Using data to make informed business decisions
Back in April, we brought together key players in the FinTech start-up space for a closed roundtable. CTOs, Heads of Data and Heads of Engineering spoke to Netpremacy and our partners at Looker and Google about data areas they wish to improve in their businesses.
We discussed the challenges that arise when using data to drive smarter business outcomes and how to address them. Here’s what we learnt.
What data challenges do leaders in FinTech face?
Despite a universal understanding amongst the group of data’s value and an appetite to use it to its full potential, several barriers are getting in the way of making this happen.
A lack of data transparency. Thanks to a wide range of data sources, environments and a reluctance to open up data to everyone, it can be challenging to centralise data in an accessible, meaningful way.
Getting started in making more data-driven decisions. Many companies have large amounts of data but are unsure how to capitalise on it and make educated business decisions based on their findings. There is pressure to do more with data, but the myriad of potential can be overwhelming.
Creating a data-driven culture. Even where there are data analytics tools in place, they are just part of the picture. How do companies make sure that end-users not only understand how to use the tools at their disposal but use data to drive what they do? How do they encourage everyone in the organisation to take a more data-centric approach to understand the business better and use insights to improve customer experience?
Driving adoption of self-service data. Data queries and requests to the technical team can cause bottlenecks and block gaining valuable insights in customer activity, product opportunities and more. How can businesses encourage non-technical users to discover these insights for themselves?
Modernising reporting across teams. Many companies in the FinTech space are struggling with updating the way that their teams are creating reports. The spreadsheet culture is still predominant in many workplaces. It causes a loss of data and leaves room for human error. It also slows down the reporting process due to the manual importation of data.
So, how to solve them?
Here are just some of the ideas we discussed with our panel, Looker specialist Colin Murphy and Matthew Yeager, EMEA Technical Programme Lead, Startup & VC Ecosystem at Google.
Get buy-in by solving the right problems and speaking the right language. As well as being Google’s EMEA Technical Programme Lead, Matthew Yeager has plenty of experience in the start-up arena, with multiple start-up successes to his name. His advice, when at the start of a business journey is to ‘ask yourself, what problem am I trying to solve here? For example, how can I manage my cash flow better? How would knowing more about my data help fix this problem? Use language that resonates across the business. You need to be able to describe problems and possible solutions in a way that appeals to the right people at the right time, from investors to the C-Suite, and everyone in between.’
Do your research. Don’t just rely on your data, use other research data sets to learn more. Google has a free open data set for you to go and explore. Finding out what people are searching for will help you produce a product that fits a gap in the market. Read what others, such as challenger bank Monzo, are doing with their data to get ahead.
There is no such thing as too much data, but stop waiting for ‘perfect data’ to get started. It is vital to have a working theory with a data set. The more data you have, the better and more valuable insights you are going to get. Throwing away data can harm your analysis and outcomes. However, waiting for the ‘right’ or ‘perfect’ amount is fruitless. Use the data you have right now, and keep collecting more to ingest and improve your model.
Let the platform do the work for you. Another piece of advice from Matthew was to stop trying to write ‘pretty code’. No investor is interested in machine learning code or how good it looks. Investors only want to know what problem you are solving. Save time by using tools to analyse data quickly.
Create a model that allows anyone in the organisation to gain data insights. Move away from a model where the technical team is writing a requested query to answer one question at a time by empowering the end-user and reducing bottlenecks with tools like Looker. For example, Monzo’s non-technical staff self-serve 85% of BI queries without consulting the data team with their BI solution built on Google BigQuery and Google Cloud Platform.
Bring non-technical colleagues on the data journey with you. Ease colleagues gently and at their own pace. Start an end-user with a dashboard, then go beyond that dashboard to build out their own visuals, insights and more. Train your new starters on tools like Looker so they understand data is as much a part of their role as their technical colleagues’. Be open to and appreciate their feedback and ideas, don’t be overly prescriptive. They will use data in a way a data engineer/scientist wouldn’t, but that can be where the real insights happen.
