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Simon Hayter, Partner - head of data, Knight Frank

Path to power

 

I was doing analytics before it was the cool job that it is today when the only tools available were MS Excel and Access. Early on in my career, I worked for various retailers and also an online company where I was performing analysis for the front-line sales directors. This is where I learnt the importance of communication and turning data into something easily understandable. I then moved into finance where I was responsible for budgeting and reporting. This experience was invaluable in getting access to every part of the company and seeing how it all fitted together using numbers. During this time, I was fortunate to have very supportive bosses who sponsored me to do an MBA that has really elevated my career. The completion of the Master’s coincided with the breakthrough of data and analytics becoming an industry in its own right, allowing me to head up various data functions. I’ve always been interested in property and the economy which is why I jumped at the opportunity to join a great brand like Knight Frank in 2018 to become its first head of data.

 

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

 

It’s hard to pinpoint one event over others. I think it is establishing myself within a relatively new industry, helping develop new business models to incorporate new ways of working with data and seeing practices and ideas that I have developed come into fruition and still being used today. This ranges from introducing new operating models to taking new technologies from prototype to a full-scale enterprise solution. Seeing how my team members have developed their own careers has been a great highlight. If I had to pick one personal individual one, it would be working with the ONS advising on its Rental Index and being quoted in its paper.

 

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

 

To have learnt emotional intelligence earlier. Communication and relationships are key to success, as is remaining positive regardless of the situation or other opinions that you come across. A valid point delivered in a negative way will have much less impact than a poor view delivered in a positive way

 

Did 2018 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

 

Within the industry, I’ve been surprised at how the big players have struggled to compete with the more modern technologies. I was expecting there to be a bigger reaction with some improved services, however, I have yet to see them materialise. On the flip side, I have also seen as some of the breakthrough companies over the last five years are now becoming much more aggressive in their selling and their customer service has slipped as a result. That was slightly surprising to me.

 

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

 

I think the industry is finally settling down with clearer understanding of different data roles (data engineering, data science, insight analysis, etc). Therefore, I expect (hope) that 2019 will bring a clearer understanding in businesses of the different skill sets needed to produce different outcomes depending on different business priorities. I hope never to see a picture/slide/job spec that lists every possible skill for one data role. Although I realise that is a tad optimistic for 2019!

 

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

 

I don’t think talent and skills are hard to find, there are many talented people out there. The challenge is bringing in the appropriate talent that fits within the business strategy. There is a vast difference between tech start-ups and large established corporate entities and they require a different balance of data skillsets. For me it is first identifying the business needs and then identifying gaps of data responsibility within the organisation. This ranges from collection to analysis and then determining which skills and roles are needed to fulfil those responsibilities. Often, companies employ skillsets before identifying the business need.

 

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

 

Technology is becoming much more accessible to non-technical people. This enables many more people within organisations to utilise data in ways they have never done before. As more user-friendly technology is implemented and used across organisations, then data and analytics will only grow in the future.
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