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  • Writer's pictureShreshth Malik

On Data in the Economy of Tomorrow: Reflections on Future of Finance 2021 Conference

Shreshth Malik reflects on Future of Finance 2021 Conference's Data Panel. He covers the key discussion points about how data science is used in their businesses today and how Brexit may change the landscape.

Hosted by 6 of the LARGEST careers societies from leading global universities, Future of Finance 2021 was organised by UCL FinTech Society, LSE SU FinTech Society, LSE PRIS, Imperial Finance Society, Warwick Entrepreneurs Society & King's Business Club.

The speakers

Diane Berry, Former Director of Data Science, Bain & Co

Former Director of Data Science, Bain & Co, Diane Berry had several of her studies published in academic journals in the field of Natural Sciences and Data Science. She is also part of the UCL alumni.

Sohail Raja, Head of Execution Platforms & UK Chief Digital Officer, Societe Generale,

Sohail Raja is the Head of Execution Platforms & UK Chief Digital Officer at Société Générale. He gained experience in Data Science while working at PwC, Commerzbank Securities, Nomura International, and Société Générale. He is part of the Warwick University and the King’s College London alumni.

Data in the Economy of Tomorrow

The Current State of Data Science

1. What is your relationship with data in your business?

Diane: Data-driven decision making is a core part of how we advise clients at Bain. It is how we are able to strategise and solve problems. We’ll take what data is available up front. This data is never perfect, but you make the most of what you have to develop use cases and proof of concepts to show where value can be added.

Sohail: The Execution Platforms business spans the full cross-section of B2B business lines at Soc Gen. As Chief Digital officer I focus on how we can leverage the digital transformation to provide better insights with data - both to clients on digital platforms, and internally through client monitoring.

2. What are the biggest barriers to using big data in practice? How do you overcome them?

Sohail: The biggest challenge is the data itself - understanding its quality, quantity and how we can collate it from different sources. A lot of projects are put on hold because the bottom-line benefits to the business are not clear given the available data.

Diane: We see technology anxiety in businesses. We can overcome this through having close conversations with people, showing the value data can provide to enhance rather than replace business functions. Bias is also a problem when we use historical data which reflects some of the systematic biases in our society. We need to ensure we have this in mind when making decisions based on data-driven insights.

3. The latest technology is constantly evolving. How do you ensure the longevity of new services or products you deploy?

Diane: Many large institutions have complex, decades-old systems and so revamping the whole set-up is almost impossible. You have to work with what they’ve got. However, we are seeing some architecture, API and microservices transformations recently which have enabled faster deployment.

Sohail: Increased computational power and new tools such as Jupyter notebooks and open-source libraries have enabled quick experimentation. We have developed our own suite of open-sourced software which we use to iterate quickly.

Looking Forward

4. What skills and qualities are important for aspiring data scientists of the future?

Diane: It is very important to have an element of research and ongoing learning. Then you can take advantage of the latest developments and stay competitive. A deep understanding of the maths is also essential to understand the nuances of models. Finally, it's about communicating what these insights mean for the business.

Sohail: The key thing for me is the ability to communicate technical concepts clearly and concisely. You’re essentially ‘pitching all the time’ as a data scientist to the business - you need to spot commercial opportunities and be able to put forward pragmatic solutions.

5. What will the impact of Brexit be on data regulation?

Diane: I think the government has realised there is so much value in data. They will try to capitalise on this opportunity by diverging from EU data regulations to bring in business (e.g. they are hiring a new Information Commissioner which could be for this purpose).

Sohail: There will definitely be an impact to markets, and with any change comes business opportunities in banking. This could even be resemblant of the ‘Big Bang’ in the 1980s where deregulation established London as the financial centre of the world.

Key Takeaways

From the discussion it was made clear that data scientists need to maintain a close eye on the latest research, but also have that core business pragmatism to choose which projects to work on. The closing remarks regarding the opportunities from Brexit is an interesting take and has made me eager to see what regulatory changes will arise in the coming years.

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