How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?
CBS is the second-largest building society and the eighth-largest mortgage lender in the UK. We are already a significant contributor to the UK financial services market, but we have ambitious plans to continue growth and data is a critical part of that journey. The CBS has long understood the importance of data in meeting regulatory reporting obligations and keeping us safe and secure. There is also a growing recognition of the power of that data in driving business value by providing the insights that help us serve our current and future members better and support sustainable growth.
2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?
The pandemic has required most of the CBS to work entirely from home for almost a year, but thanks to some great support from our IT colleagues, we adapted very quickly and my team was able to satisfy increased demands for data from internal teams and regulators alike, with a greater emphasis on real-time data.
Inevitably, some non-essential activities were deferred for a while, but we have still made substantial progress over the second half of the year: we have successfully defined and piloted a data governance framework via virtual workshops and also made progress on corporate delivery projects.
Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?
We have embarked on a multi-year data transformation that embraces cloud technologies. Our two priorities for this year are to roll out data governance and to deliver the new data platform that replaces our existing data warehouse and provides the foundation for future development of our data capabilities.
Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?
I am proud to work for an organisation that actively promotes work with local communities. In spite of the pandemic, we’ve still managed to raise funds for our team charity (Coventry Women’s Haven), and we have also worked with a local school to improve their outdoor spaces. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet managed to find the right opportunity to blend our data skills with our community focus, but I’ll tell you when it happens.
What has been your path to power?
I joined a BI software vendor as a consultant in the early 1990s when business intelligence was a huge growth area. I focused on project management and after a successful spell at Vodafone, I established my own project and programme management consultancy.
After helping a number of large organisations to successfully define and embed their analytics functions, I joined CBS in 2016 to lead their data warehousing programme and the development of a centre of excellence. Like everywhere, data is of growing importance to CBS and our focus has now broadened to the creation and maintenance of a broader data agenda, including strategy, governance and advanced analytics.
What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?
First and foremost, work is about people. I’m immensely proud of the team that we have built at CBS. We brought in a few great people from outside, but our success is predominantly driven by our home-grown talent. Over 60% of my team was recruited from within and it has been particularly rewarding to see those people develop.
Internal mobility also makes sense from a business perspective because these people already understand the organisation - they live and breathe our mission and values. This strategy has given us high levels of commitment, low rates of attrition and fantastic employee engagement scores. We are also hoping to introduce a data and analytics graduate programme this year to offer those same growth opportunities to a new cohort.
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 closer together?
In 2017, we made a conscious decision to establish our data and insight function "in the business": under our CFO. We use a hub and spoke model, where each business function is empowered to satisfy their local requirements and support from a centre of excellence; and we are now extending that model to include business-led data ownership and stewardship.
To keep us together, we embed business-led governance at every level: a community of practice for analysts, a data design authority for managers and a leadership group comprising senior stakeholders for each executive area.
What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?
Whether it is using price comparison sites, navigating the traffic via Google Maps or managing our electricity use, we are increasingly data-driven in our everyday lives. We do it because it is easy. Data literacy in the workplace will follow once the technology allows it to be simple and accessible.