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It is fun to turn the culture around – bringing cutting-edge technologies to the business.

Anastasia Varava, Data Scientist
Anastasia Varava, Data Scientist

Anastasia Varava first came to Sweden from Ukraine in 2014 to study at KTH. But when she graduated with a Ph.D. in computer science 5 years later, she wasn't quite ready to leave the academic sphere. So, she stayed on and worked as an AI researcher at KTH for two more years before landing a role at SEB. Here, she first worked as a Data Scientist before recently transitioning into the role of Research Lead at SEBx - an innovation studio within the SEB Group that explores new technologies and business models.

“Research has always been my comfort zone. So, when the opportunity came to take on the role of Research Lead, it felt like a natural progression. Even though I was able to work with research in my previous role, I mostly did it on my own initiative and alongside other tasks. Today, I can work with these topics full time and with more resources thanks to SEBx, where we are able to challenge old ways of thinking.”

Since she started, Anastasia has been a critical component in bridging the gap between business and academia. What do we mean by that? Well, Anastasia explains:

“My job is to interact with the research community and look into any new technology trends that could have an impact on our business. This includes collaborating with academia and tech companies, but also internally within the bank. We work with proof of concept to accelerate innovation and see what could be adopted into the organisation. For example, the biggest focus right now is of course AI, but we're also looking into things such as quantum computing. The goal is to prepare our business for these technological changes by building knowledge, expertise, and understanding.”

Being in between business and high-end technology puts SEB in a unique position, which according to Anastasia, makes the possibility to drive change a thrilling thought.

“I really love my job because I get to work alongside intelligent people and deal with state-of-the-art topics while creating value. Even though we're at an early stage, it's exciting to look ahead and see how new ideas can be applied to our business, but also how they can potentially affect society within just five to ten years. Here, my academic background is of great help as I already have a network within the research community, but also because I'm able to understand these topics on a complex level. I'm happy to be part of pushing these efforts forward at SEB.”

Driving these changes in the bank is something that needs to be done collaboratively, not least within the team at SEBx, Anastasia explains.

“We're currently a team of 12, where essentially everyone talks to everyone. We all come from different backgrounds - some are business experts, others are software developers and we also have those like myself with more of a research background. Having this diversity within the team is something I appreciate as we can come with different perspectives when working on projects together. Everyone is super helpful.”

Having an open environment for trying new things is something that Anastasia appreciates about working within the bank, where she feels she can express new ideas freely. However, according to her, many people think that banks are stuck in old traditions and are afraid of change - but SEB is nothing like that, Anastasia explains. We always think about how to develop products and services further to fit the changing needs of our customers and the market. Having people like Anastasia with us is therefore crucial for the development of the bank.