he says. "My project aimed to improve on that with models developed for two variables, and develop new models for two other variables." His project found the first two models worked fine – an important validation of the existing approach – while his other models delivered substantially better results around Bankrupt Accounts and Repayment Plans, work that is being taken further. Nick also believes his SAS knowledge, gained via the placement and a three-day SAS course prior to that, will make him more employable: "It already has! Without SAS I wouldn't have got the job I have now. I'm using SAS every day, and it gets more interesting the more I learn." Barclaycard later employed Nick as a Data Analyst for Credit Risk at its Northampton HQ.

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University of Southampton

Business Issue:
Helping deliver consistently high standards in teaching and learning of business analytics, management science and operational research; giving some postgraduate students enhanced skills through hands-on usage of world-class analytics in a real-life environment.
A strong partnership with the SAS Academic Programme including SAS training courses and award schemes and SAS 'house' Barclaycard (Credit Risk) for student placements.
Students taking part in this programme are helped to become more employable and develop valuable skills in a real-life context; the University can bring a useful commercial angle to selected courses and offer students more.

SAS has already helped to make me more employable - without SAS I wouldn't have got the job I have now. I'm using SAS every day and it gets more interesting the more I learn

Nicholas Newbold

former MSc student - now Data Analyst for Credit Risk, Barclaycard

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