Tauber alumnus Sajal Agarwal (MSE-IOE '02) has made his career seeking perfection in financial analytics. But while dealing daily with billions of data points, he never forgets the "real customer" on the other side of every transaction.
Q. Describe your current role.
A. I am the Head of Banking, Risk Management at Social Finance. I am responsible for managing credit and operational risk policies and controls for SoFi’s suite of banking and lending products, including new products under development.
Q: In what ways did your Tauber experience shape the professional that you are now?
A: Until about 10 years ago, good risk managers were primarily concerned with making good loans. Today, good intent is no longer enough, ‘great execution’ is now an essential part of the job. I have greatly benefitted from the Tauber experience by instituting good process discipline, building resilient process architecture and embedding preventative and detectable controls to ensure perfect execution. About half of my team are industrial engineers with six-sigma background.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge?
A: In an increasing digital world where customers are often virtual and represent a data point within a data warehouse of billions other data points, overlaid with sophisticated algorithms (that are looking for correlations/causations), it is too easy to lose an emotional connection with the “real customer" on the other side. Helping customers succeed financially is a win-win for both customers & risk managers. Working on managing this blind-spot has been a work in progress.
Q. What professional accomplishment are you the most proud of?
A: Banks are old institutions with large reservoirs of data. Over the last 15 years of my career in financial services, I have helped push the envelope of analytical insights that has allowed us serve more customers in good times and bad, while weathering the last great recession. Change is never easy. Convincing our partners, our regulators & our customers who have a trust deficit with the banking industry has been and remains an essentially part of this process to institute change. This journey is not over yet. A lot more needs to be done to ensure all Americans have access to credit.
Q: What advice would you give to current or future Tauber students?
A: At my last job interview, I told my interviewers, “Don’t hire me for what I know works, hire me for what I know doesn’t work. I know more about the latter than the former anyway." This landed me the job I have today. My advice: be intellectually curious and play the long game. I have worked across 3 different industries since the start of my career – operations, manufacturing & financial services. Each experience has been unique and helped me get to where I am today.