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Jon Cano-Lopez, chief executive, REaD Group

Jon Cano-Lopez

Path to power

I am proud to describe myself as a data geek. I started work as a programmer at Centre-file, NatWest’s data centre, but soon saw the huge potential that data could deliver and left to start my own business, Altwood Systems, when I was 25.

 

After a very successful 11 years, implementing some of the largest and most complex single customer views of the time, Altwood was bought by Claritas. I became part of the senior team at Claritas and when the company was sold to Acxiom, I was asked to take responsibility for European database services division.

 

In 2007 I moved to AI Data Intelligence with a brief to build, grow and dispose; AI was acquired by Communisis two years later. In 2014, I was given the chance to lead REaD Group, and the opportunity of taking one of the most iconic and recognisable brands in the industry into exciting new pastures and development was a temptation too strong to resist. And I am delighted that the past five years have seen significant growth in both revenues and EBIT year on year for REaD.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

I am proud to say I have led some of the best companies in the data industry. There have been many proud moments over my career but the ones that really stand out are when I see people who have worked for me flourish and succeed. It also gives me great satisfaction and pride to hear clients praising the work my team have delivered.

 

Who is your role model or the person you look to for inspiration?

Not very original I appreciate, but Richard Branson certainly stands out for me. I met him once on a kitesurf beach where he was really just like every other enthusiast chatting about the wind. The strategy we discussed was what size of kite were going to use. He works hard but plays hard too.

 

Did 2019 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

Probably. The year following GDPR should have been the year we could all focus on the known future ahead. But the political situation and Brexit have naturally been on everyone’s mind and no doubt the uncertainty has delayed some strategic business decisions in all sectors.

 

As I expected, the implications of GDPR are becoming clearer and those business that invested in GDPR compliant solutions are flourishing. Unfortunately, some of those that didn’t react positively to the new regulations have fallen by the wayside.

 

What do you expect 2020 to be like for the data and analytics industry?

2020 should be a very positive year for the data industry; data is more valuable than it has ever been and is widely acknowledged as a business critical asset at board level.

 

I am hoping the delays in decision making will dissipate following the election result and more certain political situation in the UK. Too many decisions have been short term over the past two years – now business leaders can look more long term based on a more certain future. The furore over GDPR should continue to settle down in 2020. New data practices and processes are being agreed and becoming the norm now the panic of 2018 has calmed.

 

Data and technology are changing business, the economy and society – what do you see as the biggest opportunity emerging from this?

It is now universally recognised that customer data really is at the heart of all good strategic decisions. At last, data has risen to the very top of most forward thinking companies’ agendas and our industry is being given the recognition and investment it deserves. The value of data and data-driven insight is now seen as crucial and data strategy now seen as an important investment.

 

What is the biggest tech challenge your clients face in ensuring data is at the heart of their digital transformation strategy?

The sheer volume of data to manage and sorting the wheat from the chaff in data terms. There is so much data out there but a lot of it is low quality and sometimes worryingly close to the edge of being GDPR compliant. We encourage our clients to leave no stone unturned when evaluating the provenance of every single piece of data they collect, hold and use.

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