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Jim Conning, Managing director, Royal Mail Data Services

Path to power

 

As managing director of the specialist data business of Royal Mail Group, Conning is spearheading Royal Mail’s innovation and entry into new markets by harnessing the company’s trusted reputation and data expertise to enable consumers and organisations to interact both physically and digitally in secure and trusted environments. Over more than 25 years, he has built an impressive track record of growing technology and data businesses across both UK and international markets, including EMEA, Asia and North America. Conning is highly regarded for driving shareholder value and helping customers to improve their business efficiencies and profitability. Before joining Royal Mail, he held the position of managing director for Experian across a broad set of businesses, including marketing services, credit and risk, and latterly for identity and fraud - a new, $100 million business bringing together Experian’s services and expertise in fraud protection, identity authentication and payments. He has also held senior management positions across sales, marketing and general management with Bottomline Technologies, Infobank and Microsoft.

 

What has been the highlight of your career in the industry to date?

 

Over the course of my career, there has been a whole host of highlights. I’d particularly call out my work at Experian where I successfully consolidated five competing businesses into one streamlined operation focused on the development and delivery of identity authentication, fraud protection and payments solutions. This business achieved eight-fold growth with revenues of over £60 million and an EBIT contribution of more than 40%. I’d also call out my work at Royal Mail. Since joining in 2014, the data services business is now well-established as a profitable operation within Royal Mail Group. But, more importantly, Royal Mail Data Services is now well-recognised as a developer and provider of data quality and data management services and solutions within the UK market. Over the last year or so, we’ve been helping many of our customers, both large and small, to prepare pragmatically for the enforcement of the GDPR in May 2018. This year, I am also proud of the work our innovations team - or The Accelerator team as we call it - has achieved with the Call and Check pilot initiative we have helped deliver with the Home Office, where our Postmen and women have been the physical collectors of the data that is used by charities and local authorities to identify citizens who are showing early signs of loneliness and or other types of stress.

 

If you could give your younger self some advice about how to progress in this industry, what would it be?

 

I expect the 12 months to be both tough and yet, at the same time, full of opportunity. Much of the noise surrounding the enforcement of the GDPR gave rise to uncertainty, creating not only fear and confusion for many organisations. Both customers and the market as a whole have been navigating the complexities of the new regulations to ensure compliance within guidelines. But the lack of clarity has forced organisation to take a low-risk approach to the new legislation which has stalled a great many projects. At the same time, the whole area of data and analytics is full of new opportunities. Data and analytics form the bedrock for business. So, as businesses accelerate their digital transformation strategies, we have seen our customers explore new ways to use data to deliver not only great customer experiences, but also to develop new revenue streams, business models and greater operational efficiencies.Really, more of the same. There is still uncertainty and organisations really need to get their collective heads around the fact that this is the new normal. Don’t do something really wrong, continue to treat the customer fairly, be transparent with the individuals whose data you hold -which is what reputable organisations have always done - and you will be fine. We do need to stop taking the lawyers’ and compliance teams’ guidance at complete face value. This is advice - they are not running the business, we as business leaders are the drivers and risk-managers and we need to do our jobs to grow our organisations through great and appropriate insight and customer service.

 

What do you expect 2019 to be like for the industry?

 

Hire great people and let them do their jobs - do not get in their way.

 

Talent and skills are always a challenge to find - how are you tackling this in your organisation?

 

Hire great people and let them do their jobs - do not get in their way.

 

What aspect of data, analytics or their use are you most optimistic about and why?

 

I am most optimistic about the people in our business. They are a caring, skillful and driven team that wants to help our country be better and operate more effectively in, let’s be frank. a country that is looking into a future full of uncertainties.Data and analytics technology/service provider

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