Embracing the ‘big data’ opportunity

This article is part of
Winter Investment Monitor - December 2014

Accusations of ‘facelessness’ have long dogged financial institutions, with everything from automated phone systems to bank branch closures feeding claims that service levels are at best perfunctory and at worst determinedly unavailing.

But that isn’t what big data is all about. Used correctly, big data is about identifying and meeting consumers’ individual needs.

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This being the case, providers and customers alike should see it for what it ought to be: an extremely valuable and powerful add-on.

It should facilitate rather than debilitate. It should enhance relationships by generating and sharing information for mutual benefit, optimising the deployment of resources and refining service delivery to an unprecedented level of granularity.

Rather than further eroding the scope for face-to-face interaction, big data should make more time for the human touch.

The fact is that the balance between mass digitisation and good old-fashioned familiarity is eminently realisable.

Far from being mutually exclusive, the two invite collaboration and synergy.

Big data is not an inconvenience to the financial services sector, it is an opportunity – and an enormous one at that.

Duncan Shaw is a lecturer in information systems at Nottingham University Business School

Big data: How is it used?

Duncan Shaw, lecturer in information systems at Nottingham University Business School, explains why some people are apprehensive about the concept of big data, and why it needs to be a key focus for policy at the highest level.

“Apprehension is both understandable and well founded. Every act of misappropriation, from an A-list hacking scandal to a painfully familiar flood of spam, serves as a fresh assault on consumer faith. Encouragingly, there is a growing recognition at the highest policy levels that big data can work to best effect only if personalisation and precision go hand in hand with protection.

“But serious efforts are under way to provide acceptable and lasting answers to questions such as: who controls my data; what are the real implications of sharing it; and who will clear up the mess if something goes wrong?

“It seems reasonable to argue that once these anxieties have been satisfactorily addressed – in other words, if we succeed in avoiding the sort of ‘horse-meat moment’ that could deal a decisive blow to consumer confidence – the shift towards a big data society will be greatly smoothed. The momentum is already vast. The chances are that very soon it will be both unstoppable and nigh on all-encompassing.”

Advantage for platforms: Expert view

Adam Jones, senior consultant at Altus, explains why big data could provide an advantage in the platform market:

“While many traditional platform providers are ignoring the benefits of big data, a handful of firms such as Charles Stanley, Money on Toast and Wealth Wizards are embracing it to develop rich customer propositions.