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Elaine Priest, chief data officer, NatWest

Elaine Priest, chief data officer, NatWest

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

 

Data is central to how we support our customers to thrive: our data provides insights that helps our customers to make informed choices around their spending and saving habits, as well as information that helps drive focused and supportive conversations. In every aspect of how we operate data has a role to play.

 

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 seen an increase in the need for innovation and delivery. As the year closed, we successfully completed on both planned (Info Map) and unplanned activity (Info Standard).

 

Info Map is an interactive tool accessible to all bank colleagues via the internal web that helps makes sense of the data landscape using scanning, graph and bleeding edge visualisation technology.

 

Info Map has been rolled out in stages, but the December 2020 release was the biggest change yet. It included the first scans of systems, making the connections or stitching of the business terms (logical view) to the actual piece of data in the system (physical view). Artificial intelligence then scans the output for personal and other privacy-related elements to make sure we can see what data is present, and to make sure our use of that data is permitted, protecting ourselves and our customers.

 

Info Standard was created in response to the pandemic to ensure that, as new datasets were consumed via Covid-19 reports, the provenance was understood by the reader. Each page has a kitemark that represents the average level of automation and data quality. Since its inception the kitemark has been automated and integrated within Info Map and broadened to other key reports.

 

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

 

Data underpins the bank’s purpose and vision, using data insights will help people, families and businesses continue to thrive. The bank will continue to execute its data-driven strategy using DataIQ award-winning Data Academy programme to improve data literacy, and drive insight and transparency through the Info suite of products, continue to use big data and customer decision engines, as well as graph and machine learning to improve customer experiences.

 

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

 

I am proud of how my team were able to support the Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence research that helps the industry innovate for the good of society. My focus in 2021 will be to find further opportunities to work collaboratively with external practitioners on data for good initiatives.

 

What has been your path to power?

 

Unusually, I started my professional career while undertaking a full-time degree in History. I worked with data from the tender age of 19, looking into the potential investment opportunities as well as calculating the trading desks P&L position. Throughout my career, I have been lucky to work with some fabulous people and have tended to move organisations with them. As a result, I have a broad set of experience that touches many elements of a banking lifecycle, built on top of a strong data and technology foundation.

 

I enjoy being creative and curious both inside and outside of work. I firmly believe that you are never too old to a learn a new skill and hope that this role modelling helps my daughters as they mature and take their first steps into adulthood.

 

I have had the pleasure of being mentored by my personal boardroom (ten people chosen due to their wisdom, tenacity, problem solving, bravery and humility). I meet with all of them individually at least once a year, and for some every day. Included on my board are members of my own family as well as senior executives across several firms.

 

Keen to give back, I continue to mentor a wide set of individuals both internally and externally – seeing people reach their potential is incredibly rewarding.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

 

At the beginning of 2019, I was also asked to take on the chief building’s role in addition to my existing role as chief data officer for the group. The chief building’s ensures the safety and welfare of our two thousand staff in the Southend Office, and our positive contribution to the local community. The office covers HR, risk, front line, fraud, technology, payments and data and analytics.

 

I have championed the set-up of employee-led networks in the region, and have successfully launched multicultural, family and carers, gender, LGBTQ+ and enable (disability) networks. This has had a positive impact on staff. As the second biggest employer in the region, we have continued to support schools through our out-reach programme and fundraising for local charities. Making sure that we were Covid-19 secure while continuing to support all elements of the region has been a satisfying part of role that I undertake for the bank.

 

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

 

Underpinning the goal of being data-driven is the transparency requirement. My goal is to continue to gain advocacy and use of the Info suite of products, Info Map (interactive map of the bank), Info Standard (kite mark of data provenance) and Info Safe (set of data ethics principles that complements the organisation’s values).

 

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?

 

The economic, sustainable and green agenda (inclusive of the current pandemic) provides the biggest opportunities for firms to work together across industries to solve for a unifying need. Data has a big part to play in enabling that agenda to be successful.

 

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

 

Data as an asset requires every member of an organisation to understand the role that they play enabling a data-driven culture. From the person that greets a customer in a branch to colleagues in risk - understanding the consequences of our actions and how they can help drive positive customer experiences is key.

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