Financial services providers have been urged to pay particular attention to the quality of their data – internal and external – as well as the ensuing management of said data, as it represents the “bedrock of the financial services sector,” and will define the winners and losers of the sector moving forward.
This was the broad consensus of a panel of data quality and management experts, who agreed that to remain competitive in an ever-evolving landscape; where consumer preference is changing rapidly and regulation with it, financial institutions must be able to make intelligent decisions on how best to serve their customers – and at the heart of intelligent decision-making is quality data.
According to the Chief Risk and Credit Officer at the ARB Apex Bank, Dr. Joseph Asantey, the human factor, particularly at the point of the capture of data represents the biggest source of error in the data chain. This, he noted, is a matter of great concern as “poor data quality leads to errors in decision making, which can be costly.”
Explaining, he said, noisy data can make or break an institution as incorrectly marketed products, based on faulty data, can result in the poor uptake of a product, or at worst, lead to customer attrition. To remedy this, he proposed the application of the best technological tools possible.
“Data will continue to grow and discrepancies will continue to exist but the solution line depends on the deployment of the appropriate technology, to address each of these discrepancies because as institutions are manned by humans, these challenges will remain. But improved and enhanced digital technology will go a very long way in reducing the discrepancies, whilst not entirely wiping it out but bringing it to a manageable level,” he remarked.
Taking the argument further, Director, Data Science, Centelon, India, Prabhash Thakur said that whilst technology is pivotal in data quality management, it requires proper controls and integration with other business elements to yield optimal results. “We cannot leave it to technology alone. We need to make sure businesses start with data profiling and there are a lot of tools for that,” he said.
Whilst there has been the rapid transition to online interactions, some customers, by choice or extreme constraints, interact with their financial services provider via analog means of in-person meetings. Mr. Thakur noted that such customers remain the most vulnerable to having incorrect details, a development that can inadvertently lead to their exclusion from key products and services.
“For those customers who interact offline, the data quality problem is higher, the reason being that those customers interact via phone or branch visits and there is a heightened chance of losing some information during this.”
Data professional and consultant, Sarah Oppan stressed the need for processes to be put in place to reduce discrepancies in data, from point of capture to storage and analysis. This, she said is crucial in ensuring that the data is correctly interpreted, especially, as it has decision-making implications. “There must be data quality tools in place and some measures must be agreed upon in how it is to be measured. We concede that we can not have 100 percent clean data. But a range must be agreed on as to what qualifies credible data.
Addressing concerns over the reluctance of some higher-ups to sanction spending for data quality management, she said those responsible for data control must ensure that they communicate properly, showing in monetary terms, amongst other variables, the cost, and benefit per unit.
“It is hard for most institutions to have dedicated budgets but everyone appreciates the use of data in decision making. But then, if you are asking for a budget or implementing things to improve the quality of data, ensure that some figures are put to use-cases of KPIs that you are modeling. Data doesn’t stand alone, data serves a business so what we are trying to do is look at cost of acquisition and potential benefit, in monetary terms,” she explained.
On his part, Head of Information Technology at FBN Bank, Kwadwo Asare Asante, urged financial institutions to spare no expense in ensuring data are updated frequently as the change of a small detail such as a telephone number, email address or residential address could have dire rippling effects on service delivery and wider financial inclusion.
These experts were sharing their thoughts during a webinar jointly organised by CWG Ghana and Centelon on the theme ‘Data Quality Management in Banking& Financial Institutions’.