How to be a financial services business that does great things with data

Unlock your hidden potential with our upfront advice on delivering awesome data-driven insights.

Guess how much of their available data most businesses use?

It’s less than you think.

Nope, even less than that.


The rest is unloved and under-used, trapped in silos, legacy software, spreadsheets - or worse - filing cabinets. 

What a waste.

That data could help businesses make better decisions, deliver valuable data-driven insights and create more loveable experiences and enticing offers for customers.

But you already knew that.

Enough has been written about the importance of big data and analytics in financial services particularly as the industry eyes up open banking and AI. We knew we couldn’t make a financial services podcast series without talking about it. Thing is, data isn’t much of a conversation starter. But we know what is - sport.

So we invited the biggest name in sports data - Adir Shiffman, executive chairman of leading wearable tech brand Catapult Sports, onto the Upfront podcast for an entirely different take on data.

If you watch the NFL or Premier League football, you might have seen the players wearing Catapult vests that track and measure their performance on the field. The technology is also used in Formula 1 and by the world’s greatest athletes. Catapult has redefined how technology and data are used in sport, collecting and providing insights that help athletes and teams reach their true potential. It’s seriously sexy stuff. 

Joining Adir on the Upfront podcast was Iress CEO Andrew Walsh - another diehard data evangelist who has helped solve the data woes of financial institutions large and small through Iress’ financial services technology.

Listen to the episode Vital statistics to hear what happened when we put the two of them together and let them imagine a world where financial services are using data in the way that Catapult is.

And read on for some bite-sized and actionable advice from that episode to help you up your data game and take your business into another league.

See what's possible

Think you’ve got data issues? Adir told the Upfront podcast he knows one bank that effectively has 21 different windows they would need to open to see all of a customer’s data. 

It might be hidden below the waterline, but as Andrew Walsh says, “separate systems and separate data stores translate to manual experiences for consumers” and that’s not a good thing.

“Asking consumers to re-enter data is a direct consequence of those silos. It creates friction and that’s why people will make decisions between financial institutions. If you’re getting somewhere in a process where you’re printing paper, that is ludicrous. It is more ludicrous post-pandemic and not survivable in my view.”

Adir blames the rise of fintech start-ups for exposing this and making everyone else look bad. Consumers are now more aware that financial services aren’t using their data in the same way.

“We’ve moved into a world now where every single company is expected to have a nice, shiny user interface and user experience at the front. There is no mercy anymore.”

Andrew Walsh suggests businesses need to have an end-to-end tie-up between having the data and doing something with it and shared this advice.

“My encouragement to people I talk to around these topics is open an account, open an experience with someone else and understand what good looks like to challenge the status quo. Because unless you can see what's possible, it can be really hard to make a change.”


If the very thought of data makes you feel overwhelmed, listen to this:

“I was once in a boardroom of a large financial services business doing a Q&A on tech, and someone said, turning a large legacy financial services business is like turning an aircraft carrier. My question to them was, ‘why the hell are you trying to turn the aircraft carrier? Just fire all of your weapons!”

Adir’s point? Start small but do something - anything.

“The issue is not having data, it’s knowing the right data to use in the right quantities to improve the customer experience. I don’t think a financial institution needs to drink from the firehose of data as a first step. Start with the smallest granule of data to show the customer that you have something and that in itself will knock their socks off. The key is to have a blank sheet of paper and say what benefits would we love to give the customer to knock their socks off. Okay. We've probably already got the data to be able to deliver that. So let's start trying to use the data for those purposes and thinking of the solution first.”

Andrew agrees and has this straightforward advice:

“Be set up for success. Don’t stress about shiny toys, just start small and focus on quality. Do something with the end in mind.”

Be set up for success. Don’t stress about shiny toys


The trouble with data, according to Andrew and Adir, is that businesses have become too fixated on data protection and risk. As Adir says, “Doing nothing with data is preferable to doing something that freaks everybody out.”

But you’re not going to become a high-performing financial services business by doing nothing. There’s just a fine line to getting it right, says Adir.

“The fine line you walk as a financial institution is wanting to give people these ‘Aha’ moments that help them increase their wealth without freaking them out about how much information you know about them.”

But, says Andrew, there’s one thing going in your favour.

“Consumers trust financial services to keep their data and information safe, so there is huge leverage to be made from that aspect of trust that consumers have in financial services. They certainly don't trust Facebook in the same way as they trust a bank. So I think that there is something to be leveraged there. There is a level of trust and safety, there is an existing client base. It is about digitising and changing that experience.”


If data isn’t turning you or your customers on, you’re probably doing it wrong.

“Data in itself is boring. When you look at the data coming out of financial services, it’s largely numbers, and that’s ultra-dry,” admits Adir.

Andrew agrees: “There is a whole heap of data, but I think there’s a temptation for people to use and give data literally. I don't want to know what I spent my money on. I don't want to know how much is in my account. But I want insights, and I want to know how that data and how those spending habits translate to better things.” 

So how can businesses unlock something infinitely more interesting and exciting from their data?

“When you look at information and data around financial behaviour, there are no stories being told,” says Adir. “I would bring creative people into the organisation and say, what do you wish you could tell the consumer to make their lives better? Okay, we'll try and figure out the data that would enable you to tell that story as opposed to having like a solution in search of a problem, which I think a lot of data is.”

Andrew just wants to see his financial providers keeping it real “When the data is used to tip into real life as opposed to staying captured in data, then we end up getting different conversations with consumers and different outcomes and better engagement.”


You’ve got something customers need and they’ve got something you want. There is a way to make this work for everybody.

“Financial institutions have all of this information about the customer and a depth of sophistication about how to do better with money” says Adir. “If I were running a financial institution, my appetite would be much more customer-centricity in the truest sense by saying, what's the real solution that every customer wants from their financial institution? Make more money. Okay, let's help you make decisions that, over the long term, will make you richer than you otherwise would have been. That's how I think about it. And data is perfect for that.”

And, says Andrew, this will help you deliver even better insights because people will share more data if they’re getting something back.

“The more you can give away to get richer data, the more you can personalise, the more you can give those insights. There’s not enough thinking about what you give away in order to get richer from the institutions’ point of view as well as the consumer.”


Financial institutions have more data on their customers than anyone else. That could be a wondrous thing. By getting their data together - quite literally - financial services businesses have an opportunity to deliver the kind of experiences and insights that will make them a more interesting and relevant part of their customers’ lives. Ultimately, better organisation and sharing of data could make financial services businesses and their customers richer in more ways than you could imagine.

Listen to this episode Vital statistics in full here or wherever you get your podcasts.