Puzzling over Financial Risk – The Work of a Credit Risk Analyst

Alec Bakker (26) fell, completely unexpectedly, for the position of credit assessor. He was attending an internal training course to become a finance specialist at Rabobank when he discovered the job of credit assessor during an internship. “Every credit application is a kind of puzzle that has to be just right. My favorite thing is to visit a company whose financing I gave the green light for. That's when you see the results.”

Alec: “Rabobank provides financing, and that is never without risk. My colleagues and I carefully consider whether certain financing is worth the risk. There are a lot of rules that apply there. We assess whether the application meets the requirements, map out what could go wrong, and provide the financing if possible.”

“As a credit assessor at Credit Approvals Retail NL, I work mainly for trade and catering and hospitality. It’s a very dynamic environment, in which you have to deal with all kinds of commercial interests. It’s not a matter of just signing off on an application and you’re done. I’m a sparring partner who works helps come up with the ultimate solution.”

“If the risk is too high, we reject the application. Then we see if there is another way for the financing to still go through. As a credit assessor, I am in frequent contact with the account manager and financing specialist who deal with the application. I enjoy working with them to see how we can make the application succeed.”

Human Touch

“The rules for providing financing are complex and applications are rarely black and white, so the human touch is important. Here’s a fictional example: a financing application from a wholesaler in protective face coverings. That wholesaler has a rock-solid story on paper and it has had several good years. Based on its figures, you would easily approve the application. But is it future-proof? Because the corona crisis is over though, demand for their main product is decreasing. That’s a big risk that you have to take carefully into account.”

“Other global trends, such as rising energy prices or the nitrogen crisis, can also affect credit ratings. That complicates my work, but also makes it interesting. I keep an eye on the news and talk about current events with my colleagues daily. We discuss borderline cases and consult each other about assessments. Sometimes we disagree, which is a good thing. That way we can make an informed decision.”

Internal Training

Alec studied Military Business Studies at the Royal Military Academy. “Not the most obvious choice of training for the position I’m in now. But I have always found finance interesting. I also enjoy investing. And I’m not the only one without a degree in finance. Actually, there is not one specific degree that is best. The most important thing is that you be analytically strong, and you will learn the rest on the job.”

“I started an internal training program at Rabobank a year ago to become a finance specialist. This takes 10 months in total. The first seven, you attend training courses and workshops in a small group to learn the trade. Typically, you work with other finance specialists to learn directly from colleagues. And you are paired with a buddy who will show you around the bank. That makes you feel instantly welcome.”

Home Sweet Credit Approvals

“The last three months of the training program I did an internship in Credit Approvals Retail NL, where I learned to assess credit applications. It was supposed to be temporary, and I was going to go on to work as a finance specialist. But it was too interesting here! Every day I deal with different questions and files, which makes it extremely instructive.”

“What I really liked is that I was treated like a full-fledged colleague. I also found the work fascinating. We have many opportunities to exchange ideas and I assess several applications a day. I spend about two to three hours on a file. That makes every day different.”

“Our department is made up of some 70 people. I work in a team of 25 people of all ages. Many of them have been doing the work for a long time and I learn a lot from them. But there are also more and more young people joining the team. A nice dynamic, I think: expertise and fresh perspectives. We are spread throughout the country, and we meet at least once a month for work and social activities like an inter-team volleyball tournament.”

Analytical Team Players

What skills are useful in this profession? “Being able to work well together is important. And as a credit assessor, you need to be an analytical thinker. I see it as a puzzle. The applicant or business has all the pieces, and the account manager and the finance specialist put it together. Then I check whether the puzzle has enough information to make a risk assessment. It’s so much more than approving or rejecting applications; we give advice on different ways of putting the puzzle together. We are not file-shufflers. On the contrary, we want to help devise the best result, both for the bank and the client.”

Room for Development

“I have gone through an enormous learning curve in recent months. I like that: I’m being challenged here. I’m supposed to set goals concerning my profession and my personal development, and Rabobank also encourages employees to set a social goal. For instance, I want to work on increasing people’s financial awareness. And as a personal goal, I would like to strengthen my conversational skills.”

“Most importantly, I enjoy my work and get energy from what I do. I have the freedom here to discover what suits me well, which is really great. My manager encourages me to explore that and to talk to colleagues from other departments. If I want to do a brief rotation in another team because it interests me, I can. Having that freedom is great.”

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