MBA Careers: Data Analytics Skills Become Focus For Financial Services

Financial institutions harness power of big data

As banks slowly warm to a wealth of big data on everything from consumer shopping habits to potential financial fraud, advanced analytical skills are swinging into focus in finance.

From tracking the shops people spend money in and offering discount offers, to investment units setting up video calls to adjust clients' portfolios, financial institutions are harnessing the power of data.

“Success[ful banks] in the future will be those who are able to interpret and act on data in real time to provide customers with a personalized and relevant experience,” says Nick Williams, consumer digital director at Lloyds Banking Group.

But a recent report from Accenture — The Looming Global Analytics Talent Mismatch in Banking — found a dire shortage of analytics talent, with the US facing a shortage of more than 260,000 analysts this year alone.

Astbury Marsden, a top City of London recruitment firm, said recently that competition for big data specialists among banks is intense: starting salaries are as high as £110,000 a year.

Specialists are communicating to senior executives key insights on how to improve profitability.

Dustin Pusch, director of business analytics at George Washington University’s business school, says data is becoming particularly important for banks’ credit departments.

“The use of big data is increasingly necessary for firms to be competitive,” he says.

The demand for data talent in finance comes as banks demand more digital skills across the board. “A combination of digital skills, industry knowledge and client-facing skills is a powerful combination in the current market,” says Paul Schoonenberg, head of MBA careers for Aston Business School.

Jennifer Boynton, assistant dean for the MBA Career Center at Georgetown McDonough School of Business, says the most demand for digital expertise is coming from banks’ sales and trading desks.

For roles that demand tech-savvy recruits, employers are looking for students with a technology background or a strong interest and understanding of innovation, says Roxanne Hori, associate dean of corporate relations, career services at NYU Stern.

A plethora of analytics programs at top business schools have emerged to produce analytics specialists. Data degrees are Warwick, IE, and USC Marshall are among the most noteworthy.

As well as recruiting for the big data revolution, financial services firms are investing in skilling up staff. More than 80% of 2,100 CFOs polled by recruiter Robert Half International said they offer in-house training to help workers hone their data analytics skills.

While most companies are keen to leverage their data capabilities, businesses and banks especially are held back by concerns over security and privacy. “Any data on customers needs legal and security vetting,” says Professor Kalyan Talluri, director of the MSc in Business Analytics at Imperial College Business School.

The trend for banks to take a closer look at their data has been prevalent in consumer banking. Both Lloyds and Santander for example offer personalized discounts through mobile technology.

But advanced analytics has spread into wealth management and investment banking. Citigroup and Deutsche Bank have developed eye-catching digital strategies, while Société Générale’s and Credit Suisse’s private banks have adopted their business models to tech.  

A study this year by KPMG found that investment managers must prioritize data analytics to navigate an increasingly complex regulatory environment, and to capitalize on growth opportunities. And recent Accenture research revealed that high-net-worth investors are avid users of digital technology for managing their finances.

“High-net-worth investors are very savvy about using digital channels and see digital as an essential part of the service they expect from a private bank or financial adviser,” says Alfredo Avila, a managing director for Accenture Wealth and Asset Management Services.

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