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SAS® sponsorship helps to create a new generation of highly employable analytics experts

The SAS® Academic Programme and SAS® Education are helping train and develop a new breed of SAS expert – making candidates more employable, helping universities offer more, and enabling industry to better meet its demand for people with specialised business skills

Before Iain Brown had completed his Master's degree at the London School of Economics (LSE), he was already looking to the next stage in his career. "I'd decided to go straight into work in banking - I was interested in credit risk through my operational research background – when I came across the Basel risk project at the University of Southampton". In 2007, an email had arrived in Brown's department describing this PhD opportunity at Southampton's School of Management, including the fact that SAS was providing hands-on support and sponsorship. "I thought this would be a good way to pursue my interest in credit risk modelling: a way to get into banking while using the skills I'd developed at LSE. I applied, was interviewed and offered the position." Fast-forward a little over three years and Brown is working as a Risk Analyst at Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) in London. His SAS studentship, which included funding, SAS training courses and practical support from the SAS® Academic Programme, played a key role in developing his skills and, in his own words, enabling him to "become highly employable."

Brown continues: "Employability was the big issue. I felt my undergraduate degree in business wasn't enough. I had successfully completed my Master's but I wanted to go even further in developing my knowledge, to help me to progress even faster when I entered the job market. I wanted skills that would mark me out from other people, and SAS was a big part of that. I knew I'd learn SAS, be working in an area I wanted to pursue a career in, and get a PhD at the end. So I'm very comfortable saying that SAS has made me more employable: it clearly distinguishes you from other people in the job market."

Credit risk modelling: from academia to employment

The Southampton project was funded by the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), with SAS providing additional financial support. Brown began the three-and-a-half-year studentship in 2007 and successfully completed his thesis in 2011, just three days before starting work at Lloyds. The main aim of the research project was to analyse Basel risk modelling: "Using every SAS tool at our disposal," he says, to analyse data and build the best models for Probability of Default (PD), Loss Given Default (LGD) and Exposure at Default (EAD). "There was growing interest in this area, but at the time there was limited empirical research, particularly in the areas of LGD and EAD modelling. We used data sets provided by the banks themselves, thanks to the University's excellent contacts in the sector. There was a lot of interest from banks as they recognised the importance of our research." Brown attended three SAS Education courses, which he describes as "Invaluable", adding: "The support from the SAS Academic Programme was fantastic throughout, with SAS staff always available with advice, information and documentation. That was so valuable to me. I even ended up teaching SAS to Master's students in my second and third years, again with brilliant support from the Academic Programme."

He adds, "I think our research certainly added to the wealth of knowledge available to practitioners and other SAS users in this area. In my view, SAS empowers people in both academia and industry with the ability to put ideas into practice. Not many software packages enable you to do that: for instance, the decision-tree analyses, neural networks and gradient boosting analysis gave us different perspectives we wouldn't have achieved from other software. You can do what you need to do in SAS without looking elsewhere". In 2011, Brown won a SAS Student Ambassador competition that led to him presenting a paper at the SAS Global Forum in Las Vegas. "That was an amazing experience, the culmination of all the work I'd done in SAS. I felt very privileged to receive this prestigious award and to present my work to a global audience."

Straight into employment

Towards the end of his studentship, Brown met a director from Lloyds who was visiting the University and who alerted him to opportunities in Lloyds' Decision Sciences department. Brown applied and was subsequently hired. "SAS was key in my getting the job. When I went for the interview, I had to complete a multiple question test about applying SAS in banking. My SAS knowledge was a tremendous plus, and helped me to secure the position at Lloyds." His role involves developing, validating and calibrating Basel risk models – a direct extension of his research. "The opportunity is to build the best models possible for Lloyds," he says. "All this is done in SAS – it's the department's main analytical platform."

He adds, "So many top companies are using SAS. If you want a good career, to work in a leading company or multinational business, you'll encounter SAS at some point and should have experience of it. The earlier you can learn SAS in your career, the better equipped you'll be. And anyone can achieve what I've done: it's perfectly possible for someone to follow the process I've been through. The support is there from SAS." Looking ahead, Brown wants to progress his career as quickly as possible: "It's still a learning curve for me. I'm now applying my analytical skills, and aiming to progress through the ranks as quickly as I can, as the opportunity arises, to Senior Analyst and into management.

"So many people in industry have said to me they always want candidates with good SAS skills, and there simply aren't enough. Demand exceeds supply, especially in the UK, so the more universities that teach SAS, the better it will be for the industry – and the more employable their students will be when they graduate."

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University of Southampton

Business Issue:
Gain SAS® analytical skills, knowledge and experience to become more employable and then enable faster career progression in the banking sector.
Solution:
A SAS® Studentship throughout a three-and-a-half-year funded PhD research project, including financial support, hands-on practical assistance via the SAS Academic Programme, training and documentation from SAS Education, attendance at SAS Global Forum and winning a SAS Student Ambassadorship.
Benefits:
Iain Brown gained the skills required to differentiate himself from other candidates in the job market, enabling him to join Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) in the area he wanted (credit risk) just three days after completing his PhD thesis; he is now looking to move up the career ladder as rapidly as possible.

I'm very comfortable saying that SAS made me more employable: it clearly distinguishes you from other people in the job market.

Iain Brown

Basel Risk Analyst, Lloyds Banking Group - former PhD student at University of Southampton

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