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Christina Finlay, director, data, and analytics, Nest - National Employment Savings Trust

Christina Finlay, director, data, and analytics, Nest - National Employment Savings Trust

How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?

 

First, a bit about Nest, as it’s still a fairly new organisation. Nest is a not-for-profit pension scheme with a social purpose – to help millions of savers have a better outcome in retirement. Nest is the largest workplace pension scheme in the UK with more than 9.6 million members. One in three of the working population is expected to have a Nest retirement pot by the late 2020s, and by the end of the next decade, Nest will be investing close to £100 billion on behalf of its members.

 

From the top down, Nest’s leaders see that data analytics will grow value, create efficiencies, and manage risk. Our data and technology infrastructure have limited our ability to do that up until now. I started at Nest as its first data leader in December, setting a vision and helping to evolve this infrastructure. In a year, we’ll be much further along the journey to becoming data-driven.

 

2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?

 

For most of 2020. I was at the National Trust, and we were lucky enough to have finished most of our foundational work in the run up to the year. That meant that we were in a great place to be agile with our data analytics, and really address the needs of the business through lockdown. Lockdown in a pandemic really shifted National Trust’s business: from driving property visits and membership to online engagement and fundraising.

 

Quite honestly, we scrapped the plan we had and looked at how to best use our skills to help the organisation. We were able to quickly spin up new dashboards to help the organisation to make difficult decisions, immerse the Trust in the changing mood of the nation and our membership, expand the use of data science models and map customer journeys with new outcomes in mind.

 

Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?

 

In 2021, we will put in new data analytics foundations at Nest – we’re embarking on a revolutionary programme of customer service design that puts data at the heart of customer experience. We’re also putting in the technology to bring data together and drive better decision-making. Those two things will be delivered in 2022, so in 2021, key for me will be building the data community.

 

Data analytics at Nest has worked on a federated operating model for a few years, so this year, we’ll build and strengthen our community, align it to a shared vision and collaborate on a roadmap to deliver work together.

 

Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?

 

Nest delivers a programme that is aligned with our social purpose, which is similar to data for good. Nest Insight has been set up as a separately funded business unit, sharing research widely and freely to support the industry to improve the outcomes of savers in the UK and around the globe.

 

Outside the work to deliver our social purpose, I would love to get Nest involved in data for good – the analysts in the organisation have a lot to give to help solve the big issues the world faces, and the experience is very enriching. We need to take a year to put in our foundations, then data for good will be on the agenda next year.

 

What has been your path to power?

 

I started my data journey as a consultant in Asia, helping organisations make sense of their customers and data to build their brands – from banks merging their assets in the Philippines to shampoo brands growing their customer base in China. I did a lot of social research, building empathy for consumers throughout Asia, and helping FMCG companies to find opportunities to innovate. I think my curiosity about people and my empathy for others has been key in the "path to power".

 

In the last five or six years, I’ve immersed myself completely in the data world, helping organisations use their data efficiently and effectively to drive performance. I always start with listening, building on what I learned as a consultant in Asia. To me, success in data starts with understanding people, getting into their shoes to see opportunities and what they really need, and then aligning a future vision. Once you’ve done that, it makes the case to get the data collected, managed, and used much less challenging as everyone sees how it will help them do their work better.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

 

It’s always the people. My proudest moments are when I have set a vision, and I can see the lightbulb go on with people as they connect that vision to the work they are doing and how it can make things better.

 

In the past ten years, data has enabled such an extraordinary change in how we can work. I am always so proud of people when they take the big leap to work in this new way – whether its marketers embedding a process to optimise emails, analysts joining a few data sets together to get better insight or anyone learning a new tool like PowerBI or Tableau.

 

Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?

 

As I’ve only been with Nest for a month, I’ll go with a career goal: I’d love to put my skills towards bigger and bigger social challenges – a data for good career.

 

How closely aligned to the business are data and analytics both within your own organisation and at an industry level? What helps to bring the two closers together?

 

As with most organisations, we’re on a journey to more closely align data and analytics to the business. Because of our data and technology infrastructure, we have been limited in our ability to fully use our data to drive the business. The year ahead represents big changes in our data and analytics foundations that will enable Nest to do things differently – we’ve got a year ahead of revolutionary customer service design, which will have data at its heart.

 

What helps to bring the business and data closer together? We all know the theory (but it’s so hard to do!) – start with the strategy, not with what we need to do with data. If what you want to do with data doesn’t fit the corporate strategy, why are you doing it? Stop using data buzzwords – don’t talk data lakes and churn models, data scientists, stewards, and architects. Listen to the organisation, use its language.

 

What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?

 

I think the most successful changes in a data literacy transformation happen by stealth – where people are just made to be curious about learning new things and it’s not "mandatory training".

 

Where the data is visualised in a way that someone can intuitively navigate it, and not need two days of training to work out what action they need to take. It puts more work on the data analytics team, but it’s a lot of fun as we work out what will work best for an organisation – highly-visualised dashboards, automated, actionable insight in business intelligence, human-centric design principles, training that’s actually playing games and helping them to do their work. The analytics team has to meet the organisation more than halfway and create data stories that spark curiosity.

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