Integrate technical and end-user teams. Encourage a spirit of data-driven working and a feedback loop by bringing together technical and end-user colleagues. Technical colleagues can upskill and help their non-technical colleagues, and non-technical staff can give insight into the practical application of data insights. By working side-by-side, teams can work together to get better results for customers and the business, truly driving innovation.
As FinTech companies grow, so does the amount of data they are storing and collecting. This valuable, often untapped resource can be the difference between just another failed startup and a massive success. Using data to understand customer behaviour, predict trends and future demands is already the norm for forward-thinking companies.
Wherever you are on your data journey, there are plenty of powerful tools like Looker and Google BigQuery to support your company in accessing and gaining insights into data. However, as many are learning, the real challenge is company culture. Giving non-technical colleagues the technology they need is one thing, but pivoting to a data-led approach is a must if your business is seriously committed to being one step ahead of the competition.
Speak with the Experts
At Netpremacy, we have a plethora of experience working with hyper-growth companies, including Just Eat, Monzo and Deliveroo. If you’d like to get more from your data, our team of data engineers and infrastructure specialists can help. Our decade of experience in change management means that you’re in safe hands to make the cultural shift needed to change your organisation. Contact us for an initial conversation on your data strategy to start doing things differently.
Looker & Google Cloud’s data analytics platform provides more options to help you deliver more through the use of strong, fresh insights.
Monzo Case Study
Monzo refines and optimizes its fast-developing product with BI analytics based on Google BigQuery and Google Cloud Platform.
Photo by Essow from Pexels
Alastair Lumley – Digital Native & Finance Lead, Netpremacy
Last week I attended Google Cloud’s Financial Services Summit to learn from Google experts and others from across the industry on what the future holds for the Finance Industry. I discovered how Google Cloud is driving real change and helping to reshape the industry, from modernising more traditional businesses to supporting the challenger banks.
Straight from the opening keynote, Google made it pretty clear that Financial Services are a huge focus area for them. They are currently dealing with some of the largest financial institutions globally, including HSBC and Deutsche Bank. This experience is helping them to shape and evolve their cloud services to better meet the needs of the industry. This had led to them becoming the only cloud provider to develop focused and dedicated services for the Financial industry, two of which were launched at the summit – Lending Doc AI and DataShare.
Google also highlighted their three key focus areas within the financial industry; accelerating omnichannel experiences, using data and analytics to transform businesses and modernising core operations in banking and payments. These were covered in the different streams run on the day, including Banking, Capital markets, Insurance and Payments. We heard from Deutsche Bank on how cloud services have driven innovation, how PayPal used them to weather the Covid storm and how BNY Mellon constantly evolves, attracts the best talent and adapts to new challenges. You can watch the on-demand sessions here.
The key theme of the summit was how Cloud Computing is enabling the Financial Services industry to innovate and react to consumer demands and specifically how Google Cloud is the go-to strategic partner for the industry to drive this type of change.
One session I found particularly interesting covered how Google and HSBC are currently working together to make banking more sustainable and lower their environmental impact. Work so far included evaluating supply chains, identifying where they are most economical and sustainable and exploring ways to improve this. Taking experience from both sides of the table – a global retail bank with vast knowledge of supporting businesses of all shapes and sizes, and combining that with Google who understands how to problem solve using innovation….one to keep an eye on!
Another fascinating discussion was how banks are helping to improve the house buying process. The key learning was to avoid using technology for the sake of it and automate an existing bad process – we should use it to drive change. The house buying process is one of the most complex and emotionally stressful purchases you’ll ever make so a lot of focus is now going into how can this become more enjoyable and how can technology play a pivotal role in this.
There were many more sessions covered such as how we can activate a data strategy in insurance by leveraging Google’s products and its partner network to start and implement these projects, all the way through to how innovation in the financial industry can help innovation in other industries.
