Synopsis: An exploration into the proliferation of Big Data in the financial services sector, looking at how global financial services providers are using data visualisation software to drive analysis of their customer data and improve the overall business.

With the Big Data and analytics market predicted to reach $125 billion in 2015 (IDC), nowhere is this having greater impact than the finance industry. Banks and financial institutions generate vast volumes of data, with numbers accelerating exponentially every day. In this quick-fire market, high-pressure decisions have to be made rapidly, guided by a volume of information that simply did not exist just a few years ago.

The explosion of data is driving financial institutions to leverage advanced analytics to tackle a myriad of challenges and gain commercial advantage. By unlocking the wealth of information contained in market feeds, customer-service records and social media data, banks can derive more insight about their business than ever before, and shape future strategy through factual insight rather than intuition.

Customer service is a differentiator

Traditionally, the financial services sector has been a faceless institution. However, the industry has come under unprecedented pressure in recent years, and as a result has had to adapt.

A key differentiator for banks now lies in the quality of their customer service. Customers expect a more personalised service. Fortunately, the proliferation of data and analytics capabilities grants the ability to understand customers’banking needs at a more granular level.Consider for instance, ATM deployment intelligence. By analysing the relevant data, banks can identify areas where customers are struggling with personal finance management, and react to ensure financial advisors are based in the appropriate branches to provide customers with the support they require.

Data-driven insight can also be used to inform new products and services and deliver highly targeted personalised offers – leading to improved customer satisfaction and retention. However, the challenge is knowing how best to mine these silos of data.

James Eiloart
James Eiloart

A picture is worth a thousand numbers

The answer lies in harnessing the power of data visualisation, the use of interactive, highly visual presentations to rapidly cut and correlate datasets in innovative ways. It’s easier for people to understand data when they see it visually. When people see and understand their data, they can spot specific facts and trends which can be acted upon quickly.

This brings many benefits for the banking sector, a particularly data intensive industry. For example, take Barclays. With a history spanning 300 years, Barclays has a presence in more than 50 countries and over 48 million customers worldwide. Every time a customer interacts with an online banking system or swipes a card, data is generated.

In the UK, Barclays have put the customer at the heart of their business strategy. Yet with data sets consisting of over 20 million rows of data for their UK customer base, it was critical to find a way to make these reams of data fast and easy to explore, and expand analytics capabilities beyond only employees fluent in business intelligence.

Barclays’ customer focused strategy centres on using interactive data discovery to turn the data from customer satisfaction, demographics, and behavioural data into business assets. Using the insight derived, Barclays can enhance strategy, product development and marketing operations to gain greater understanding of who their customers are and enable better decision-making.

Quick-fire decisions powered by real-time insight

As customers and their needs are constantly evolving, it’s essential that banks are equipped to respond to opportunities as they arise. For Barclays, the speed at which decisions are made is critical. In the past, Barclays found transforming data into a format that is easy to see and understand the toughest part of the puzzle. Software was inflexible and cumbersome to use, with analytics requiring extensive hours of SQL programming and data preparation.

Where data analysis used to take weeks or even months to turn around, with data visualisation software Barclays is able to access, share, and act on this information in an instant. The ability to access data in seconds, not weeks, and make it actionable plays a key role in the bank’s marketing and customer service strategy.

For example, Barclays’ interactive dashboards bring in areal-time flow of data about the reasons why customers complain and who those people are. Being able to see fresh data on a daily basis enables the bank to find a root cause analysis of what those complaints are and allows data-driven decisions to be made rapidly,to improve customer service and satisfaction.

Democratising data

As financial organisations seek to leverage analytics, it’s important that they embrace self-service technology which puts data in the hands of the people who can use it in the context of the business. These are the business users who can ask questions of data but are not necessarily the data scientists, or employees with PhDs in statistics. At Barclays, employees across every level in the organisation, from senior executives to frontline users,are empowered to drill into the bank’s data.

In this sense, self-service software is unleashing innovation, creating an enthusiasm within the bank about what can be achieved through data discovery. By encouraging a cultural shift towards data-based decision-making, this democratisation process will play a key role in enabling financial organisations to conquer the Big Data challenge.

Banks of the future

In the future, banks will have access to more data than ever, but it isn’t powerful until it’s understood. People think visually, and so visual analysis is the most effective and efficient way to extracting insight and value. Financial institutions will profit from shaking off their conservative image and embracing today’s fast, easy business intelligence – the key to staying ahead of the competition. This will ultimately improve their bottom line in a data driven world radically different from the business intelligence world in which many financial organisations are still living.

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