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Jonathan Westley, Chief data officer , Experian

Path to power

 

Before joining Experian, I worked for Abbey National and then a number of consultancies, while also setting up my own small business that currently employs 35 people. I joined Experian back in 2000 working through various positions in its technology team before becoming product and marketing director for the consumer information services (CIS) business in 2006.  In 2011, I took on the position of managing director of CIS for Experian UKI. In that role over the last seven years, I was involved with the identification and development of new data assets to help consumers and organisations work seamlessly in a digital world. During this period, I supported the acquisitions of three business that were complementary to the core business - N4 Solutions, HD Decisions and Runpath. My latest role has seen me become chief data officer across the UKI and EMEA regions from November 2018.

 

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

 

Supporting the transformation of the Experian business to bring in new, exciting technology, enabling faster, more accurate decisions to the benefit of the consumer. The acquisition of interesting companies like HD Decisions and Runpath has helped complement existing services and provided new capabilities that we didn’t have before. From a personal point of view, however, my career highlight has to be becoming Experian’s first CDO, which enables me to support our mission of becoming the best in the market for managing, maintaining and ensuring the quality of the data in our care, along with a focus on how we acquire, use and govern data. 

 

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

 

Recognise that change is an inevitability, in fact necessary and positive. I would also tell anybody trying to get into our industry to be prepared to keep up with the fast pace of change. We are living in exciting times for data-driven technology and this is just the beginning. GDPR was an important and significant milestone in the democratisation of data assets, putting people at the heart of controlling the use of their data. However, the scale of data-driven services that could revolutionise people’s lives hasn’t yet been fully understood. GDPR will be key to help transition us to a digital economy. People are now becoming far more aware of their data and how it can enable better access to products and services that may have been difficult to access previously.

 

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

 

I think 2019 will be incredibly exciting. Advanced analytics and decisioning technologies mean we’re in a better position to understand and help people act on that data than ever before. That opens incredible opportunities to make positive change in the world - for people, for businesses, and for society. We’re living in a period of exciting, unprecedented technological change. As Experian continues to push the boundaries of innovation in the ways we gather, secure, maintain, analyse and deliver data insights to our customers, we’ll see those insights used to make real change in the world. At a fundamental level, as we continue to expand the sources of data we use through, for example open banking, we’ll continue to drive financial inclusion and bring more people into the credit economy.

 

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

 

When it comes to finding the right candidates for the job, it’s important to do things differently. Many organisations cling to their past hiring practices, but it’s about looking more broadly and thinking about how to attract and retain candidates from non-traditional backgrounds. Our diverse workforce is part of the reason for our success, helping us innovate and deliver the needs of our increasingly diverse clients and consumers. But there’s always more we can do, for example, encouraging more women into STEM roles and that’s why we were so proud to have sponsored Women in Data for the second year running, which is now bigger and better than ever before. Generally, it’s about creating an environment that people love, giving them access to the best training, the greatest opportunities and the latest tools - everything they need to progress their careers. If you can get this right, you have a better chance of attracting and retaining the very best talent in our industry.

 

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

 

Adding new data sources would both strengthen our collective understanding of individuals’ circumstances and reduce the number of “invisibles” in the UK. An example of this is our work with Big Issue Invest on the Rental Exchange, which has resulted in 1.2 million tenants now having rental information on their Experian credit reports (this will grow to help 13 million individuals) and we expect 79% to see a noticeable improvement to their credit histories as a result of this new data. This, in turn with innovative technology, will enable access to more intuitive and dynamic credit products delivering better outcomes for everyone.Data and analytics technology/service provider

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