Financial organisations globally are leveraging cloud technologies to innovate and provide better solutions to challenges, better services to customers and become more economically and socially responsible. Google is actively helping drive this change and developing solutions focused on the financial services industry by engaging and supporting some of the largest institutions globally.
Each journey is different and will have its own goals and outcomes, but the opportunity for any organisation to transform and drive change is there. From using data to improve customer understanding, fighting against fraud and leveraging scalable cloud infrastructure to meet spikes in demands, what is important across the board is the correct support, partner and technology along the way.
That’s where Google and Netpremacy can help. By understanding what it is you want to achieve, helping define and build plans and strategies around the technology, you can reach your desired aims and objectives much faster, in a way that future-proofs your success.
To hear more about how to transform your organisation, or to register an interest in our upcoming roundtable for Financial Services, email me.
Alastair Lumley – Account Director, Netpremacy
A new year brings new trends and motives. Be that your own personal ambition to cut down on alcohol for January or not eating meat. Whether it’s to get out and exercise more or whether it’s career progression, we all have aspirations at the start of the year…..and so does the tech industry.
One of the big topics this year I can see having sat on a number of webinars and read numerous blogs is Ai but more importantly the ethical use of Ai.
Ai is becoming such a big part of what we do, whether it’s generating a personal suggestion stream on Netflix….or deciding if your credit rating is good enough to provide a loan. This is why it’s as important as ever to ensure that it’s used in an ethical and correct way. There are boundaries we need to set when using Ai, and these need to be understood correctly and adhered to. So much work has been done globally to improve equality, we need to ensure that everything we do meets this standard.
What is Ai?
Ai can be defined as:
A computer or a robot controlled by a computer being able to perform similar tasks as any other highly intelligent living being
Simulation of human intelligence processes by computers which includes learning, logical reasoning, or problem-solving
If used correctly it can have a number of benefits:
Offering better Customer Service through tailored, personal recommendations
Protecting business through analysing historical data & mistakes and using technology to learn from those mistakes
Automate the manual process and improve operational efficiency
Reducing Human Error improving results & outcomes
Holding us all accountable based on the data!
If you would like to learn more on Ai, we’ve created a White Paper that goes into a deep dive on the subject.
Ai in Fintech
If we look at the Financial Industry and how Ai can be applied, it really opens us up to some great products which is why the Fintech industry is thriving and one of the most exciting to be involved in.
Use Cases for Ai in Finance :
Fraud Detection: Analyse anomalies against historical data to detect fraudulent activity both for the business and consumer
Credit Scoring: More accurately provide a credit rating improving the application process resulting in more reliable & accurate decisions
Personalised Products: Can we use Ai to offer personalised financial advice based on our spending patterns, age, salary etc..
Focused Saving: Using Ai to generate automatic savings based on our spending patterns.
Business Protection: Are we taking on customers who are a risk?
Better customer service by analysing support calls & monitoring trending queries getting ahead of the curve
These aren’t necessarily new use cases and by no means an exhaustive list, some are already being executed extremely well by the major players in Fintech but also up and comers as well. However with such a broad range of use cases and its increasing involvement in one of the most integral industries, surely we need to make sure Ai is being used in an ethical way?
So what is Ethical Ai & how do we ensure we are using it correctly?
Ethical Ai is pretty much what it says on the tin, Ai that adheres to certain rules, responsibilities & accountability to ensure the decisions it makes & the suggestions it produces are free from bias and unethical thinking, making sound & accurate decisions that have a benefit.
We have to remember the power technology now has, how much of an influential part of society it has now become, and ultimately how much we need to control it. It’s therefore important to ensure as we develop these Ai algorithms & machine learning models, they are based on sound ethics and principles to ensure they are not biased, prejudiced or operating unfairly.
Fortunately, a lot of research has been done into Ethical Ai & principles to stick to, and as a Google Cloud Premier Partner we learn from the best, from people who are at the forefront of innovation.
