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Natacha NJONGWA YEPNGA: assessing risk in banks through statistics

Dear subscribers,

Last article of our month dedicated to women statisticians! We end with Natacha NJONGWA YEPNGA.

Hello everyone I am Natacha NJONGWA YEPNGA, of Cameroonian nationality. I did most of my studies in Cameroon. After obtaining my scientific baccalaureate, I was mainly interested in mathematics and computer science. That is why I joined the Sub-Regional Institute of Statistics and Applied Economics (ISSEA).

Passionate about data, I left my country Cameroon to pursue my studies in France in 2017 at the National School of Statistics and Information Analysis (ENSAI). In 2019, I graduated as a data scientist engineer, and in the same year, I was recruited as a quantitative analyst. Currently, I am still in this position.

I have mainly worked for banks. I started my career at Société Générale in the risk department. I am currently working for HSBOne of the activities of retail banking is to collect customers’ deposits, grant loans and manage customers’ means of payment (bank cards for example). The customers are individuals but also companies, local authorities, governments etc.

A Statistician is a person whose main task is to collect, process and analyse data in a company to help make decisions. For example, during the coronavirus pandemic, an effective vaccine against covid-19 had to be found, one of the tasks of statisticians is to collect, process and analyse health data to judge the effectiveness of a vaccine. Statisticians answer questions such as: is the new vaccine really effective against covid? or are people who take the new vaccine statistically better protected than those who do not? Statisticians in this context help to make health decisions through statistical analysis.

In the risk department of banks, my role is to develop statistical models (decision rules) that allow the bank to manage its credit risk (the risk that a customer will not repay their loan when due). As I said earlier, one of the activities of the bank is to collect and redistribute money in the form of credit. When the bank grants a loan, it has to make sure that the client has a good capacity to repay. The statistical models I develop help the bank in its credit granting process.

When you are in high school, maths may seem abstract but maths is everyday life. When you want to manage your budget, for example, you do calculations and that is mathematics. The new French Minister of Education, Pap Ndiaye, has made mathematics compulsory – it’s really the basis of everything. For example, when I develop my models that are used in an important decision, which is the granting of credit, I use a lot of mathematics. It’s concrete!

Data is really the future: there was an article that called the job of data scientist the sexiest job of the 21th century. One of the reasons for this, is that all industries need them. Society is becoming more and more digital, machine Learning tools are used in most of today’s innovations such as autonomous cars, translators, image recognition techniques, facial recognition on phones, recommendation systems on the social networks you use. Today, data is really strategic for companies and it is essential to understand data in order to be able to scale your business. For example, I imagine the bank of tomorrow will be completely online. There will be fewer and fewer branches and we will have artificial intelligence systems that will help customers in their actions and the data scientist is indispensable in this digital transformation.

Beside working, I am very present on social networks where I share my knowledge on data. I have at least 2 publications per week on Linkedin. . I also publish videos on my

Youtube channel LeCoinStat. I try to popularize my job and to show the realities, the possibilities of evolution through interviews with professionals. I am also a mentor on the openclassroom platform where I coach people who want to become data analysts or data scientists.

I don’t have any particular challenge being a data scientist as a woman. Throughout my career, there were always women. At ISSEA, for example, there were 8 women out of 24 students, and for the record, the 8 women were always among the best in the class. I don’t have the proportion in my head but there were many more women at ENSAI than at ISSEA. So women can be interested in statistics. Today, we have more opportunities than our mothers did 40 years ago, but of course there is still a lot to do. I must admit that the impostor syndrome can be present in women. That’s why I think one of the challenges of our generation is to take our place at the table as Sheryl Sandberg says. We need to have more confidence (because yes we are capable) and more ambition.

I chose statistics because I really liked mathematics and programming. And the choice of finance is mainly linked to my first internship at Afriland First Bank (the first Cameroonian bank), I really liked this internship especially I understood the interest of data scientists in the bank.

I really like to discover new things, do thrilling activities, amusement parks, tree climbing. The craziest activity I’ve done recently was a parachute jump at 4000 m of altitude which was quite impressive, it’s scary but afterwards you enjoy the beautiful landscape. I also like travelling and when I have time I also read. The book I read all the time, for example, is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and my favourite part of the book is when the fox says goodbye to the Little Prince: “Goodbye, said the fox. Here is my secret. It is very simple: you can only see well with your heart. What is essential is invisible to the eyes."

To find a balance between my professional and private life, I make an effort not to work at weekends or very late at night. But then I do a lot of activities outside of work between mentoring and my social networking activities. So the line is quite blurred: my professional life is simply part of my personal life.

“You should always aim for the moon, because even if you fail, you will land on the stars”. Oscar WILDE

It’s ok to hesitate sometimes, but you must not remain hesitant, you must take action.

It is the action that will make you understand what you really like or what you do not like. When we remain in hesitation, we will never know what we would like to do. You have to have the courage to take the plunge and in the worst case scenario, you’ll be sure that you didn’t really want what you were looking for. This is something that I, personally, understand. I have a deep conviction that instead of spending time hesitating, you have to take the plunge and very quickly you will know if such and such studies really correspond to what you were looking for.

So, young ladies, don’t hesitate. Data science is the future and the present. Don’t hesitate to go for it if you are interested in mathematics!

Edited by Soumya D. et Mazzarine D.

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