In this episode, Jason speaks to Ranil Boteju, the Global Head of Data and Analytics in Wealth and Personal Banking at HSBC, about building global data products.
They discuss Ranil’s journey to data leadership, and the shift that has happened in financial services that’s driven the need to innovate their data strategy, be more agile and commercialise data. Their discussion explores the need for data products, moving from a project to a product mindset when building solutions, new organisational structures, the skills needed to be product led and the challenges in doing so.
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● [5.00] The major shifts in data analytics over the past 20 years
● [9.10] What competition in the data analytics space mean for progression in the industry
● [14.25] How Ranil recruits for his global team
● [17.40] The major challenges that Ranil and his team have overcome as a new emerging department in a traditional, legacy bank
● [29.09] Ranil’s 2021 goals for himself and his team
Ranil Boteju’s path from chemical engineer to head of data and analytics at HSBC bank proves that the journey of finding something you are passionate about is not always straightforward. After aspiring to be a chemical engineer for his entire school life, it wasn’t until after working for 6 months in a remote area as a chemical engineer that Ranil realised that it was not the path he wanted to be on for the rest of his life.
Instead of staying in a job he didn’t like for the next 40 years, Ranil decided to go back to university and reskill with a postgraduate program.
Ranil believes that the cheaply available data in the cloud and the open-source algorithm is really what has propelled the commercialisation of data in banks. So, if you invest in these capabilities, you can drive a considerable uptake in revenue.
As a constantly evolving industry, it can be hard to define selection criteria when choosing the right team members. Because of this, Ranil chooses to select talent based both on academic expertise and previous experience in the workforce. By placing an emphasis on both, Ranil is continually adding to the book-smarts and street-smarts of the team’s knowledge pool.
It’s an incredibly pragmatic approach to creating a new team of people in an older, more established company and creates a treasure trove of available information you won’t find in traditional education.
For example, some of Ranil’s recruits have brought valuable tips and tricks from working in smaller startups that needed to adapt quicker than larger companies.These include things such as better workflows, increased flexibility and more fluidity between departments and roles.
Over the past 20 years, one of the biggest changes Ranil has witnessed in the data analytics space is the ability to source information. More companies are choosing to commercialise or create open-source data products to help others with progression. As Ranil puts it, if data is not put to good use it is simply a waste.
On the other hand, competition is always needed to help drive the creation of better products. Ranil uses the example of Apple’s ability to analyse data and create beautiful, personalised experiences for their customers and how other companies are now striving to do the same.
Prior to COVID, large companies were enjoying incredibly fat profit margins in a thriving economy. Now as the pandemic has affected the global market, companies are realising that they need to crack down on creating an amazing user experience to help counteract thinner profit margins.
Improvement is at the core of the data analytics space. Whether it is for your team or customers you always need to be looking for ways to improve. For Ranil, he does not see ‘data-first’ as a bad thing because data comes directly from consumers.
By using a data-first approach, Ranil is able to leverage and scale information for improvements and solutions that can be deployed as fast as possible.
3 years ago, Ranil started with a brand new team on a brand new mission. Because they were relatively unknown within their large company, Ranil instructed his team to do everything in their power to make themselves known to other departments.
In what Ranil refers to as the ‘Durian approach,’ all the members of the team would constantly talk about their new data projects to anyone who would listen. He said that they would show up everywhere with their demos to increase awareness and hype around their prototypes. Team meetings, birthday celebrations, company lunches – until some people couldn’t stand them – just like the smell of a durian fruit.
So when it comes to promoting yourself, if some people don’t hate you by the end of it you haven’t done enough.
At the beginning Ranil’s team created prototypes to engage with potential customers and create hype. While at face value it didn’t seem the most profitable way to start, the awareness that it brought to the department paid off in the long run. Ranil’s team has now evolved from ‘emerging amateurs to hard-nosed professionals.’ They have implemented proper workflows, budgets and established themselves as an integral part of HSBC’s ability to create data solutions all over the world.