Google has a number of pages that go into ethical AI and the principles to adhere to but I wanted to highlight the key ones that they stick to as if it works for Google, it should be somewhat a golden standard for the rest of us.
1. Be socially beneficial.
2. Avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias.
3. Be built and tested for safety.
4. Be accountable to people.
5. Incorporate privacy design principles.
6. Uphold high standards of scientific excellence.
7. Be made available for uses that accord with these principles.
Why is it so important we adhere to Ethical Ai in Finance?
The Financial industry is one of the most regulated industries in the world, and one that has to constantly be held to account, surely our use of Ai should follow suit? If we get it wrong it can have catastrophic effects as we’ve all either witnessed, studied at school, or read in the news.
If we generate Ai models that start to become corrupt, use unethical data sources and make decisions that are wrong, we are not learning from our mistakes and merely leaving ourselves open for an even bigger crash in the future.
This is why it’s imperative that the Ai models we create learn from our own mistakes, we don’t use it to justify supplying products to those who aren’t suitable for them. We used it to analyse the vast amount of historical data we have, make unemotional, unbiased decisions that ultimately benefit us all in the long run.
Used correctly Ai is an extremely powerful tool and without a doubt one of the biggest enablers in every industry. This is why it’s so important we stick to the principles above, technology is meant to make a difference, not open us up to a faster way to repeat the past and at a potentially larger scale.
As a Google Cloud Premier Partner, this is something Netpremacy can help with. With a team of experienced Data Engineers and Scientists, Netpremacy has helped deploy numerous Ai projects. This has helped develop our understanding of Ai projects, how to correctly develop algorithms to ensure they remain true, the data is clean and the results are fair.
If you’d like to know more about Ai reach out to me on firstname.lastname@example.org to see how Netpremacy can help with your Ai journey.
Netpremacy – building an environment for innovation
Netpremacy is a company that, day in and day out, uses some of the most innovative and forward-thinking tools going. We also use these solutions to help drive our customer base forward, helping them to achieve their strategic goals as a business by using technology as an enabler.
One thing we are really proud of and are constantly looking to develop and improve is our network focused on innovation. We love being involved in new exciting projects where technology is being used as a driver for something different. Que our relationship with FinTech North.
Since the start of 2020 Netpremacy and FinTech north have been working together to help bring innovation to the masses, constantly educating each other’s network, connecting people to people, business to business, and technology to solutions.
We’ve run a number of webinars focusing on how Google is creating a community of Fintech leaders, where their cloud platform is at the heart of this…. Who knew technology could be such an enabler! These webinars have covered topics such as how Google is building specific Finance solutions, all the way to how some of the largest FinTechs, such as Monzo, have revolutionised the support desk systems using big data tools such as BigQuery, and they were a huge success.
Netpremacy as a Google Cloud Premier Partner is constantly advising its customers on how to leverage the Google ecosystem and use the tools available in the most optimal way. We are keen to constantly evolve our role in the Fintech space and this is something that has only been strengthened by our relationship with FinTech North. This is exactly what helped theme our next webinar in partnership with them.
On the 29th September Netpremacy & FinTech north are partnering once again to create a network for innovation. We are bringing together start ups, established companies and those with simply an idea together to hear them “pitch” their business to industry experts. This is a great chance for the FinTech community to get together (albeit virtually) hear some new and exciting ideas and see what’s coming next from one of the most forward thinking and disruptive industries.
We’ll be hearing from the likes of:
How FinTechs are thriving in the Google Cloud arena
Hear from account director, Alastair Lumley as he explains how Netpremacy work side by side with Google to help FinTechs to thrive in a digital world.
When Google started it was seen as a disrupter, it wasn’t a new idea, it wasn’t a brand new concept, however, they took an existing service and made it infinitely better. To the point where now when we refer to searching for something we openly help advertise Google themselves.
