In the age of big data, banks should be king. After all, which industry knows more about people and how they behave than the holders of deposits? But all that data is useless without leaders who know how to effectively analyze it. American Banker recently polled data and analytics chiefs at banks about the trials and tribulations of big data and the art of finding insightful information. Here are some of their responses.
Lou Maiuri
Executive vice president and head of global markets and Global Exchange
State Street, Boston
$251 billion in assets

What's a common misconception about big data?

"That Big Data is always useful. The more data we have the more we have to analyze for better and for worse. New information can trigger new ideas but with so much information, it's easy to fall victim to information overload and get lost in the noise."

Santhosh Keshavan
Chief information officer of core systems
Regions Bank, Birmingham, Ala.
$125 billion in assets

How do you determine you're looking for the "right" things or asking the right questions?

"The demand is always greater than the supply. It is important to get the core functions right, and prioritization is a team effort, not an IT function alone. The idea is to validate the data once and use it multiple times."

Sandra Nudelman
Head of customer and marketing analytics for Chase Bank
JPMorgan Chase, New York
$2.46 trillion in assets

How do you measure success?

"It is hard to measure it by ourselves, because analytics can never drive impact alone. When we look at our analytics teams, we are making sure they're focused on the businesses' top priorities. Analysts are scarce resources. You hear constantly that it is hard to find data scientists. We are not going to find thousands, so we must make sure they are deployed to the biggest opportunities."

Rajendra Patil
Head of data strategy, architecture and decision science
Bank of New York Mellon, New York
$298 billion in assets

What advice would you give to a bank just starting down the road of data analytics?

"Focus on the data quality at the source and enable your data early in its lifecycle for easy integration across the data domains you care about. Advance analytics maturity is directly proportional to your ability to easily integrate content at scale."

A. Charles Thomas
Chief data officer
Wells Fargo, San Francisco
$1.7 trillion in assets

Do your parents or friends understand what you do?

"I hope so, because every CDO must master the art of storytelling. Can you speak the language of your audience? The best test is if your friends, children and parents know what you do for a living."

Bill Hoffman
Chief analytics officer
U.S. Bank, Minneapolis
$433 billion in assets

What's the most promising source of big data?

"No one has more insight on customers than the front line employees who engage with them every day. Not only does the front line have great insight into customer needs — met and unmet — they also have great, locally-relevant insights on the consumer, the market and the competitive environment."

Cara Dailey
Chief data officer
Bank of the West, San Francisco
$80.7 billion in assets

What's the toughest hurdle today that banks face in using data to their benefit?

"Data assets sometimes become siloed to immediately support day to day operational needs of the bank. As a result it becomes difficult to pull together analytics across customer and product data sets to help drive better business decisions. Second to that, banks have regulatory and compliance mandates that drive aggregation and reporting of data different from how the firm currently manages their daily business operations."

David Greenberg
Head of business intelligence and data analytics
BankMobile, a division of Customers Bank, Phoenixville, Pa.
$9 billion in assets

What does big data in banking look like five years from now? What will you be doing that you're not doing today?

"Banking is right now in the predictive analytics stage — we are creating neural networks and using advanced mathematics to make fairly accurate predictions. In the next five years, banking will enter the world of prescriptive analytics where our models will not only be able to predict behavior but then offer different solutions based on those predictions."

Theresa McLaughlin
Global chief marketing officer
TD Bank Group
$280 billion in assets in the U.S.

What other industry or company do you think does a great job with analytics?

Disney. My family just got back from DisneyWorld and the app was impressive. I liked the customized offers. 'It's 4:15, you must be getting hungry. There are tables available at this restaurant.' Essentially, they took a terrific experience, identified the pain points and made it better. They used analytics to take the friction out."