With an industry skills gap upon us, an estimated 85% of Fortune 500 organisations are still looking for talent today. SAS remains committed to helping university students with SAS® skills gain work placement with SAS customers today – as they’ve done for over a decade.

Westpac is Australia’s first bank and oldest company. It is one of four major banking organisations in Australia and one of the largest banks in New Zealand. Working with SAS to find graduates to fill this gap is an essential facet of their approach. Over several years Westpac has repeatedly used the SAS Workforce Connection Program to identify talented STEM students who will be a good fit for the bank.

Looking to speed up a traditionally seasonal and time-consuming process, SAS partnered with ReadyGrad to launch a new digital matching service – connecting more students with employers on sas.ribit.net. Using Ribit’s online matching, Westpac can significantly accelerate the speed at which they can find and offer graduate positions.

Developing new approaches to tackle financial crime

For Jonson Zhang, Senior Manager of Transaction Monitoring and Customer Risk at Westpac, one of the most revealing things about onboarding graduates to his team has been the two-way learning process.

"It's been an enlightening experience,” Zhang said. “Students bring new ideas to Westpac. So not only do we teach the students, but often they end up teaching us. Our graduates bring the latest analytics knowledge from academia and their use of SAS, adding value to Westpac and ensuring we continue to lead in our approach to combating financial crime."

As part of the extended learning experience in Westpac’s financial crimes detection area, Zhang’s team tasked the graduates with developing models and new approaches to combating money laundering.

Leanne D’Sylva, a recent graduate who has joined Westpac, has gained immediate benefits from this real-world experience. “Working with SAS and Westpac has greatly aided my professional and personal growth,” she said. “I’ve been working on enhancing models for Westpac ATMs data. The SAS programming language and software is intuitive, making the technical part of the investigation hassle-free.”

One of the biggest wins in accessing the country's brightest STEM graduates has been the inherent curiosity and creativity they've brought to the business.

"Having graduates who bring a passion for data and analytics to my team has allowed us to go further in monitoring and detection – meaning we mentor and oversee the students,” said Zhang. “Still, we allow them the space and time to experiment. That means they can explore the data and develop new ideas and approaches while adding operational bandwidth to our existing team."

Financial crimes such as money laundering are problems that have vexed society for generations, as criminals use the proceeds of illegal activity to evade taxation and infringe on human rights worldwide. Combating financial crime is critical for banks, and data and analytics are pivotal in mitigation.

A rewarding experience for everyone involved

This purpose has lent greater meaning to work for Isaac Lim, another product of the Westpac program. “Over my time working as a SAS intern in Westpac, I was able to see the role SAS played in counteracting financial crimes like money laundering and terrorism financing,” Lim said.

“I was exposed to using SAS to handle large quantities of transaction data and modelling the results.”

Westpac students
From left to right: Isaac, Leanne and Jonson.

Westpac's program to attract graduates has involved students working on various analytical projects that have benefited the bank's business.

A few initiatives have included developing unsupervised models that enhance detection; using supervised methods to predict more accurately, which saves organisational resources; and using text mining algorithms to reduce operational effort.

The ongoing success of Westpac's program and how graduates’ curiosity has been married to accurate results. This means that an expansion of the internship program is in the cards. In addition to Zhang's financial crime analytics team, the bank is looking at new opportunities for graduates in fraud analytics and their financial crime intelligence unit.

Lim offers guidance for new graduates: “For people considering the program, I would suggest that they be curious, have the willingness to learn, and possess a passion for applying technical knowledge to the modern workplace.”

Interested in finding out how your organisation can apply the creativity of early career graduates? Find out how you can attract the brightest students!


About Author

Nicholas Quirke

Nicholas Quirke is a Principal Communications Specialist for SAS who is passionate about sharing stories about the power of technology to do good for our customers, partners and society.

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