“Why don’t you Google it?”
Just like how they entered the search engine market and transformed it, Google has done the same and continues to do so in the cloud world, competing with the heavy hitters such as AWS & Azure and year on year, gaining market share and attracting some of the largest logos in the world.
To achieve this Google were openly disrupters in the market. They do this through challenging the status quo, thriving to better what is already out there, and always looking to push the boundaries and improve. Perhaps this is why they are quickly becoming the go-to cloud partner for some of the world’s most innovative and disruptive companies going.
FinTechs, those companies that are integrating technology into the financial services to change the way we access, transfer, and manage our finances. Companies that are at the forefront of innovation.
By nature and design, Fintechs are market disruptors.
The likes of Revolut, Monzo, Starling Bank, Atom Bank, Curve, etc are taking a century-old profession and service, then radically changing how it operates and how we as a consumer utilise those services.
So why is Google building a focused unit around FinTechs?
We recently ran a webinar with the FinTech team at Google to go “under the hood” of Google’s heavy involvement in the FinTech space and what makes it so attractive to them as a cloud provider. To put it simply, FinTechs & Google are extremely similar. They both love to solve a problem using innovative technology, do it better, and change the user’s perception of what good is! This enables a culture that puts the user at the heart of everything they do and builds a community around it. This is something Google has done single-handedly by creating 9 products with over 1 billion users. It’s safe to say, Google are experts in the field.
Community is key to what we are talking about as this has enabled Google to play such a pivotal role in the growth and success of FinTechs. There has been a focus on building out a community focused on FinTechs at Google. This means shaping a team around specific customers and embedding them in the culture of the business. It enables Google to react at speed, with a full understanding and really help drive these businesses forward. They can react quickly to user enhancements, quickly drive product changes, advise on direction and best practice.
In an industry that prides itself on speed, this resource is vital. With a rapidly declining attention span across society, speed is key. If we can’t implement change quickly, we lose people’s attention. Google’s approach is enabling them to be on the front line and truly understand its customer base and help them to react quickly.
They are also taking the time to listen to their customers, and develop industry-specific solutions. These solutions are helping Fintechs go to market quicker, understand their customers more, predict revenue models, and analyse consumer behavior. The importance here is Google is shaping itself around industries, really understanding them, and providing focused, tailored solutions.
It’s a simple strategy and one that is being executed extremely well! You couple this with the fantastic minds behind the software and solutions and you have a winning formula.
Google however goes one step further. They also have a world-class partner network.
Netpremacy as a Google Cloud Premier partner, underpin this entire community approach. With over a decade of experience working with Google technologies, we have developed deep and trusting relationships throughout the whole Google Ecosystem. Our mission statement is “Using innovative solutions to solve complex business needs” and is part of the reason why we align so well to Google & the Fintech team.
Our team of experienced engineers plug into those Google teams and become an extension of Google themselves. They help bring a different perspective, another opinion/ layer of experience. The team forms true partnerships with their counterparts, and this is vital when providing guidance and advice. Not only are FinTechs benefiting from Google’s knowledge and skills but they get access to a small but dedicated pool of highly experienced partners that can dedicate time and effort into solving some of the most complex problems and developing some of the most innovative solutions.
Netpremacy has also partnered with FinTech North who is an organisation based in Leeds – focusing on an open and collaborative platform to promote the sharing ideas, challenges and best practice. They bring together FinTechs across the north to help foster an environment of innovation, create connections, and actively promote collaboration.
This has enabled us to connect Google to the north and help the innovation thrive even more. Building on that sense of community and partnership and helping to scale Google’s operation at speed, all focusing towards that common aim of solving complex problems with innovative solutions & becoming that “go to” partner for FinTech.
To find out how Google supports Fintechs watch our first webinar here.
We’re also running part two, focusing on how Google’s ML & Smart analytics tools are helping FinTechs make sense of their data. Book on the session here.