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CAO Fall | Speaker Interview

Connie Zhang, US Data and Analytics Officer, Agricultural Bank of China

Having decided she wanted to work in the financial services industry more than 20 years ago Connie Zhang is now US Data & Analytics Officer at the Agricultural Bank of China. She will be part of a panel at this month’s Chief Analytics Officer, Fall event, in which she will explain how the financial services industry can attract top talent. In this interview she explains why employers must embrace wider experience than just financial services when hiring and why she believes education is a miracle.

What does a typical day comprise for you?

“A regular Data Governance and Analytics day is 40% of governance, risk and control from data and processes level, while another 60% is dealing with making deliverables for data implementation (includes data strategy, collection, data analysis, data profiling, data quality, data pattern).” 

Your session at CAO, Fall looks at whether financial services can win the talent race. What’s your view?

“The best way to win the talent race is to make yourself a great example.  Be humble and results oriented. Think outside of the box and be a forward thinker. The best way to ensure you win talent is simple: brilliant people read each other easily, and they simply believe they can learn from each other too.” 

How can the industry better excite and attract talent to the financial services industry?

“The financial services industry has lots of legacy, either systems or regulation or people. The best way to attract talent is to accept innovation. Listen to others’ opinions and constantly remind yourself there are lots of geniuses whom you can learn from.” 

What’s the biggest change you would like to see that would encourage more talent to look at financial services as an industry?

“For data, the financial industry needs to be embraced across other industries.  For example, pharmaceutical, medicine and finance are three industries that can be transformed easily by each other.”


When and how did you decide that financial services was the industry for you?

“23 years ago. However, in between I worked for a pharmaceutical company as well as a financial software company.

What job did you want to do when you were a child?

“I wanted to be a professor. I have liked challenge since I was a child. The role of professor requires you to know something inside out to explain a complicated thing and make others understand it too.” 

Your job sees the roles of data and analytics combined – how common is that and how do you manage both responsibilities?

“Yes, I manage both sides. I was in financial engineering for a while so it makes sense that I can take the analytics side too, I was also a data architect and have worked for front line and middle office too. To me, unifying business data and analytics without gaps is the most important thing to any business.”

What excites you most about what you do?

“Change – it could be from regulators, business requirements, systems and people. And how to capture, face and address all those changes in the most efficient manner.”

How important is data in today’s world?

“If you don’t pay enough attention to a data-driven solution, your business will quickly fall behind.”

If you didn’t work in data and analytics what would you be doing today?

“I would be a farmer or a teacher. Education is a miracle, you can change people completely from one way to another. But it takes time. I grew up in rural china where being a farmer would be my default job. It takes a lot of effort to get ready for when the harvest season starts. It’s the same for a data-driven approach it takes time to train people, make people accept it and reach there.”

Connie Zhang will be a guest speaker at Chief Analytics Officer, Fall which takes place in Boston from 8-11 October. She will be part of a panel discussion at 10.10am on October 8 looking at how the financial services industry can win the talent race and what motivates data professionals to work in the industry.

Author: Liz Morrell