Opinions
18.06.2021

Data analytics must focus on customers

Data are becoming ever more important in our private lives as well as in economic value chains. Swiss banks have huge potential to position themselves as guardians of sensitive data. Banks can better understand their customers’ specific needs and concerns by engaging in proactive dialogue, thus setting themselves apart from the “data miners” of the new economy. 

There is still a considerable discrepancy in customer behaviour when it comes to sharing data

Did you know that, on average, you generate more than a gigabyte of data every single day? In fact, some experts predict that this figure will double by 2025. Did you also know that, on average, websites and online services you’ve visited use your data for analysis and profiling more than 50 times a day, and your data profile determines which content you see and which you don’t? Data are defined as variables (usually numbers) determined mainly through observation, measurement and the collation of statistics as well as information and conclusions derived from these. They are becoming ever more important in our private lives as well as in economic value chains. Data – and the analysis of data in particular – are sometimes accorded almost mythical status, not least thanks to the much-vaunted “information advantage”, i.e. the competitive edge gained by making better use of data, even though the science involved is based on incontrovertible facts and rules that, in their purest form, are as mundane as can be. Nevertheless, a great deal of uncertainty still surrounds the disclosure and forwarding of our data. Here’s a simple example: we don’t think twice about sharing personal information, some of which might be highly sensitive, on social media, but we complain when our financial advisor asks us for further details to complete Form A (identifying the beneficial owner of assets).

Trust is the basis for a long-term partnership between customer and bank in the data age

This discrepancy also highlights the huge potential Swiss banks have to position themselves as guardians of sensitive data. What do I mean by this? Customers trust banks with their money because they expect it to be handled safely and with the utmost care in their interest. As this blog explains, extending this trust to data can become a major competitive advantage going forward. It will allow banks to understand their customers’ specific needs and concerns better by engaging in proactive dialogue, thus setting themselves apart from the “data miners” of the new economy. At the same time, the banks will benefit from comprehensive, high-quality customer data that can be used to tap into new and optimised areas of business.

The key phrase here is data analytics, the rigorous technical process of collating, inspecting, cleansing, converting, modelling and visualising data. The goal is always the same: to discover useful information, draw conclusions and produce easily understandable visualisations of your findings to aid decision-making. The use cases outlined in the Swiss Bankers Association’s guidelines on handling data in day-to-day business all follow this basic approach by implementing the specific analytical processes described in compliance with the relevant legal requirements.

The focus is on customers, not their data

The value (or profitability) of data analytics depends heavily on how these processes are organised. It’s vitally important to establish an open, constructive dialogue between customers and consumers of data analytics (sometimes bank customers), legal and compliance departments, data protection officers and other relevant people within the bank and to ensure that all of their views are taken into account in a given process. Involving all of these stakeholders results in a shared understanding of the goals being pursued, makes it possible to present the results in the right context, and ensures that the whole thing is focused on individual customers and their needs. As well as making the analytics process cost-efficient and transparent, this also means that both staff and customers are more likely to understand and accept the results. At Credit Suisse (Switzerland), we actively pursue this dialogue and document how we handle data as part of an all-encompassing process that includes all key stakeholders. This additionally allows us to design, review and implement analytics projects transparently and efficiently, ensuring that customers’ needs will continue to be our top priority.

About the author

Michael Burkhalter is a data scientist and Head of Data Insight & Innovation with the rank of Director at Credit Suisse (Switzerland) Ltd. He co-authored the Swiss Bankers Association’s guidelines on handling data in day-to-day business. He describes his work as “turning data into insights and insights into value”.

Blog series on handling dataDigitalisation

Authors

Michael Burkhalter
Head Data Insight & Innovation, Credit Suisse SUB