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Top 100 D&A Global Innovators: Zachery Anderson, PhD

Zachery Anderson, PhD, Chief Data and Analytics Officer at NatWest discusses why people should be at the center of good data and analytics practice  

In this this extended interview from our Global Top 100 Innovators in Data and Analytics report, Zachery Anderson, PhD, Chief Data and Analytics Officer at UK Bank NatWest shares his perspective on what it means to be a data and analytics leader in 2023, and what we're missing when we place too much emphasis on technology. 

Stay tuned for more in-depth conversations and expert insights from our Global Top 100 Innovators in Data and Analytics report released weekly.


C: In a professional context, what achievements are you most proud of in the past year, and why?

ZA: We are driving better quality engagement with our customers and using data smartly, personalizing insights to support and retain existing customers.  

One of the ways we’ve done this is through better targeted and more supportive messaging. Comparing the first six months of 2023 with the same period in 2022, we have seen a 33% uplift in the number of personalized messages delivered that our customers positively interact with.  And this is just the start – we have really big ambitions to deliver personalized solutions across customers’ lifecycles and support them in achieving their financial goals through personalized, data-driven engagement.

C: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing data and analytics leaders today? And how do you think they can be overcome?

The biggest challenge as I see it right now is the perfect storm of pressures on budgets and high expectations in a rapidly changing environment. 

The key to overcoming this challenge is to focus on three things:  aligning to business value, always putting customers at forefront, and being committed to strategy but not afraid to evolve your thinking and change direction if the needs of customers or the business change.

C: In your experience, what does it take to be a successful leader in the data and analytics space? What characteristics or skills should aspiring data leaders focus on cultivating?

ZA: Making time and working together in partnership with everyone in the business. A modern CDAO has to balance two ends of the spectrum.  We’ve been through a stage where CDAOs were focused on the defensive strategy and were technology focused; but now we deliver value directly to the business and are leading transformation. You need to stay on top of all this without losing connection with your day-to-day work.

Despite all the time pressure, it is also vital to engage with boards and executives to get the understanding and buy in at the top of the organization. You also have to make sure you speak to your people actually doing the work on the ground.

What are you most passionate about when it comes to data and analytics? What do you think is too often overlooked or misunderstood?

ZA: It’s fun to nerd out on things like machine learning, but we must always remember that the data we manage and interact with represents peoples’ lives.  Customers and colleagues must be number one.  

For example, we recently delivered the first conversational intelligence machine learning-driven models that transform unstructured conversations into adaptive business insights.  This has enabled us to analyze over half a million weekly customer conversations in our telephone and chat channel to help our businesses better serve our customers.  

One of the first teams to adopt this was our bereavements team who have used the insights to improve and simplify their customer journeys by identifying and eliminating pain points for customers who are already dealing with highly emotional and challenging situations.

With a lot of focus on regulation and technology, it’s important that we don’t overlook colleagues and I’m really proud of the award-winning data academy that we’ve launched to deliver world-class learning and development opportunities and build our data capabilities and culture across the whole organization.

Download Corinium's Top 100 Global Innovators in Data and Analytics 2023 here