Talent, Innovation & the Democratisation of Data

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“I’m amazed by some of the innovations our clients come up with – it’s fantastic to see and to work in that really collaborative way…you can solve completely different problems by using the same solution – it’s all about the reuse and the potential.”

In the third of four segments with CDO Mag, Solidatus Chief Data Officer Lorraine Waters chats about all things talent, innovation and collaboration with Ben DeBow, CEO & Founder of Fortified Data. Together, they discussed the following key points:

  • How Solidatus is overcoming the challenge of talent in the data industry by working with universities to bring in interns and giving them exposure to real businesses and business outcomes
  • Why solutions such as Solidatus should be reused – its capabilities don’t just solve a single problem, but multiple issues across different business units and jurisdictions
  • The importance of making data available to people across the organisation – the more people using the data, the better the chance for true innovation
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“We want to make data a better place”, says Philip Miller, Co-CEO at Solidatus. Joining EM360 to discuss some of the data challenges organisations are facing, Philip explains that it is the complexity surrounding data, and not the data itself, that is costing organisations huge amounts of time, money, and sometimes their reputation.

Built by practitioners with a deep understanding of modern data challenges, Solidatus enables organisations to reduce the complexity surrounding data, improve understanding and control, and ultimately reduce costs and mitigate risk. See Solidatus in action in this video and find out where Philip sees the Solidatus solution evolving in the future.

Watch the full interview:

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The FIMA Europe Research Report provides a unique insight into prevailing attitudes to data management among senior financial executives charged with delivering it within their enterprises. These senior executives are personally liable for their areas of responsibility and could face fines or even imprisonment in the event of major failings at their organisations. 

Risk data aggregation standards have been set globally through BCBS 239, and any bank that asserts itself “BCBS 239 compliant” can no longer claim that it was unaware of a dangerous accumulation of risk, or that it could not have acted sufficiently quickly to offset risks, even in periods of extreme market stress. Various regulators of major financial jurisdictions have addressed the matter of personal accountability: the UK with the Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SMCR), Ireland with the Senior Executive Accountability Regime, and within the EU these responsibilities are covered variously by, among others, CRD IV, MiFID II and the EBA/ESMA Suitability Guidelines.  

With so much personally at stake, one would assume the respondents to the FIMA report would be expected to ensure that the data for which they are responsible is fit for purpose. Answers to some of the questions, however, suggest that there may still be shortcomings in how organisations are approaching this issue. For example, in response to the question “How do you understand your data in context to anticipate and predict potential risk?” 40% of respondents gave answers that relied on automation or the use of algorithms but only around 10% could provide any description of the processes that they employed – none of the answers addressed the contextual aspect of the question. Just as in grade 8 algebra where only 50% of the marks are allocated to the answer, providing the answer alone is no longer acceptable. Regulators are now demanding that organisations show their workings to prove compliance. 

Similarly, in reply to the question “What is your greatest challenge to access the right data and insights to improve customer experience?” 40% replied “I don’t know where to go to for this information.” Answers like these reveal that there is a significant proportion of senior data management professionals who, while aware that the systems for whose data they are ultimately responsible are automated, are not being provided with the necessary information to understand how or where that data is stored. Without that comprehensive understanding of their data landscape, proving that automation is indeed delivering what is supposed to achieve, or in the manner it is believed to be working, is difficult to accomplish convincingly. In addition, planning the most cost-effective upgrade path, or determining how to approach migration to the cloud, or the consequences of decommissioning aging and unreliable systems, becomes unnecessarily costly, difficult, and burdened with risk.

Built by practitioners with a deep understanding of modern data challenges, Solidatus enables organisations to achieve automation with unprecedented levels of reliability, because it is built upon a solid foundation of organisation-wide understanding. With a ground-breaking lineage-first approach, Solidatus provides comprehension and consistency across entire organisations – allowing them to optimise, govern, regulate and achieve transformation with total confidence.  

