March 18, 2019

Data in Finance: An Online Lesson with Siew Kai Choy

Data in Finance: An Online Lesson with Siew Kai Choy

Financial services has long employed data in certain use cases. As a new decade for finance beckons, however, it has become increasingly vital to determine how to best use data in a practical, strategic way. How can we determine which organisations manage to efficiently utilise this data, and what has fundamentally changed in finance because of the growth and digitalisation of data?

As part of our pedagogical promise, we held an online lesson earlier this March to address these themes. Siew Kai Choy, former Head of Data & Analytics at GIC, lead the lesson with our co-founder, Huy Nguyen Trieu, as the pair discussed the changing role of data, how organisations should (and shouldn’t) use them, as well as Siew Kai’s storied background in developing Data Analytics. Undoubtedly one of the most impressive leaders in the Data & Analytics space, Siew Kai Choy is currently a Board Member and Advisor to several technology companies and is anticipated to join Stanford University as a Fellow from July 2019.

The live online lesson was comprised of three parts:

  • Part 1- Financial Institutions and Tech Companies: The Data Paradox
  • Part 2- The evolving role and use of data
  • Part 3- Live Q&A

Opening with a look into why a data paradox exists between traditional finance and new-wave tech companies, Siew Kai opined that

“The future success for customer experience or success… will need to rely on non-traditional data which financial institutions do not carry a lot of.”

Siew Kai explained that the ‘data revolution’ people have referred to over the past five years has actually taken place in the real economy (as opposed to deep within financial circles) and has had a sizeable impact on this real economy.

A recent trend has been the emergence of ‘Heads of Data’ across banking and financial institutions. Why is this the case? This shouldn’t be, Siew Kai explains, as tech companies don’t employ such roles, instead opting to “live and breathe data… and new-world business models.”

Here are further notable excerpts from the opening chapter of the lesson:

“The function of banking is essential, but the way banks currently operate may or may not be the right model.”

“The DNA and approach of problem-solving… to deliver a unique banking experience” – Siew Kai Choy on the ideal approach for banks.

“In traditional banks, we tend to throw away a lot of data that might be useful… such as telemetry.”

“A strategy for incumbent banks could be to tie up with real-world (data) companies, so they can potentially merge datasets.”

The second part, on the evolving role and use of data, explored how banks should use (or not use) data, how its role has changed in the past 15 years, and the new skills needed to navigate this realm of finance.

On the changes in using data since the turn of the millennium, Siew Kai said,

“[It is] more challenging to use data now because there’s a lot more noise.”

He explains that one should use data and information processing techniques to boost the signal-to-noise ratio, a ratio which is currently “very low.”   

On how banks should use data, he offered a simple instruction (while noting BigTech like Google don’t have this issue)

“Banks should break down all the silos of data available… and they need to find a way to cross product silos.”

The importance of acquiring new skills is quickly being a tautology within finance. Siew Kai expands on this in noting,

“It’s about appreciating and having an understanding that as the world around becomes so information, data and tech-enabled, you can’t keep using the same old mindsets and rules of decision-making that are not data-assisted.

This programme & CFTE is geared towards helping individuals advance and stay relevant in their industry, so that’s why my message is more about individual change as opposed to top-down organisational change.”

For greater excerpts of the lesson, and if you wish to rewatch the online lesson for free or didn’t manage to catch it live – please stay tuned to our social feeds for further information!

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About CFTE

We are a platform supported by senior leaders from the largest institutions, startups, and universities. We address the needs of professionals in finance to upskill in a rapidly changing industry being transformed by emerging technologies. More than 50,000 participants learn from our online courses, such as AI in Finance, Fintech Foundation or Extrapreneurship, a mini-MBA with fast-growing startups such as Revolut or Shift Technology.

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