We had the opportunity to spend five minutes with Daniel Seymore, the head of business intelligence at Investec. Daniel will co-chair a discussion group on translating data for the rest of the business on 12 June at Chief Data & Analytics Officer Africa 2018.
Thanks for your time Daniel. why don’t we kick off with you telling us a bit about your background and how you ended up in your current role.
I started my career in the actuarial department of Rentmeester Life insurance. Found my “calling” during these years. Knew I wanted to do data work for the rest of my life. Worked at Nedbank for couple of years and then moved to SARS.
Most of my analytical experience and learning took place during my tenure at SARS. Designed and implemented the Personal Income Tax submission forecast model. Assisted the World Bank and Davis Tax committee with research on the success of incentives within the Corporate Tax system. Designed and implemented a prioritisation mechanism for Debt collection which included the probability of tax payers paying their outstanding debt, to name a view.
Moved to Investec in 2016 as a consultant and soon thereafter got the opportunity to head op the BI team.
What would you say is your biggest challenge with your role and how are you looking to tackle it?
To change the behaviour of people.
I believe the future of leadership is to enable people and teams to solve the problems. The collective power of the group will always be more than its parts. My focus is to help people navigate the chaos and and provide guidance. If people believe in the purpose, they will drive it and make it their own.
In what ways are you working with your business to help drive value? How is data being valued or prioritised in the business? And in which business area, function or metric, has your team made the biggest impact?
We are working closely with business to improve operational efficiencies and solve problems. Data is considered a first-class citizen. We have business roles 100% focussed on data quality as well as data governance.
We have implemented a couple of Machine learning models in the Compliance space with massive ROI. I am taking 70% – 80% reduction in caseloads due to prioritisation and false positive rate reduction. This is massive savings in order to streamline processes and enabling business to scale much faster.
There seems to be an endless stream of new software/tech options in the market. How do you determine what technology to invest in, and where to build in-house? How do you keep track of the technology trends at the moment? Do you have the flexibility that you need to explore various tech options out there?
As leaders, our role is to question what we do as well as how we do it. Hence keeping up to date with the technology out there is a non-negotiable.
I try and relate the tech back to base principles. i.e. What are we trying to solve? If we had no limitations, would the solution look different? In my opinion the best way to keep track of new tech is to read, read, read.
Within Investec we have the opportunity to explore new opportunities and technologies, we have multiple POC running at the moment trying to see what will work for us. In the end It is all about creating value for our clients.
How do you interpret buzzwords like Big Data, digital transformation and artificial intelligence? Do you think buzzwords create some sort of outside value in creating greater awareness with the general public?
I personally hate “buzz words”. I know it makes the selling easier but creates anxiety, uncertainty and confusion.
Talent is a big issue at the moment. When it comes to recruitment, what approach do you take to attract and keep the best talent? In what ways do you feel that the type of talent you are looking for within your teams has evolved over the past two years?
My motto is to pay people fairly with market related salaries and incentivise top performers. Give people the opportunity and autonomy to work on cool stuff.
For recruitment: CULTURE FIT. People with a greater purpose and drive will learn the required skills to accomplish their goals. In our environment we have to upskill every 5 years to stay on top. People need to be self-motivated and invested in their own learning.
I look for out of the ordinary people and have realised that not all come from a formal tertiary institution.
What was the wisest advice you received from a mentor? What would you pass on to your mentees?
“It is amazing what you can accomplish in life if you do not worry about who gets the credit” – Once you realise it is not about you but about the team and purpose, then the magic happens.
I would pass on the following to my mentees: “Question the conventional, use your imagination and dream big!”
What are you most looking forward to at the Chief Data & Analytics Officer Africa conference? Would it be networking, learning with your peers, a few days out the office with people who can share in your projects’ challenges, successes, frustrations and commiserations?
I think all of the above. The conversations are always riveting and the insights priceless.