“Big data must be transformed into smart and actionable data for it to be relevant to the user, and for the user to be able to form clear conclusions and take appropriate actions,” says Professor Duan Jin-Chuan, Cycle & Carriage Professor of Finance at the National University of Singapore (NUS) School of Business.
The former Director of the Risk Management Institute (RMI) is the man behind the revolutionary Credit Research Initiative (CRI) – a groundbreaking, non-profit initiative that has influenced work in the credit risk field, and attracted collaborations with several financial institutions.
Unlike the previous system where details of how ratings derived were not revealed and agencies could be paid by the issuers to rate their products, Prof Duan’s “public good” approach to credit rating takes a Wikipedia-style inclusive mind-set to the development of a cutting-edge credit rating system which always stays current and is completely transparent to the user. Launched in 2009, the system went live within a year and has since been adopted by policy makers including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), several large financial institutions and a P2B (Peer to Business) platform in Singapore and around the world.
“After years of rigorous research, we built a robust and unique credit risk research and service infrastructure that many financial institutions, policy makers and academic researchers are using today. And we are constantly working to improve the system, add useful functionalities and components, and we are very focused on enhancing applications either for day-to-day operational needs of financial institutions or scientific research of academics,” Prof Duan elaborates.
Describing himself as a caring yet tough teacher, Prof Duan is proud of the fact that the CRI is also an avenue for students in business and other fields to receive an alternative type of education.
“The 12 to 15 students who come through CRI as interns every year leave with concrete skills and a better market value. It is crucial to expose our students to real work situations that cannot be replicated in the classroom,” says Prof Duan.
Hailing from Taiwan, Prof Duan trained in zoology before deciding his passion was in finance. He made a switch and took an MBA and a PhD in Finance in the United States. He has since pursued an academic career in finance, travelling from the US to Canada to Hong Kong, a city he strategically chose to work in at the time, so he could witness the handover of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China.
A faculty member of NUS since 2007, Prof Duan has observed that, for the students here like elsewhere, there seems to be a disconnect between studying in the University, and working in the real world.
“Students must be careful to strike a balance between work and play. If you think university is about having a good time, you are wrong. You need to put in the hard work, and take initiative in sourcing internships that will benefit your education and your career eventually,” reminds Prof Duan.