Vital statistics

Can data help financial services get to the top of their game?

Data. It's a big deal. So much so that it needed its own episode. Good data - the right data - can tell you a lot.  But what we’re hearing is for a lot of businesses, data got no game. It sits on the sidelines in spreadsheets or, worse - filing cabinets. It gets duplicated, double handled, messed about with and can't be trusted to be one of the team. 

But while the financial services industry grapples with data that isn't playing ball, other industries are in a league of their own having found ways to turn data collection and analysis into a significant competitive advantage. 

Away from the office and out on the sports field, data picked up by wearable technology is giving coaches and trainers the intel to help their teams win. Sports fans are getting closer to the action with real-time statistics on their favourite teams and players. Performance analytics are fuelling athletes and coaches with actionable insights to reach their peak. Could financial services do the same by being more data and tech-enabled? And if so, how do businesses get off the starting block and get their data working for them? 

You know we start every podcast episode with an upfront question. This time, we’re taking one for the team by asking, can data help financial services get to the top of their game? 

Adir Shiffman, chairman of global wearable tech brand Catapult Sports and Andrew Walsh, CEO of financial technology company Iress, joined our host comedian Olga Koch for a fun and frank chat about the game-changing power of data. 

It’s such an enormous competitive advantage to have that objective perspective.

Andrew and Adir, let's cut to the chase. Can data get financial services to the top of their game? 

Andrew There are financial services businesses where data is already putting them at the top of the game, and there are lots of others where that's not the case. But it's not data alone. It’s also about what the consumer experiences. 

Adir Data can make a material difference to the financial services industry, but it's all about the quality of data and then the insights and actions that you glean from it. 

Ok, you've got 20 seconds to convince us why data is so important. Go!

Adir As an individual, you have your intelligence and your experience, and that's the basis of decision-making. If you want only to have that, you're welcome to it. But I'd rather have a layer of high-quality intelligence external to the intelligence between my ears that will augment my decision-making. It’s such an enormous competitive advantage to have that objective perspective. 

Andrew Data helps everyone make better decisions. Not only what has happened, but what might happen. And having data to make better decisions helps you solve problems. There is an element of taking emotion out of decision-making when you can base it on data, and it shouldn't take the fun away. It’s a better basis for decision-making in business.

There’s one bank that effectively has 21 windows they’d need to open to see all of a customer’s data

There is huge leverage to be made from the trust that consumers have in financial services. They certainly don't trust Facebook in the same way as they trust a bank.

What frustrates you most about financial services and their data?

Andrew My frustration is there is so much hype, and the base requirements are not there to support what that high potential might look like. There’s no end-to-end tie-up between having data and doing something with it. If you apply for a new product, ten times out of ten, you probably have to fill in separate data and can’t reuse the data already at the institution. I can justify why from the inside out, but as a consumer on the outside, I can’t understand it at all.

Adir I completely agree. I’ve got some insights into this industry, and I know there’s one bank that effectively has 21 windows they’d need to open to see all of a customer’s data across all elements. You try to hide that below the waterline from the customer. 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. That bank knows more about the financial condition of that customer than probably the customer knows and understands about themselves. The fact that you need to re-enter any data in that situation is a direct consequence of the siloing of data

What opportunities do you see for financial services businesses to make better use of data?

Andrew There is huge leverage to be made from the trust that consumers have in financial services. They certainly don't trust Facebook in the same way as they trust a bank. When data is used to tip into real life as opposed to staying captured in data, we end up getting different conversations with consumers, different outcomes and better engagement. 

Adir Personally, 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. I’d also like to see financial services helping customers in much the same way Netflix did when they approached all the people that hadn’t had utilisation activity for an extended period and terminated their payments to stop them from spending money they probably don't know they're spending. I think that would be a good use of data and financial services.

When you look at information and data around financial behaviour, there are no stories being told.

What do you think might get in the way of them doing more with data? 

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. 

Andrew Yeah, they need more data, and people will share more data if they're getting something back. I'm not sure that there's enough thinking about what you give away in order to get richer from the institution's point of view, as well as the consumer’s. 

Adir, Catapult is doing some seriously cool stuff with data. How can financial services make data sexy? 

Adir If you look at the data coming out of financial services, it's largely numbers and that's ultra-dry. When you look at information and data around financial behaviour, there are no stories being told. I would bring creative people into the organisation and say, what do you wish you could tell the consumer to make their lives better? Then figure out the data that would enable you to tell that story as opposed to having a solution in search of a problem, which I think a lot of data is. 

What’s your advice to help financial services businesses up their data game? 

Andrew Set up for success. Don't stress about shiny toys. Consider what's needed end to end. Start small and focus on quality. Do something with the end in mind. 

Adir The key is to say, let's have a blank sheet of paper. 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. That would be my advice to financial institutions. 

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

Finally, what one thing would you like financial services to break up with for good?

Andrew Paper. Get rid of the paper. Don't tell me that I need to prove who I am by using a pen. I don't do it elsewhere. Break up with paper. 

Adir I completely agree with that. I don't think I've signed a physical document in the last two years, and I don't think I ever will again. This idea of having to provide 100 points of ID physically and signing, it’s a pretty bizarre situation that we're still stuck in. It feels like the 20th century.

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