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‘Data Wunderkinds’ change how banks innovate

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Over the past few years, many companies have pursued the benefits of big data, yet are still struggling to see this material. YASAMAN HADJIBASHI, Chief Data Officer for Barclays Africa, explains the secret to her success in building a revenue-generating data team.

Banks are still in their big data infancy. Many players have created big data operations that incorporate technology, data science and analytics in search of deeper and more sophisticated consumer insights. Yet many financial institutions are finding these sizeable digital investments are not reaping the expected commercial gains, leaving senior management to question what other key ingredient is missing from this recipe.

The availability of open-source big data technologies makes the development of new products and services faster and truly scalable for big organisations such as banks. However, the barrier facing banks realise their big data potential is the lack of systematic and sustainable processes for translating and implementing insights and predictions into meaningful products and services. Until recently, these data-driven insights vanished alongside the temporary campaigns they once supported.

As with any large established organisation, there is an expectation to remain flawless and preserve one’s reputation. The reality is, the larger the institution, the less forgiving the consumer will be. However the fear of unsuccessful experimentation and reluctance to test new concepts within the banking environment is equally risky, stifling an institution’s ability to innovate and prosper in an extremely competitive environment.

The Rise of the Data Wunderkind

In order to extract genuine actionable value from banking data, institutions need to pay attention to the emergence of a new breed of Product Manager, or, as I call this rare employee, the ‘Data Wunderkind’. This new genre of data talent combines expertise and skills across six frontiers: big data and analytics, commerce, agile execution, design, digital and customer experience.

A Data Wunderkind bridges the gap between the back office and the frontline by decoding the complex algorithmic output of the data scientist into ‘wow’ experiences for the customer. Using modelling, engineering and development, the Data Wunderkind works closely with various client-facing teams to define and optimise the final customer journey. Whilst this may sound familiar to financial start-ups and adjacent fintech companies, historically, back-office intelligence would not usually filter across to the customer.

Continuous tracking of data intelligence at an individual user level and back into products and experiences is how a legacy corporate businesses can create personalised customer-centric products, on top of re-establishing the lost intimacy and trust between customers and banks.

Here at Absa, a subsidiary of Barclays Africa Group Limited, we’ve seen the benefits of this new breed of data expert through a number of large scale customer pilots that focus on providing tailored and engaging experiences across our overdraft products and credit line limit increases.

Of an initial 422,000 customers who have been part of Absa’s smart predictive SMS alert pilot―warning customers of future spending shortfalls and providing personalised options―more than 66% proactively took action following the alert to manage their payment obligations better. In a follow-up survey, respondents gave a Net Promoter Score* of +80, confirming they had found the personalised SMS service useful. In this case, the leadership and smart execution of the Data Wunderkind resulted in the creation of a ‘wow’ experience for the customer and increased conversion rates by 10x.

The Data Wunderkind and Growth Hacker Partnership

In addition to the Data Wunderkind, the current phenomenon of the Growth Hacker―a smart ‘whiz kid’ who uses creative analytical means to drive user adoption and increase customer retention―has also started to find its way into the banking space.

Absa has introduced this role in South Africa as part of our Data Products and Platforms teams to target the continent and our customer base with special focus on the millennial, who comprise the majority segment of Africa’s population. In partnership with the dynamic capability of the ‘Growth Hacker’, the Data Wunderkind can optimise product adoption across various channels leading to a boom of new data-led innovations.

The Future of Banking and Data

As banks continue to acquire the next generation of data skills from progressive players in the same space or adjacent industries, the winner will be the one who takes best practice and proof of concepts from a lab environment into a streamlined factory delivery mode.

Ultimately the role of big data teams in banks is not only to build infrastructure and platforms, or for data scientists and analysts to churn out models in the background but, rather, to generate tangible pieces of value that find their way to the customer for test, trial and mass launch.

The sooner banks roll out the secret recipe of product management across their data investments via Data Wunderkinds, the faster they will achieve their desired material returns via an increase in product uptake, improved customer satisfaction and higher Net Promoter Scores.

Typical marketing campaigns see an uplift of 2-3% to 10-30% using real time data-driven solutions. However, as per our pilots, by combining real-time data-driven intelligence with the capabilities of Data Wunderkinds and Growth Hackers, success rates can increase by a further 30%.

A true data-driven approach with optimised customer experiences across various user touch points is where banks today can witness the holy grail of connecting with their customers in new and intimate ways. It is the continuous focus on the end user throughout the data product lifecycle which will achieve the ideal benefit that all businesses strive for: A Net Promoter Score greater than 40% and customer satisfaction results greater than 80%.

Banks may not recognise it, but they have an optimistic outlook in the heated race to attract and groom the next generation of rare data talent. Possession of valuable customer and transactional information combined with their tremendous user reach for product launches gives banks a competitive advantage against tech companies and should be used as a magnet to attract the skills and expertise of the Data Wunderkind.

Their acknowledged need and readiness for investment in this new data space has not gone unnoticed. In the fight to attract the best data talent, compared to the likes of prominent tech protagonists such as Google, Netflix, and Amazon, banks offer an unmatched opportunity to lead beginning-to-end product executions which have the potential to touch a customer beyond that of minimal incremental features or functionality enhancements.

Big data has an exciting future within reach for banks, all of whom have an equal chance to join this growth and innovation journey.  However, it all starts with deep focus on attracting the right new data talent to ensure maximised returns from their major digital investments.

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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