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Interview with Sanjay Saxena (SVP, Data Governance, NORTHERN TRUST)

Written by Corinium on Nov 1, 2018 3:35:15 PM

IBM CDO Summit Insights Data and Analytics

Sanjay Saxena is senior vice president, enterprise data governance, data and client digital services at Northern Trust responsible for establishing the data governance and data quality program across the enterprise. Ahead of his participation at November’s IBM CDO Summit we caught up to find out more about his typical day, the importance of data governance and data quality to business success and why he likes to take a break with a KitKat.

Sanjay Saxena will be taking part in a keynote panel at IBM CDO Summit this November 14-15 in Boston. See him speak in the session From Data to Dollars - Monetizing your Data as a Strategic Asset. 

Can you tell us more about your role as head of enterprise data governance at Northern Trust?
“As head of enterprise data governance my role is to help Northern Trust fully realize the benefits of its data assets. The data governance function plays a key role in ensuring that the data in the organization is reliable and accurate. My role is to be the change agent for the firm and help implement a comprehensive data strategy. I have been involved in the set-up of the data program and am glad to say that the program is very mature and delivering a lot of value to the enterprise.”

What does a typical day comprise?
“My typical day consists of working with a large number of stakeholders on a diverse range of data topics. I run several data strategy initiatives across the enterprise – I partner with the business units (wealth management, asset management and asset servicing) in understanding their key data issues and help them create and run initiatives to solve these issues. Northern Trust is a leader in its space when it comes to managing data and puts a lot of emphasis on governance and quality of the data, both within the firm and what is delivered to our customers.”

How important is data governance and data quality to the success of businesses today?
“Data governance is the foundation for a good data program within a firm. Many recent studies have indicated that firms are under leveraging the value that comes from their data and there are two primary reasons – poor data quality and an inability to drive insights from the data. In most financial services firms both the data governance and data analytics functions are still maturing and a lot more needs to be done. In Northern Trust we have always paid a lot of importance to data and have strong programs in both these disciplines.”

What are the biggest challenges faced in achieving these?
“The biggest challenge in achieving our goals is just how fast we can go – i.e resources and budgets. My team is involved in about a dozen initiatives within the bank and we can be doing more. Communicating the successes of the program and the change management required to get all the key stakeholders involved is always a challenge. Data flows through the organizational silos and we always risk not informing all the key players.”

In your career you have led major transformation programs in data governance, data management and technology in banking and insurance – what’s the most important thing you need to be able to execute such transformation programmes?
“Transformation programs require a strong combination of strategy and execution. In addition, it is important that such programs stick to their strategic goals and don’t make too many tactical compromises. Transforming the behaviors of people so that they adopt the new processes, tools and technologies is also critical for success.”

What’s the most common mistake people make around data?
“Typically data and integration issues are at the root of most program failures. They are also the most expensive and time consuming issues that impact transformation efforts. Solving for data issues tactically to meet the immediate needs, is the most common mistake people make around data.”

How important is IT and systems transformations in having a top quality data programme?
“IT plays a vital role in the implementation of data quality. IT teams know a lot about how data is stored and how it is transformed and can provide valuable inputs to any data quality program. They also have a deep understanding of the systems and the controls that cause the issues.”
Your session focuses on monetising data – what’s the biggest mistake that people make in this area and how can they avoid making it?
“Most businesses think of monetization as something that is independent of internal data issues and challenges. From my experience fixing the internal data challenges is a precursor to having a good data monetization program. The fundamentals of having good data practices within a firm and looking at data as an ‘asset’ are essential to its monetization. Organizations need to spend the time and money to fix their data – this is the bedrock of a good monetization program.”

What question would you most like an answer to?
“How have other organizations similar to Northern Trust embarked on their data journey and what are the lessons learnt?”

Are enough companies embracing the opportunities that data offers and if not how can they change things?
“I believe there is plenty of opportunity in this space both in terms of adoption of data governance and data analytics. Embracing the newer techniques in AI and machine learning is one key area of expansion. Expanding data governance beyond risk and regulatory use cases is also a big opportunity. Northern Trust has made a significant advancement in both these areas.”

What’s your favourite treat?
“KitKat or Gummy Bears (I haven’t grown up when it comes to those two).”

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