Meet Sheliza Siddiqui, Credit Risk Quant at Allica Bank

So Sheliza, tell us about what you do here at Allica.

I work in the data team, as a Credit Risk Quant. This means, alongside working closely with the rest of the data team and data engineers, I use my skills to empower our risk team in making decisions for the bank.

I love it because it’s a mix of thinking creatively about how to solve problems, and then using my coding skills to make it a reality.

For example, at the moment, we’re working on our IFRS 9 accounting standard and the reporting that’s required for this. It’s a regulation designed to protect banks and customers by making sure we are calculating our expected losses correctly and proving that we have enough capital to cover these losses.

What I’m doing is gathering all the raw data together to reflect Allica’s loan portfolio and making sure the model is accurately reflecting how much risk is involved and therefore how much money is at stake.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Every day is different at Allica. But I do always find I have a great balance between focused work and meeting time.

My typical day starts at 9.15am with our daily stand-up.

Then I have a couple of hours of focused time to work on coding, before a check-in with the risk team to give them a view on what I’m doing and make sure it’s aligned with what they need.

For lunch, I always make sure I coordinate the time with my sisters who are also working from home a lot at the moment – it’s nice to all sit down and have lunch together given we aren’t in an office much right now.

My afternoons are usually then spent meeting with the data team to brainstorm if there are any problems we can solve together as a team. That and messing around with more data of course!

You only joined recently. How did you find settling in?

It was great – everyone has been so helpful and the onboarding process was so smooth even though I started remotely. The day before my first day my laptop was delivered, then on the day itself, IT called me at 10am to set me up. From the get-go, I had everything I needed to start working straight away.

All my team mates were really helpful too, making sure I had everything I needed. And that continues to this day. It’s actually really noticeable here at Allica that everyone is ready to help and we all have each other’s backs.

What does your team look like?

We’re a 50/50 split between data engineers and data analysts. The engineers do some crazy but amazing things – making sure we get the data we need and that it’s structured properly for us to use. Last year, they built what’s called a ‘unified data model’ that brings all the data together in the one place and it’s fantastic, I love what they’ve done!

It’s then the data analysts’ job to work with different business departments and stakeholders to use and analyse that data to inform, educate and inspire. In my case, I focus on our risk department.

One thing I love, though, is that you don’t get pigeon-holed at Allica. For example, I’m really interested in what the data engineers do and I have the freedom to shadow them and learn about what they’re working on.

What’s something you’re most proud of since you’ve been here?

This may sound strange, but it’s how well I’ve settled in. It honestly feels odd that it’s only been a few months. I feel like I’ve known people here a lot longer and I’ve really found my place.

In part, it’s because I can see the impact of what I’m doing. Working with the risk team I get to see the application of my quant work in terms of customers and real-life scenarios. But it’s also testament to the culture here that I have settled in so quickly – everyone has a different skillset, but the same mindset, and we’re all striving for the same thing.

Anything you’re looking forward to?

Definitely. For one, continuing our work on the IFRS 9 model, as there’s plenty more enhancements we can make in 2022.

Also, I’m really looking forward to doing more automation work for the risk team. For example, the decision-making process that the risk team follow – I’d like to make this less manual and automate some of the reporting too. It’s fascinating seeing how the risk team make decisions, so working on that and translating it into data models will be interesting.

What led you to a career in data and risk?

The most influential decision I’ve ever made was doing maths at university. I was initially unsure of what I wanted to do and was considering a career in medicine. But the more I thought about it, the more I knew I wanted to stick to maths.

The problem at the time was that I couldn’t see a clear career path with maths. I’m so glad I stuck with it, though. At university, I learned that maths isn’t a siloed subject. I was introduced to statistics and loved it. So much so that I went on to do a Masters in statistics, where I learned more about risk and statistical risk.

After uni, I worked at a fintech start-up where I got to learn about risk outputs that are collated from different banks and financial institutions. And this got me curious – where did all this data come from and how was it calculated? This set me on a path down the data analysis route. The rest is history!

How did you end up at Allica Bank?

After working at both a start-up and then a larger corporate, I realised I much preferred the dynamics of a smaller, growing company.

I was contacted by Chloe Hawker on the recruitment team at Allica and, the more I learned, the more it felt like a perfect fit. I now call Chloe my fairy godmother!

What particularly interested me about Allica was that it works with SMEs. My dad has been a small business owner since 1987. I’ve seen his struggle and also the impact that small businesses have locally. With Allica, I get to use my maths and data background to help businesses like his.

What job did you want to have when you were growing up?

Where do I start! There was army cadet, pilot, then astronaut – all the really cool, crazy jobs.

You’re given a week off and can do whatever you want. What are you doing?

I would go anywhere in the world where there is sunshine so bright that it burns! Give me 40 degrees, a beach or a swimming pool, a cold drink and I’ll be happy. There may be a little bit of sightseeing too, but it would mainly be switching off, listening to the waves and enjoying the sun.

What would you say to someone considering a role at Allica Bank?

I’d say take the leap! It’s a great place to work and the people are fantastic. Yes, there are business challenges but when you’re working with a team who all want to work together and get stuck in, then it doesn’t feel like work.

I’d also say don’t get too hung up on experience – especially if you don’t have all the skills listed in the job description. Take me, I didn’t have much experience coding in Python; I'm more familiar with R. But I was learning about Python in my spare time and wanted to learn more. This actually helped me get the role at Allica, as they valued my motivation to learn and develop more than my direct experience.

Bring out what motivates you and what your passions are, and these will shine through in the interview process.

Interested in joining Sheliza at Allica? Why not check out our careers page to see our open roles, or find out more about our tech and data teams.

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