The Interplay Between Data and Technology

By Nicsa posted 03-09-2021 01:26 PM


“Transformation is a popular term these days, and data and technology are certainly foundational to doing it successfully,” EY’s Senior Manager of Wealth and Asset Management Cheryl Boyd told attendees during a panel discussion held virtually for Nicsa’s recent SLF. “As we’ve seen financial services evolve, we’ve seen the leadership positions in the data and technology spaces do the same.”


Boyd moderated the panel, which detailed how leaders are working to move their firms forward through the power of innovation in today’s ever-changing tech environment.


Hans Brown, Global Head of Enterprise Innovation and CIO for Corporate Technology at BNY Mellon, said that data now underpins nearly everything we do in the asset management industry.


“I’ve been with BNY Mellon for the last 11 years,” he said. “There are jobs that I hire for now that I never did in the past — data scientists, machine learning engineers, data architects. We’re looking at having data available in accessible structures and forms, running models, and ultimately using it to deliver real insights. Today, data is at the forefront of everything that we do.”


Bola Ajayi, Vice President, Advanced Analytics and Data Science at Fidelity Investments, said that in the past, data was viewed as something that could sit on the shelf for later reference — independent of business processes.


“Now, what we’re seeing is that data must be activated throughout the sales, marketing, and operations processes,” he said. “It’s ingrained in the DNA of how a company works, and that’s been a huge transformation.”


Marc Mallett, SVP, Director of Strategy, Americas Asset Servicing at Northern Trust, said that it’s essential to ask the right questions when using data to measure success or failure based on performance.


“It’s like looking at a score at the end of a football game but not paying attention to how the players actually executed the game,” he said. “Did they play well, or did they get lucky? Winning teams evaluate every last play to focus on continuous improvement. So if I want to know how well or poorly a portfolio manager is performing, I can’t just look at the score — I have to ask the right questions about their decision-making processes.”


Ajayi pointed out that firms can have the most advanced algorithms in the world, but without adoption on the part of managers and employees, they won’t be able to leverage the technology to better the business.


“Our goal is to foster a data-driven culture from the top-down and bottom-up,” he said. “From the top-down, we’ve worked to help senior management to see the value of using empirical, analytical evidence  — rather than gut instinct — to identify business opportunities.”


To foster this culture from the bottom-up, Ajayi said his team pilot-tested a data-driven approach with groups willing to adopt the technology.


“Over time, the winners were the ones using the analytics, which inspired the laggards to jump on the bandwagon,” he said. “Changing behavior is such an important piece of the digital transformation process.”