Event Highlights from Seeing Around Corners: Innovative Data Management – April 21

Event Highlights

Seeing Around Corners: Innovative Data Management
April 21, 2021

By Bloomberg Live

On Wednesday, April 21, Bloomberg hosted a virtual think tank with executives from leading financial services companies to discuss how innovations in data management are enabling accurate and real-time insights and new products and services that enhance competitiveness.  The discussion also focused on how operations have changed and the impact on culture.

Click here to view video of today’s event.

Speakers included:

  • Anil Agrawal, SVP, Digital Platforms and Cloud Technology, U.S. Bank
  • Michael Hom, Global Head of Financial Services Solutions, InterSystems
  • Kate Platonova, Group Chief Data & Architecture Officer, HSBC
  • John Tolla, Executive Vice President, Chief Governance, Risk and Compliance Officer, Axos Bank
  • Deep Varma, Chief Technology Officer, Varo


Alison Williams, Senior Analyst, Global Banks & Asset Managers, Bloomberg Intelligence

Event Highlights:


  • On what is driving the need for innovation in data management, Michael Hom, Global Head of Financial Services Solutions, InterSystems, related the drive to supply and demand. He noted, “I think it all starts with the customer and it’s really what their expectations are and what they’re really looking for. And I think there’s a strong focus on relevancy, right? Customers are looking for faster, smarter, better services that are tailored to them. That’s driving what services need to be created or for hyper-personalization insights. All of that kind of requires a greater amount of data that needs to be delivered ultra fast.” Kate Platonova, Group Chief Data & Architecture Officer, HSBC, pointed out another driver. “So there is a lot of demand from our customers, but we also must remember that we’re in a very regulated industry,” she said. “So there are a lot of demands from our regulators for very clean data sets, enhanced understanding of what we have and what we’re acquiring..So all of that complexity means that we can no longer rely on traditional data management sort of techniques and how things were done 10 years ago and even five years ago. We really have to harness technology to help us in this quest. And we must innovate quite rapidly because this space is evolving and, doing so very, very, very fast.”
  • On the evolving relationship between the technology staff and the business, Anil Agrawal, SVP, Digital Platforms and Cloud Technology, U.S. Bank, shared his observation, “I think the relationship between the technology and the business has gotten a lot more healthy, a lot more collaborative in recent years, which is really a welcome sign.
  • On the question of the volume of data vs. the quality of data, Deep Varma, Chief Technology Officer, Varo, pointed out that the quality of data is not only about data hygiene and integrity, but also, “How do we use the data? How do we consume the data? And this is where, what insights you bring out, how do you make those insights actionable? That also is a part of the quality of the data to me, Alison.” Michal Hom added, “I would actually kind of roll it all the way backwards, that for us to be able to handle the volume and also have maintained good quality, you kind of actually need to utilize AI and ML within your data processing capabilities, right? He later added, “So think about, instead of doing it manually, is there some machinery or automation doing it for you and you’re handling the exceptions.”
  • On challenges faced in the implementation of innovative data management, John Tolla, Executive Vice President, Chief Governance, Risk and Compliance Officer, Axos Bank, discussed the challenge of managing data for different purposes. “So separating out what you need for your regulators, what you need for your compliance and third line staff, and then what ultimately you’re gonna use to direct consumers to the appropriate products and services at the right time, is another challenge.”
  • On how technology has changed the culture and how to manage that, Platonova spoke about an initiative at HSBC to get everyone comfortable with managing data. “So we’re rolling out quite a large scale literacy program across HSBC,” she said. “And again, the ambition is to make sure we get everybody from board members to branch members, to all sorts of folks and give them the right tools, that we’re making them comfortable interacting with data.” Hom emphasized that customer-centricity is ultimately what is driving the culture. “You have the starts with data agility, that leads to business agility and then I think, as others have mentioned, it also provides customer agility, right? Doing what they need, what they want when they want it,” he said. “I think that’s kind of something that is a trend as to where we’re all going and it’s driving that huge need for data.”
  • On the role of the cloud in breaking down silos, Platonova shared, “So, it’s a very, very exciting journey for us and it also helps encourage departments to kind of onboard something onto a cloud dataset once and then reuse it by multiple folks. So you’re kind of reducing the number of chatter between the systems, if you do it right.”  Hom pointed out, “I think cloud has been a facilitator, right? It gives you, as mentioned, vast amounts of storage and computation. But I wouldn’t say that that’s purely the reason why the silos are being broken down. It’s more about now a new mentality of making data accessible across the organization and monetizing that.”
  • On the question of how to adopt new technology for the core infrastructure, Tolla noted the importance of having an incubation group for testing emerging technologies. “If you’re not that agile or, if you don’t have a structure dedicated specifically to incubating new and emerging technology, that’s problematic and it raises the bar,” he said. “So if everything has to be decided centrally at the board of directors or executive management, without that ability to prove a concept, that raises the bar significantly.”
  • On the question of bringing data and analytics to the c-suite, Platonova shared, “So data used to sort of sit under the technology and we made an organizational change and brought it out and it’s so into its own discipline that is now on par with other functions and technology and sort of cuts across. And that’s been a very, very healthy elevation of focus for us.” Tolla added, “Axos was born online so it’s a little bit easier here, but at the same time explaining, to a board member, ‘Hey, do you know why you constantly see an advertisement for Allen Edmonds shoes when you submit a  recrafting order on your computer?’ And just explaining that in very simple, real world terms, how that is possible and why we are doing that here, because that consumer insight, behavioral insight, ultimately drives revenue and lowers costs.” Varma added that the key is to remain focused on the main goal, which is providing value to customers. “I can be a technology company, I can be a data company, but does it matter? What matters at the end of the day is our consumers or the customers are getting the value of what they’re supposed to get and technology and the data are the enablers to provide that value,” he said.
  • In ending the conversation, Agrawal left the audience with a bit of advice, “When you think about the data, always start with the question ‘Why?’”

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