Why financial services CIOs should help their companies to open their data vaults

Yan JinBy Hyong Kim, FSO Global Data and Analytics Leader, and Yang Shim, Americas FSO Data and Analytics Leader

Data is the fourth pillar – people, processes and technology being the first three – for financial services companies. And data analytics, as all businesses know, can be a crucial competitive edge. Especially in uncertain environments, the most effective strategies can be the data-driven ones.

Financial services organizations manage huge volumes of data. However, this data is often not being analyzed or turned into insights – they can’t, even if they wanted to. Why? Regulatory issues and privacy concerns, undefined data utilization strategies, dominance of legacy systems, unused unstructured data and, of course, skills shortages prevent the optimal usage of data.

CIOs can help to unlock the power of data

We explore below some of the challenges, as well as some pointers on how CIOs and business leaders can work together to help financial services organizations make the most of their data:

  1. Compliance vs. profitable growth: Data and analytics initiatives face risks of serious financial and reputational damage in the event of non-compliance with regulations or violation of data privacy. While compliance and privacy are vital – and the role of the CIO in data privacy compliance is important – to focus exclusively on compliance can mean missing out on opportunities that can deliver growth.
  2. Effective, efficient, sustainable control environment: Banks need to demonstrate that the data used in key reports (e.g., for CCAR, Basel III, Board and Management Committee reporting) is accurate. To do this, many have begun programs that collect and monitor data quality. However, this presents several management challenges related to the accuracy of data and in controls over the data that is used. To address these shortcomings, a new approach that establishes an integrated control environment by setting the scope of the data; capturing metadata in consistent formats; and reviewing and testing the metadata, and the design and operating effectiveness of the controls has to be adopted.
  3. The hidden potential of data: Several financial services organizations do not have a firm grasp of the potential value of their data. CIOs can contribute to increase awareness of the potential of data and help build capabilities to process the data for more insightful decision-making. Companies are often burning the midnight oil just to manage structured data. As a result, unstructured data from social media inputs and multimedia streams, which are important sources of insights, is often overlooked. CIOs can help create awareness on the importance of analyzing the unstructured data, and help organizations with strategies to accomplish that.
  4. Legacy vs. modern: M&A over the years can leave organizations with an assortment of legacy and modern IT systems that don’t communicate with each other and operate independently. Finding a fix for this “IT generation gap” will naturally be the CIO’s responsibility which potentially can be solved by introducing more advanced technology solutions.
  5. The skills void: Perhaps the most important question of all is “do we really have the skill sets required to help us analyze the data?” The answer from many organizations would be a firm “no.” Good data analysts are hard to find. And many companies haven’t yet identified the organizational structure that is most suitable for embedding data and analytics capabilities into their processes. CIOs can help businesses identify the right skill sets and be part of deciding how to fit data analytics capabilities into the organization. This could even mean the creation of a CDO role.

While CIOs are traditionally responsible for all things IT, some senior executives prefer data initiatives to be driven by business leaders rather than by the IT department. For CIOs who wish to take the lead in data analytics, and gain the trust of senior executives, demonstrating their business acumen through data insights could be an important step in that direction.


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