We witnessed the fallout from inadequate data management with the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, when the consequences of banks’ actions could not be seen clearly by the banks themselves until it was too late. The tools they used for data management were not up to the challenge of informing decision-makers adequately: today, Solidatus can provide levels of insight that enable risk to be managed proactively and in real-time. The only effective protection against another financial crisis is a complete understanding of the data, visualised and made available to the right people at the right time. It would be a double catastrophe were another crisis to occur, that could have been avoided had levels of data management across the industry been optimised, rather than succumbing to the false security of poorly-comprehended automation. 

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Our new Chief Data Officer, Lorraine Waters, caught up with Scotiabank VP and Chief Data Officer Allie Harris over a fireside CDO chat at the A-Team Insight Virtual Data Management Summit last week.

Discussing how to get customer data right to support regulatory compliance and a digital customer experience, Allie and Lorraine took a deep dive into capturing information around customer data by:

  • Ensuring all business lines that are touching the same customers have the same view, so that information is not siloed for business purposes
  • Pulling data together that will give you the opportunity to give clients options based on the standardisation and aggregation of data
  • Understanding how you can enhance the data for business values, instead of just looking at remediating data for regulatory compliance
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From using ontologies and knowledge graphs, to understanding how the entirety of a clients corporate structure shows potential opportunities for cross and up-sell, Allie and Lorraine looked at the gains of getting customer data right, the benefit of leveraging data standards and how technology is helping organisations understand and use their customer’s data.

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Regulatory compliance has become a competitive differentiator with organisations that fail to implement adequate solutions suffering financial penalties that may render the business unprofitable or even unviable.

April 29th 2021 marked the second day of The A-Team’s Data Management Summit where Solidatus’ Co-CEO, Philip Dutton, joined a group of data experts on a panel titled: “Data strategy spotlight: Future proofing your data strategy for today’s complex regulatory environment.”

The focus of the panel was broad, covering a wide range of key issues businesses face in the ever-changing landscape of data management. Philip started by covering the core components of BCBS 239 and how the introduction of legislation like it marked a shift in how companies thought about their data.

“The sands that we sit on are shifting much quicker than they did in the past. Trying to create something sustainable that has a manageable cost is very, very difficult. I believe that as the banks have become more focussed on data management, they’re turning this from being reactive to an opportunity to get their house in order so they can compete better and remove the costs associated with regulation.”

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Philip was quick to point out that, as a business community, we don’t need to view regulation as a burden, but rather an opportunity to grow and create new data management processes that ultimately will leave us all better off. There is also an opportunity to use mandatory spend to capture powerful data insights and in turn, save costs and produce profits.

“In terms of the regulation, one of the things that we’ve seen from clients is that there are so many regulations across so many regulators, that they’ve become a huge burden on the organisation just to fulfil that kind of obligation. So they prioritise which regulation to tackle, either by which regulator is banging on the door loudest or the one that has the biggest stick to wield. That’s not what regulation should be about. Regulation really is designed to encourage behaviour, which means that organisations should be trying to create better processes and better data management across the organisation.”

Regulators are also concerned with how data is collected. What can be automated and how we can create meaning from the results that are produced is paramount.

“Reports are great, but you’ve got different fields, meaning different things interpreted by different people; what we need is more of a standard, harmonised view of that data – so, they’re looking at how they can bring the data in, making this much more of an automated process, where machine-readable regulations mean that you can machine-interpret those regulations and implement those into the organisation. If we’re going to engineer data better, we actually have to engineer better; let’s look at each of the pieces of the puzzle and work out how we do the different steps better.”

Philip summed up an important point to close the panel’s discussion: approaching different regulations as unique pieces of legislation is wrong – they’re often very similar in structure and requirements.

“In a way, they all want the same thing. There’s a huge overlap – do one and then do the delta of the rest and therefore you’re not re-implementing the same thing repeatedly, you’re just doing deltas – this approach works for most regulations. Knowing your customer gives you a whole lot of benefits across the entirety of the organisation just from doing that one part of regulation.”

