insight2impact (i2i) is exploring how data can be used by financial service providers to create client value and enhance firm value simultaneously.

Pieter Vorster, Chief Data Officer for Barclays Africa Group, shares his insights with us.

This topic will be further explored during the invitation-only roundtable discussion that i2i will be hosting during the Chief Data & Analytics Officer Africa 2017 conference in Johannesburg on 5 July 2017. 

What role do you think social media data/insights are likely to play in the financial services sector in the next few years?

Social media data assists financial institutions to determine which products and services the customers need. It helps to highlight which social networks are the most effective platforms to use to place targeted messages and adverts. Financial services companies do not have to guess any longer. We can now gain actionable insights that give us a better handle on customers’ product preferences. Planning marketing strategies both online and offline becomes easier. Social media equips us to use it as a key component in our customer service initiatives. Ultimately, we are able to serve customers better. 

How is your organisation making use of alternative data? 

We source data from various places through outright purchase or data partnerships. We are in a position to use bots to ask questions and gain valuable insights into our customers’ needs and preferences. We are now able to understand the core roots of customers’ complaints and compliments and can even cluster it with events.

What are your biggest data-related headaches at present?

The following two areas are the biggest obstacles at present:
Change management – we humans are creatures of habit.  Removing habitual ways of working is probably one of the toughest things to overcome – people don’t like change. Yes, only people can really drive change. Change management as a capability is critical and managing the expectations of those who you rely on is an absolute must. It helps to make them a big part of the journey and to feel valued.
Technical debt – unplugging and starting from scratch is very expensive. We have, in some instances, untangled spaghetti-like infrastructure to get the flow of data right. Dealing with technical transformation, demand and the realisation that not all data is equal is also a challenge.

Do you think financial service providers (FSPs) in Africa have different data concerns and challenges compared to FSPs in other regions? If yes, what are those?

Large corporations, which are reliant on technology have built up, probably over many years, a dependence on information to make decisions per business area or unit. Now, consolidating that information across the entire business to make more intelligent decisions is a much larger and complicated task. Smaller fintechs might not have the legacy issues we have, but they don’t have access to the data that we have. Data is our asset – the more you have, the more you can do with it.

How important do you think hyperlocal data is? Do local (micro) differences matter for your customer segments?

Hyperlocal data is important to consider, but is not the most critical factor. Hyperlocal data attributes within clients might assist in your understanding of the underlying needs of a specific community, but it still does not zone into the “personalisation” of individual wants and preferences. At the moment, micro segmentation is not being performed using all the attributes necessary. From a data analytics perspective, more strategic focus is being placed on getting to a view of individual customer needs (i.e. not segmenting at all and treating each customer individually).

In terms of the provision of disruptive financial services to the underserved, which space is the one to watch and why?

Providing credit to those who have no access to financial services (alternative credit models), as well as packaged service/product offerings (for instance, insurance plus banking plus retail service plus other service offerings) are interesting to us. Transactional banking costs must be at an absolute minimum or close to zero (depending on behaviour and channel usage).

Pieter Vorster was appointed as the Chief Data Officer for Barclays Africa Group in November 2016. Prior to joining Barclays in 2007, Pieter worked for Liberty Life as Director Strategic Partners. At Barclays, he has held the positions of General Manager Absa Home Loans and Pension Backed Lending, Chief of Staff in the Office of the CEO and then Chief Analytics Officer for the Corporate and Investment Banking business.