Witad Awards 2020: Operational risk management professional of the year—Sihem Mouelhi, Elucidate

Women in Data and Technology

Sihem Mouelhi, COO of Elucidate, a Berlin-based startup founded in 2018 that describes itself as a digital financial crime risk rating agency, wins the operational risk management professional of the year category in this year’s Women in Technology and Data Awards. Startups are organizationally different from corporates, and while the threat of existential crisis is often not far away, they also have their benefits, chief among which is the ability for employees to set the tone of the business on multiple levels from the outset. “The benefit of working in a startup is that you get a chance to set the culture of diversity [of the organization] right from the start as opposed to trying to change the culture within an already-established firm,” Mouelhi explains. “That means you are more able to do things right and incorporate them into the company’s DNA. You can therefore establish a culture where people can express themselves freely, where you can start hiring a diverse workforce from the start, and where conversations about diversity can be had openly. That makes a big difference.”

Given that Elucidate is a startup, it is unsurprising that Mouelhi’s proudest achievement at the firm is the role she played in developing its minimum viable product, allowing it to go to market with a product as soon as possible. “When I joined, we were still building the product—the Elucidate FinCrime Index (EFI)—more or less from scratch,” she explains. “We’ve gone from an idea to a piece of software to actually selling a product within a year.”

Now, she says, her focus is on scaling and building a platform such that it becomes an industry standard.       

When it comes to the individuals who played instrumental, influencing roles in her career, Mouelhi lists three—all men, she is quick to point out—two of whom she met during her consulting days, while the other she worked alongside at one of the industry’s largest investment banks. “I’ve had a few [mentors]. Shane Riedel, our CEO, has been very influential, as I started my career working on financial crime with him at Citigroup,” she says. “Antony Smyth, a partner at EY who I worked with in the past, taught me a lot about working effectively with clients, while Markus Bender, who I worked with at Capco, was someone I learned a lot from on structured problem solving.”

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