Helping people to fear data less - a Chief Data Officer challenge at Aldermore Bank

Profile picture for user Mark Samuels By Mark Samuels July 15, 2020
CDO Hany Choueiri wants to boost senior stakeholders’ awareness of data at the challenger bank.

(Pixabay )

Hany Choueiri has a key priority objective in his role as Chief Data Officer at Aldermore Bank - to ensure high levels of data quality across the financial institution. He’s also looking to tap into his own years of experience as a CDO at organizations such as HSBC and The Bank of England, to boost senior stakeholders’ awareness of data:

My main achievement since joining Aldermore has been almost lifting [the subject of] data and putting it on the table of the board. We've come a very long way in terms of visibility across the entire bank, to the point where we’ve become almost the go-to people for innovation and for insights.

Choueiri’s data team has partnered with every business function in the bank to help employees to visualise and then use the data they hold. About 100 to 150 dashboards have been created in the last four or five months, covering things like sales trends, performance of brokers and customer-attrition rates:

What we try to do is show the power of data – and then, when the executive committee see the power of data, then they start to question their own team. They’ll say, ‘Why are you giving me this Excel report or PowerPoint; why can’t you give me another dashboard?’. We’ve created an automated process and now we want to go further.

Aldermore Bank is a retail bank which provides financial services to small and medium-sized businesses. Founded in 2009 as a 'challenger bank' and listed on the London Stock Exchange in March 2015, it was acquired by South African banking conglomerate First Rand in March 2018 in a deal that valued Aldermore at £1.1 billion.

Historically, the bank has captured information from source systems, which are ingested in a data warehouse, and then distributed to consumers around the business. While this traditional approach allows people in the organization to get hold of information, it’s not easy to ensure that people have a consistent view of the data they use. To that end, Choueiri hopes implementing Talend technology will help the firm to create a proactive approach to data use:

What we're finding increasingly is that as people take this data, and actually start to ask questions around what it means, the meaning of data has become more of a challenge for different consumers of this data. So what we're trying to do is really get that meaning of data and the quality of the data governed upfront. The first point of call is going to be a platform that empowers my governance teams, together with business teams, to review the data and make sure they're comfortable with the quality, and the timeliness of the data, before it's distributed.

Implementing Talend

When Choueiri joined the bank in 2018, the organisation was conducting a request-for-proposal process where it analysed the strengths of weaknesses of external data specialists. He says that “a number of big companies were involved in the process” and that the bank selected Talend because of the modularity of its platform, which allows his data team to implement features separately: 

You could arguably say that if you went and looked at the best data-quality tool on the market, you'd probably get a couple more features than you would with the Talend platform. But, actually, if you come to think of the tremendous benefits you get from a consolidated platform, I think the benefit of integration far outweighs the work involved in having to connect a specialist tool to all your other modules.

Talend essentially acts as a front-end platform for the bank, where data stewards and business-data owners can log into a portal and review exceptions. They can investigate data quality reports, analyse the data dictionary, consider the meaning of data, and approve the meaning of terms. 

Instead of people in departments across the bank needing to take the data and then transpose it to their requirements, individuals can use the technology to help the bank create a single view of the information it holds. This makes it much easier for workers across the bank to process data effectively and efficiently, says Choueiri:

Everybody benefits from that approach – there's a huge value in streamlining the approach to data. People always think you need technologies to streamline processes. But to me, the biggest opportunity is to streamline data, because it's the data that causes you the headaches and the problems. If your data is wrong, that’s what stops straight-through processing.

The first data quality tool from Talend that the bank is implementing is Data Masking, which offers data anonymisation. The data department works in close partnership with the bank’s IT team on this rollout, with the technology department having been the biggest internal champion of the anonymisation module. Data Masking provides key benefits when you’re looking to innovate with sensitive information, Choueri explains:

What we frequently find is that, when we're doing testing or we're doing analytics, anonymised data really empowers secure development, especially where you handle a lot of customers’ data. The ability to take datasets and anonymise them, so you liberate them for testing and for analytics, is very powerful. Talend has got some great functionality and some interesting techniques to help blur the data or fuzzy it or hash it, so you can see the important parts of the data, but you can’t identify individuals.

The bank intends to kickstart the implementation of other modules soon, depending on budget confirmation. Over the next 24 months, Choueiri hopes the work he’s undertaking around data governance and data quality will help business stakeholders to feel even more confident about the insight they create: 

I want everyone to genuinely feel data is an opportunity. People perceive it as a threat because if they lose the data or compromise it, they could be fined. But if we can make all of those things more seamless, so data is classified and automatically protected with the right controls, then people start to worry less and fear data less and spend more of their time using data for innovation and for driving insights.