Contributing to society with data

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"The enormous amount of data that the bank has is only usable when you structure the data ánd consider all the variables." Michel van Dijck works as a Data Engineer at Rabobank and ensures, among other things, that the models that combat financial crime are always provided with the right data.

"Together with data scientists, we engage in models that make predictions based on customer behavior. In short, the data scientists come up with the models and the data engineers in the Data Fundaments & Model Operations team make sure they are fed with well-structured data. We also ensure that the models in production operate stably. ”

"Our models help other departments within the bank do their jobs. I work primarily on models that try to detect financial crime, such as the Source of Funds model. The model looks at the money coming in over a period of time. How much growth is there, how fast was it? There are really a lot of variables that we factor in. If something catches our eye, someone suddenly transferring large sums of money, we automatically forward that to a team of analysts who further investigate what exactly is going on."

Man is discussing with female colleague behind a computer

Making raw data usable for models

"At the bank, you have access to a lot of raw data from different sources: from customers, accounts, organizations, industries, and so on. As a data engineer, you structure that data with the prerequisites of the data scientists. We work closely together, because you have to coordinate this well. We combine the data into a useful set for the model."

"In addition, we make sure the models keep running well in practice. You set up the production environment and test extensively to make sure everything is working properly. Is the model functioning as expected, is all the data available, is the output correct? We do this together with the platform teams, they maintain the servers on which the model runs. Once a model is in production, we continuously monitor how it's doing and fix problems as they arise."

"Right now I am working on migrating our models to Azure, Microsoft's cloud environment. This is quite a challenge for our department. Because we want to make sure everything keeps working well, we now run our systems in parallel on our own systems as well as in the cloud."

Gaining and sharing knowledge

"I like to work on long-term projects. Then I can get all caught up in it. That's why I love working at a bank. I have the space to focus on one subject so that I can grow and learn in it. And what remains really cool is that huge amount of data you can work with. A gold mine! You can develop so many services with it. We create models that personalize the Rabo App or help categorize expenses."

"What you learn, you also share with each other. Once a month, the entire Area Data Science meets to share knowledge. Anyone who wants to share something or have a discussion on a particular topic can do so. You can talk about your own project, or discuss a new package or library. It is completely free to fill in. I gave a session myself on new customer data-based datasets, what's in there and how to use it within different projects."

Man in the middle of the Rabobank Headquarters office

Work that matters

“You don’t notice at all that you work at a bank. Today’s banks are actually very large IT companies with a banking license in which data plays an increasingly important role. I have yet to encounter the stereotypical banker in jacket-tie in my department. When I just started here, I did always put on a dress shirt, or something quite formal,” Michel laughs now. “Until I saw my manager walking around in Air Max and a T-shirt. The atmosphere is very relaxed and everyone is open to questions from each other.”

“All in all, I feel like I’m really making an impact here. Not only for the bank, but also for society. I worked on use cases focused on marketing in a previous job as a data engineer, but that commercial angle did not suit me as well. The work I do now plays out in the community. I think it is important to contribute to countering financial crime, such as money laundering. I feel I can really make a difference to society and that gives me great satisfaction.”