Solidatus allows organisations to proactively approach compliance by rapidly capturing, storing, and graphically representing data lineage, together with its supporting metadata. The power to document lineage at the attribute level, showing how data moves across the enterprise from capture to ultimate usage, means Solidatus reveals demonstrable data quality, inspiring confidence in regulators and inspectors. 

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After years of continuously encountering challenges within financial services, we wanted to not just address some of these problems but solve them. And we knew that this couldn’t be exclusive to finance – it was a very apparent and complex issue within every industry, in every country.

The larger the organisation, the more global-scale its presence, the bigger the problem. We wanted to be the ones to end decades of data mismanagement and create a landscape that enabled businesses to understand how their data was flowing through their organisation.

So, in 2011, Solidatus was born. Since then, every new client, partner and colleague has been momentous. Every day that we have grown, expanded into new industries, progressed our vision and welcomed new faces into our team has been as big a deal to us. And perhaps none more so than the recent announcement of our Series A fund raise.

It has not always been a smooth journey to get to where we are now.

Picture the scene – Singapore, on a hot, humid November day a few years ago we were hard at work at the UK Government Department for International Trade fintech trade mission to the Singapore Fintech Festival. We were talking to people we’d never met and telling them about their most expensive, boring, problem – how to describe and manage their data better, cheaper, disruptively, quicker…the phone rings, it is a colleague in London about to tell us that there was a problem getting an invoice paid, an invoice that had been correctly sent out against a legitimate PO.

At this point it would be appropriate to give some more narrative – there were staff who needed to get paid and not much money in the bank; we had good contracts and our clients needed our software. More money should have been coming in than going out. We did what most would do if wearing a suit on a hot tropical evening, we went for a beer and we worried. A week later we had the money in the bank. Needless to say, we managed to gather enough in savings to allow us to continue. We didn’t tell anyone how close we came to disaster. We survived.

This is not a new story; it is one faced by founders at many/most start-ups and often goes untold. However, our determination paid off. Each time we went to meet a potential client they were impressed. It was not always perfect timing, but when we left, we knew that we had touched a chord and hoped that they would be back. So, it has proven to be. The trend was clear, the research, the long hours, the grinding hard work and self-funding of the first few years, along with the faith shown in us by early adopters, was bearing fruit.

Now we were profitable and sustainably so…why take funding. Well, simply, we were being outgunned by others in our industry that had bigger budgets. It was not the case that we were incapable of competing with technology and vision (quite the opposite), it was a simple equation of getting ourselves out there quicker and front loading our development faster.

Solidatus started off as a data lineage discovery and visualisation tool and remains this at its core. But – thanks to the dedication and passion of our team, as well as the experiences of our clients – it has developed into so much more than that. It has evolved the paradigms of software engineering and data engineering to look at things in a different way.

Together, we have built a core solution and continue to iterate it to make it best in class for data lineage, management and complexity. It is simple, flexible and not designed to solve only one problem. Instead, it conceptualises an organisation’s world and connects all relationships, data, processes and obligations.

It has meant that, over the years, we have been able to accomplish so much in a remarkably short space of time. From being the only new entrant to the Gartner Magic Quadrant in Metadata Management, to joining the ranks of the RegTech 100, and winning Best Data Governance Solution at the Data Management Insight Awards. Every year has seen a plethora of new achievements, and new successes that have gone towards setting Solidatus apart from other players in our space. To look back on all we have done in the space of a few years has been both incredibly rewarding and humbling for us as founders.

It’s because of this, that Solidatus was spotted by some of the world’s best venture capital firms, thus beginning our journey with AlbionVC, with them sharing the same vision we have upheld from inception. With this funding and AlbionVC’s sector reach, we now have the opportunity to expand even further than we could ever have imagined. We had then, and have now, a vision about where the market should be and are convinced we will disrupt it to make it a better place.

The £14 million Series A investment means our growth plans will continue to accelerate as we move into new markets, new regions and build out our team globally. Whilst holding fast to the very reason we created Solidatus to start with. Something that our clients and partners can trust; something that can change the very fabric of an organisation. We will continue to innovate and revolutionise the face of data management and visualisation well into the future.