Published April 21 2021
Emma Gray says ANZ’s overriding data principle is pretty simple.
“We ask, ‘is this in the customer’s best interests?’” she says. “And If it’s not, we don’t do it.”
For businesses trying to make the most of their data in an increasingly digital world, installing such an approach is a good place to start.
Gray, ANZ’s Group Executive, Data & Automation at ANZ, says regulation around privacy and consumers is “sacrosanct”, but for companies like ANZ – which makes data a core part of its operations, both for customers and its own business – it’s important to look even closer.
“Over and above that, we've established a pretty sophisticated set of data ethics, a set of rules that we apply across all of our use cases,” she explained at a recent ANZ customer event.
That focus on privacy, and how to build it into a data culture and proposition, is increasingly critical. Businesses are moving rapidly into digital at a time consumer understanding of the intricacies of privacy is rising – a trend exacerbated by the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
“Retail customers have moved pretty rapidly to digital,” Gray says. “And businesses are racing to catch up.”
“You're seeing that in terms of acceleration of self-service on digital apps,” she says. “Making sure all of the functionality customers would have looked for in a branch in the past, can now be found through self-service on a digital device. Once customers have tried functionality delivered in this way, we are not seeing them go back”.
The use of data and digital tools has skyrocketed through the crisis, ANZ’s chief economist Richard Yetsenga says – which has some broad implications for business in the future.
“McKinsey says the acceleration has been three to four hundred per cent over the previous rate of adoption,” he says. “Tech companies, for the most part, have seen their share prices go up through this crisis rather than down.”
“In fact, the six big US tech companies now are larger than most the combined market cap of most other country’s equity markets, at least with the exception of China.”
Yetsenga says the changes to how businesses operates - particularly “in the white-collar space” - is happening “in ways we've never seen before”.
“Digital and data is at the epicentre of this,” he says.
For Gray, these increasing volumes of data can be very valuable when working with large companies that also have the wherewithal to use data correctly and securely.
“[At ANZ], we’ve been working with some of our bigger clients and asking ‘How can we put aggregated data – data that is anonymised and impossible to tie back to an individual - to work'," she says. “And do this safely and securely, to help customers with decisions around where to put a store, where to invest differentially with regard service provisions. That's been really useful.”
For companies like ANZ, keeping data secure and aggregated is part of a business’ “ability to have a social licence”, Head of Public Sector at ANZ Institutional, Emma Davine, says.
“ANZ’s been spending a lot of time building a robust data security and governance capability,” she says. “This really helps establish that trust in data, particularly how we will use it, how we'll manage it, report and dispose of it.”
“[The important thing] is introducing rules and behaviours around the development, classification, management, storage and use of data.”
As a larger enterprise, Davine says ANZ works with third parties and vendors on data protection to ensure their systems are safe.
“And these are all things any company needs to do as well, in terms of how you use your own data and how you protect your own customer,” she says.
“The other piece is the importance of cybersecurity, which really can't be underestimated.”
As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, it’s crucial for businesses trying leverage their data to protect their customers, Gray says.
“I think we do - fingers crossed - a good job at keeping the walls up,” she says. “I think being really clear on how you're protecting your perimeter is [really important].”
This extends as far as procurement, Gray says, where ANZ looks into “our business partners, and their business partners”.
“So you start to get quite small companies, where we want to make sure any data we share with them is done in a certain way,” she says. “What I think we'll start to see is a bit of a second, third and fourth-order effect, where bigger companies need to make sure the folks they're dealing with, and then the folks they're dealing with, are all actually sharing data in a secure environment.”
“Because we're only as good as the weakest link. And that's really critical.”
Davine says ANZ is very careful to ensure it de-identifies the data it works with, including individuals and businesses.
“If you're looking at [data from a] postcode level and it's a really small demographic within a certain postcode, we would actually then go up an extra level so you can’t actually identify particular individuals or households or small businesses,” she says.
“Within that context, we're very careful and we go through great lengths to do that.”
Yetsenga says as companies increasingly collect their own and can access it faster, these trends will become more widespread.
“Even for [economists], the data we use around spending is extremely, extremely aggregated,” he says. “We're looking at income and savings, for instance, to start to talk about that story. But we're very careful about how we manage that.”
The key lesson for business is striking a balance between security and innovation, Davine says.
“Where the data becomes really powerful is when you use it to drive your business forward and to use it to make the right decisions,” she says.
“A lot of the work [ANZ does with customers] is very much around that innovation piece. Trying to understand and validate a business case or [investment] based on the data.”
“[For businesses] it's really about how you use that data to continue to improve your strategy. And you can do that without actually identifying who the data comes from.”
The other benefit to data is how it helps business interrogate problems, Davine says.
“People often have preconceived ideas about what the answer is to a particular problem [but] actually what the data will show you is something quite different,” she says. “I think it's very important to look at the data, even if it is de-identified, and it may tell you a story you will not always agree with.”
Yetsenga says securing the right culture around data is a critical consideration for business.
“Not just around the privacy issues, and managing that tension between what you want to do and what you should do,” he says. “But also, asking the right data of the questions – having a culture that does that - and then taking the next step, which is actually having some comfort [in] acting on the conclusions you reach because of the use of data.”
Yetsenga says adapting to the speed of change in the data landscape is another important factor.
“I think [data is] changing the business landscape,” he says. “And in many ways and I think it's going to be something that will be with us, really, as far as the eye can see.”
No matter how far it spreads, or how fast, Gray says for businesses to be successful with data, the customer – and what’s in their best interest - must always be at the centre.
“[ANZ has] gone through hundreds of use cases to say, ‘Is this something we should do or shouldn't do? Does it adhere to our principles?’,” she says. “We apply a pretty strong lens to it, which is really important.”
Shane White is Content Manager at ANZ Institutional
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