Embracing Data-Driven Culture in Financial Services

  • Paul French, Director of Business Intelligence at Nationwide

  • 01.09.2020 05:15 pm
  • data

It’s no secret that access to the right data, at the right time, in the right context, is integral to helping businesses accelerate value, not least in financial services. Timely, accurate data can be a gold mine for businesses, empowering them to make more informed decisions that have significant impact on the bottom line. But despite it being acknowledged that equipping people to understand and use data is essential, the financial services industry has historically struggled to realise the maximum benefits data can offer. Even if the sector has historically equipped its people with the tools to effectively integrate and analyse data, it hasn’t always trained its people with the requisite skills to understand and work with that data. If we want our industry to keep up with consumer demand and remain competitive, a cultural shift in attitudes toward data needs to take place – and quickly.

Acknowledging the skills gap

Although some financial services companies have done well to adapt to the rapid change brought about by digitalisation, many others have been left playing catch up. And this is having an impact on how businesses are operating in this Fourth Industrial Revolution. Qlik’s recent research into the Human Impact of Data Literacy revealed that employees often struggle to make sense of the swathes of data that they are expected to work with on a daily basis. Despite 87% of employees recognising that data is an asset, three quarters of staff admit feeling overwhelmed or unhappy when working with data. What this reveals is that a lack of cultural immersion and empowerment around data literacy is one of the biggest barriers to embedding self-service data use in our industry. Eliminating the gap between access to data and the knowledge of employees to use it is imperative.

Driving cultural change

Acknowledging that change needs to take place is the first step to ushering in a new era of a data-empowered workforce. When looking at our own drivers behind this shift, we wanted to encourage data self-service across the business, but had to first recognise that there was a history of teams using their own data solutions in silos. When introducing analytics tools including Qlik, we had to look at how we were going to encourage employees to embrace change. Motivating colleagues to invest in their own skills development has been critical, and we are in the process of encouraging that by creating an accreditation programme. By acknowledging and nurturing those that were highly skilled with the new technology as ‘platinum level Qlik-experts’, we will provide them with greater freedom to do more with data because we know they understand both the technology and the strategy.

Encouraging this level of education is an important aspect in ensuring our employees embrace change. It also facilitates an environment where peers are eager to learn new skills when it came to data literacy. Our approach to education and cultural change is working well, with now 90% of our internal communities using data in our interactive BI tools as a key part of their roles, this compared to around 25% just 12 months prior. 

We’ve recently taken this a step further by developing a resource using Qlik Sense that provides employees across the organisation with a simple, visually appealing way of organising data. The Visual Vocabulary Application allows users to create a simple dashboard to display insights in a way that is easy to consume for employees at a range of data literacy levels. By breaking down visualisations into logical categories and making it easy to consume for users of all abilities, we’ve developed a timesaving solution for employees to adopt data strategies more readily.

Making data accessible

Raising the general awareness of the importance of data has, in turn, encouraged employees to engage with it and learn more about how it can improve their day to day work lives. Creating drop-in days where Qlik’s analytics tools were showcased helped emphasise the benefits of increased access to data. The process of education and awareness-building also validated our belief that a huge portion of our teams time was being spent on data preparation, reducing capacity to provide value and uncover insights.

As colleagues have become more aware of the benefits data can offer to help deliver results, we are making sure that data is more freely accessible. By democratising access to data throughout Nationwide, in easy to engage with BI technology, we’re building creating an ethos of data being a critical enabler and basis of new ideas and insights.

Creating a data literate industry

To keep up with the pace of change in our industry, change needs to take place across the sector. Consumers have come to expect rapid technical innovation from financial services, and with new, innovative financial solutions continuing to appear at pace, traditional financial services companies need to recognise the value in investing in employee data literacy.

Growing a data literate workforce will empower teams with the access to the right information to make decisions that give businesses a competitive edge. While investing in access to data is the right place to start, without fostering an environment where data literacy is embraced, the data itself has limited value. If the financial services industry wants to evolve in line with an increasingly digitised workplace, embracing a data-enabled culture is the only way forward. 

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