HSBC: The vital democratisation of data

HSBC says data should be powerful, not creepy

Data has the ability to fundamentally change your business and help it to thrive, but only if you have an explicit data strategy, back it up with accountability and values and invest in the right tools to utilise it.

The way business produce and use data will affect the extent to which it has an affect on your business, said CIO of commercial banking APAC HSBC, Richard Lord, during this week's ADMA Data Day 2019.

While our ability to collect data is better than it's ever been, making data effective means going out with an explicit data strategy, backing it up with accountability, values and ethics, and investing in tools and technology, as well as top level stakeholder buy-in, Lord said.

“There are wonderful sources of data inside our business, and outside, that can be valuable and value-adding. There are a lot more credible sources of data available from other places as well. The big question is how to take this abundance of data and turn it into something usable,” Lord told attendees.

Richard Lord
Richard Lord


He advised business to develop a strong data culture, define and communicate data values, rethink data, and create effective collaboration in the data value chain. To do this, HSBC looks at FIVES: Friction, insight, velocity, ecosystem and service.

“With the arrival of the Internet and data, markets are very efficient at finding points of friction, and these are going to slow down your engagement with customers," Lord said. "The companies that can give a smoother transaction are shaping and forming customer expectations. So we have to make sure we don’t create any friction points.

“Previous insights into customers were traditionally quite demographic. But now with access to different data sets and tools, we can create different insight models, like patterns of transactions, cycles of business, and use those insights to understand how we are going to add value."

Lord agreed banks have had a reputation for being big and slow and said it's time to build agility. "We need to think fast, but to make fast decisions we need good insights from our data," he continued. 

“We also watch our networks and ecosystems and organic interactions happening in real time and we learn so much from this.

“Customer expectations are moving faster than ever, due to new expectations being set, and we need to make sure we are acting quickly to deliver products and services that are appropriate, and the right product for the right customer at the right time.”

Lord went on to say businesses need a place to make all this happen, and the appropriate tools and infrastructure so data can be democratised across the organisation into one massive pool of data without siloes.

“All of this is only possible if data is accessible, relevant, and usable. You’ve got to allow your people to get to it in a way that is relevant to them, and give them something to make those objectives possible,” he said. 

Also vitally important is having leaders and stakeholders who understand how and why data is being used. To get there, HSBC focuses on two things: Data use for the benefit of customers, and leveraging data to make the right decisions.

“Values and ethics are vital when it comes to data; security and protection are our top priority. Ethics around use of data is equally important," Lord said. "With the increased connectedness of business, you must be aware of how your data sits in the wider ecosystem. It’s a conversation you have to have with third parties, so our values and our customers are going to be protected.

“A bad actor using your data is enormously consequential."

For Lord, the core currency is trust. "Think about the way your data is used, not only inside your boundaries, but outside your walls as well," he advised. “It’s also a changing dynamic, so you have to actively monitor how third parties use your data, constantly.

“An organisation also needs visible data leadership. Make sure your values and ethics around data are constantly communicated inside the business and outside.”

When it comes to rethinking the role of data in the organisation, Lord also recommended looking at the available sources of data and what you really want to achieve.

“The data available now, it’s enormous. We have a big store of data from within the organisation, as we all dark data, which is the data about the data. The flow of data into our data lakes is enormous," he noted. "So we spend a lot of time having proactive engagement about what it is we really want to achieve with it. Be open to new opportunities and new ideas. Think: how do we think we can add value to our customers using that data?

“You need to have clear business objectives, and you stakeholders aligned with that. If you don’t have leaders in data at top of house, you can’t achieve it. The rules of the game need to be well articulated and well understood. Data should be powerful, not creepy; it needs to be relevant and value-add, and maintain a fine balance where it is used for positive benefit for customers, rather than the overall benefit of business.”

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