Witad Awards 2020: Winners’ Circle—Elaine Wong, Moody’s Analytics

Credit Assessments: The Need for Speed and Efficiency

Moody's

Moody’s Analytics, won the market and credit risk professional of the year category in this year’s Women in Technology and Data Awards. Victor Anderson speaks to her about the problems Moody’s is currently solving for its clients—especially around the need to manage credit assessments faster and more efficiently—the role she played in the development of the firm’s CreditLens platform, and the support she has received during her 25-year career in the capital markets.  

  • How long have you been in the industry and at Moody’s Analytics?

Elaine Wong, managing director–head of credit assessment and origination, Moody’s Analytics: I’ve been at Moody’s for 13.5 years—this is the longest job I’ve ever had! I was in banking for a while before I joined Moody’s, so at least 25 years in total in the industry.

  • What do you do at Moody’s in terms of your “day” job?

Wong: I run our credit assessment unit, with architecture, engineering, product, services and operations teams reporting to me. I spend a lot of time thinking about what we need to do next—next quarter, next year and beyond that. Lately there have been more day-to-day activities; right now [in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak] it is about crisis management and helping our customers to focus on the important tasks.

  •  Is CreditLens your baby and was the development of the platform your brainchild? 

Wong: In terms of the functionality, it has been around for a while. With CreditLens, I said that our objective was to do it better. I’m responsible for guiding my fantastic teams who built it from the ground up, but I never call it my baby. If it were, I would never criticize it, and I never stop asking for more improvement! As I said, I was a banker before joining Moody’s Analytics and so I understood what needed to be done. I wanted CreditLens to be a platform and not a band aid piece of software. That initially was a challenge for my architecture team.

  • What are your clients’ most acute needs right now? What are you hearing from them in terms of their pain points around credit assessments?

Wong: I think that depends on who you ask—people have different objectives. Some people working with credit assessments will say they just need more people. But it you look at it from a bank’s perspective, they just want to be faster [in terms of performing credit assessments]. When we look at doing something really fast, you have to look beyond just hiring 10 more people. That can’t be the way.

Lending is fundamental [to our industry] and every crisis we experience becomes a credit and liquidity one when we are not efficient and effective. What we need to do is ensure that the platforms have the fundamentals so that we understand the basics faster and can make decisions faster.

  • During the course of your 25-odd years in the industry, did you benefit by way of a mentor or sponsor who helped shape and advance your career?

Wong: There have been a number of people who have helped me, although a single person doesn’t stand out. Also, as your career grows, your needs change. I have been lucky in that at various times during my career, I have worked with people who have given me honest feedback and helped me to think about how to navigate [various situations]. There have been a couple of those people within Moody’s Analytics, but there were also some in my banking career.

  •  What was the best piece of feedback you received?

Wong: Someone once advised me to not think small. I’m from the Orient, so I tend to be a bit conservative, but people have always told me that I have great ideas and that I shouldn’t be afraid to speak out. I received that advice early in my banking career, but that is also particularly encouraged at Moody’s Analytics.

  •  Is there anyone at Moody’s Analytics who has been especially supportive of you during your career?

Wong: Yes, there are two: Steve Tulenko, who is the president of the company, and Keith Berry, who heads the Moody’s Analytics Accelerator. They taught me that it’s not just about being the smartest person in the room, but how to influence your peers and stakeholders. They have also helped me to think positively. That’s really important.

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