Synechron was proud to be a sponsor of FIMA Europe 2019, Europe’s Leading Financial Services Data Event, that has been helping data managers from Banks, Asset Managers and Investment Banks to solve their biggest challenges. Over the course of two days, the Synechron team met with clients old and new; attended some great panel sessions; won third place in the “Best ESG Promo Item” category (according to Chris Johnson from HSBC during his panel on ESG); hosted one of our proud partners, Quantexa, on our stand, and were involved in a fireside chat with a couple of the industry’s thought leaders in the data management space.
Additionally, Synechron’s Head of Enterprise Data, Matt Shaw, moderated a Fireside Chat with Tim Gordon, Data Scientist at Schroders and Yohan Cholabi, Data Scientist at Pictet, to discuss, “What do Data Engineers and Scientists Need from Data Strategy, Architecture and Tools to Improve Operational Efficiency and Continuously Solve High Priority Problems?” During the chat, the speakers delved deep into the opportunities AI, ML and the digitalization of FinServ has offered specifically to Chief Data Officers (CDOs) beyond regulatory, cost-saving, and risk-reduction opportunities. They discussed the specific data requirements needed to fulfill the personalization and transparency of digital customer experiences, advanced automation, decision support, and other benefits of advanced AI technologies leveraging data, namely being challenges with data quality.
Interestingly, in a poll during Matt’s panel, exactly half of the audience felt that data assets and accessibility are the key priorities for their data strategies to improve efficiency, with another 38% reporting data quality as their main priority. As a result, firms need to invest in data quality and the tools, technologies and operating models to deliver and solve their highest-priority problems. However, in another poll during the panel, 64% of the audience expressed that firms currently do not support data science and data scientists enough. Given the audience’s sentiment, it is clear the true power of data needs to be better understood by organisations and their business teams, along with a cultural shift, before any transformative project or changes can be initiated.
Throughout the rest of the event over the course of the jam-packed two days, we observed the following key themes:
- Data Governance - Data governance can be a facilitator for growth. Although data is said to be the new oil, it needs to be refined like oil - putting data in a lake is not the end answer. CDOs and their teams need to make sense of the connections within data and recognise patterns to understand what is happening. The Data Governance office should not be in between business and data, but should be at the centre and largely embedded in BaU teams (e.g. Data owners, Data stewards). At the same time, CDOs need to ensure the right data, with the right quality, ethics, security and privacy measures are available across business teams, in turn better bridging teams within the organization that are now siloed.
- Delivering Business Value - One of the best quotes we heard at the event was, “fall in love with the problem, not the solution.” Firms were encouraged to not overdo PoCs or focus too much on specific tech or tooling. They were encouraged to focus on the business value at all times (remain tool agnostic) and keep the data availability, quality and actual business issues in mind when performing PoCs or selecting tooling. To create data-driven opportunities, new data is not always needed. Having existing data available to start connecting and combining data to understand patterns has significant potential and it’s the purpose of tech to enable this connectivity. Alternate data sources are the most powerful if you can join them up with internal data. If you can carefully and ethically join up what is readily and publicly available, you can unlock the power of data. Organisations need to start with asking the right questions to define what are their goals with the data and what data is it that they actually need. Firms should not just ask whether the data is good in quality but instead, what is the data good for?
- Developing a Platform Approach – Take a platform approach to data science. For example, it is difficult to show the results of a 3-month governance programme but it is easy to show a 3-month data science result, so you can run it in parallel to show the benefits. There are three key steps to a platform approach: Federate with transparent data, common language and approach; Empower with a proper toolkit; and Accelerate by supporting business teams. When it comes to creating a data strategy, the consensus at one of the panels was that a lack of executive sponsorship, the perception of data as a ‘nice to have’, a siloed organisation and legacy infrastructure are the main hurdles data teams encounter. In order to overcome this, CDOs and their teams require sponsorship from the top (see: Data-driven Culture). FS firms needs to link their roadmaps with key strategic IT projects, partner with natural data allies (IT, data scientists, data protection, digital teams) and unify platforms to create cost savings from decommissioning various IT licenses.
- Data-driven Culture - Building a data driven culture is imperative. In one of the panels, 38% of the audience said they see having a legacy culture as one of their largest challenges. The tone must come from the top and successes should be both celebrated and continuously encouraged. Gary Barr, CDO at BNY Mellon put it best when he said, “Democratisation is a great enabler as it challenges legacy culture, causing firms to grow quicker. The best ideas come from people, not the board.” CDOs should seek out people – internally and externally (when hiring) - who want to have the conversation that can drive innovation and promote data-centric thinking.
- Cloud - We are only at the very beginning of what is possible with Cloud, and we see Cloud as a continuing theme for 2020. Rick Hawkins, Global Risk & Global Finance Chief Data Officer at HSBC, gave the analogy how we started off using gas lamps, moved to electricity and using one light, to using one single light switch by the door to turn on all the lights on. There is a number of options for connecting to Cloud services, Cloud-based connectivity solutions and networking. For example, running liquidity reporting in Cloud used to run over 6 days and was a highly manual process. Now, it runs in Google Cloud (GCP), takes 6 minutes and costs US$27. When it comes to choosing a Cloud provider, the recommendation is to use two different Cloud providers (remaining tool agnostic), which itself can be a challenge since some providers bundle packages together.
- ESG – One of the most pervasive themes we have observed this year, Environment, Social and Governance (ESG), continues to be top of mind for many FS firms, with 70% of the audience saying ESG is at the top of their agenda or rising fast. ‘Sustainable’ gets used in different contexts, with people quick to jump on the sustainability bandwagon but regulators need to provide guidance on the minimum criteria. If an FS firm is to say something is green, they should have to prove it with a benchmark in place. Financial services as an industry needs to try to find ways to bring transparency and fairness to ESG ratings whilst holding companies accountable. It is also important for retail clients to have transparency that the products they buy are really ESG related. According to Michaela Selmen, Sustainable Investing (SI) Strategist, Chief Investment Office at UBS, firms are having more and more access to broad sets and sources of data ie, Sustainalytics, Refinitiv etc, but with so many options, firms should develop a process, use a number of data providers and pull out the most relevant elements of the data and collate into an internal proprietary system – however, the information cannot just be held in the ESG team but also shared amongst the wider company.
We hope you enjoyed our event recap and we look forward to seeing you at the next event in 2020!
Check out our other event recaps, like our Transitioning to Cloud in the Modern Workplace Round table, Intelligent Automation Round table or Singapore Fintech Week.