It was 2018, and the Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) was rolling out a long-awaited project. If successful, it would create a 360-degree view of the customer — what the digital banking pioneer calls a “golden record.”
The newly-minted system ran Informatica Master Data Management (MDM) and Informatica Data Quality to reduce the workload on data cleansing and standardize customer information. The rollout’s eventual success gave UnionBank a single, trusted view of each customer across all its platforms and a data-aware culture to beat.
“Before the implementation, we ran scripts internally. There was no existing infrastructure or implementation on how to do identity resolution across all our customer records in various places. Now, we do,” declares Wilfredo Montino, the bank’s vice president of enterprise data services.
The quest to create a golden record is nothing new. Every company wants to know its customers intimately to make its marketing efforts more effective.
“Those who see the most benefit are those that see it as a strategic component providing a foundation of customer data that will be utilized right across the entire organization. It builds a profile that will evolve and grow throughout the customers’ lifecycle with every interaction with the business,” explains Joseph Sullivan, Informatica’s director for 360 engagement practice for APAC and Japan.
MDM tries to rectify the issues that arose because companies neglected proper data storage and management. Sally Parker, a research director at Gartner, explains that it is “the unintended consequence of data silos, and poor data and analytics governance.” The result: suboptimal decision making and poor organizational performance.
“As a discipline, MDM is focused on consistency and quality of data that describes the core entities of an organization. In this case, it’s the customers. This data sits at the heart of the most important business goals and outcomes of the organizations,” she explains.
For Parker, MDM is essentially about governance and maintaining a single trusted version of this “core” data across the enterprise “in support of the prioritized and broadest set of mission-critical priorities.”
So, it comes as no surprise that a lot of MDM projects begin with compliance.
It was also the case for UnionBank. But the bank, which bagged numerous awards for its digital prowess, wanted to go further. It wanted to drive financial inclusivity and tackle banking compliance and data privacy with a single data governance framework.
“To achieve that, we needed to do MDM,” says Maria Francesca Montes, the vice president and head of artificial intelligence & data policy at UnionBank.
Informatica’s solutions give banks a technological advantage that provides a traditional 360-degree customer view built on traditional structured data sources. “It leverages AI, ML, NLP, and other techniques to enrich their understanding of customers with new data sources that have typically been difficult to link to customer records such as transactions, interactions, IoT, social media and other data sources,” explains Sullivan.
This data can potentially scale into the billions of records and allow companies to access vital insights in the customer journey — as UnionBank was to find out.
MDM may be a technology problem, but the solution needs more than the right platform. Companies need to knock down “political and organizational silos,” says Parker. “Without due consideration for organizational impact and in the absence of significant business engagement, MDM programs will, and do, fail.”
UnionBank knows this well. It is not their first try at MDM. “When we spoke to one of the stakeholders, they told me good luck,” says Montino.
Where the current initiative differed was the balanced technology-organizational approach. While Informatica proved its mettle in driving up data quality via leading-edge technology, the UnionBank teams organized governance teams to make MDM part of their DNA.
Data quality and data governance were no longer seen as a compliance matter; it became everyone’s.
“While the regulatory compliance is the main initiator, the business realized that it’s actually going to be more beneficial for all of us,” says Montes, who sees herself as an MDM superuser.
Strong awareness at the top helped to push the project forward. A central data governance management committee helped steer the project in the right direction and overcome potential hurdles. The resulting strong teamwork helped UnionBank tackle unique issues like the lack of a common identifier for customers in the Philippines across different systems.
“In the absence of such identifier, it’s very important that we have a sufficient way of how to identify customers coming in from different sources,” says Viswanathan Namasivayam, advisor for data science enterprise architecture at UnionBank.
“So, it’s really a joint collaborative effort,” adds Montes.
Montino notes reasons that a strong data governance culture was critical for their MDM success. “And fast forward today, and we see people being active in terms of making sure that the quality of the data that we have at the very moment is high and improved over time.”
The resulting rise in data quality reduced data preparation times, which for Namasivayam’s team meant more time to do what they wanted: model development.
The pandemic effect
COVID-19 shifted the focus on customer experience as consumer behaviors turned digital. It also made 360-degree customer views vital.
“In the past, organizations competed primarily on product or price, but those days are gone. Now, almost everyone is competing on customer experience, so the need for a single customer view to support initiatives such as digital transformation, personalized marketing, etc., predates the pandemic,” says Sullivan.
When physical businesses were forced to close and shift to digital, they realized that their data infrastructure is not fit for purpose. Poor quality, ungoverned data scattered across the business units and systems became roadblocks; for some, a liability.
“The pandemic also seems to have caused a switch from focusing on new customer acquisition to the retention of existing customers — which is increasing the need for a trusted view as existing customers expect that you know who they are and will switch to a competitor if you can’t provide the seamless experience they expect. This is difficult if your data is stuck in internal silos,” says Sullivan.
To achieve such a view, companies need to be realistic about their readiness to adopt enterprise MDM by assessing organizational culture, data-driven maturity and ensuring the right level of executive support to facilitate the necessary cross-organizational collaboration.
“An MDM program should be in support of agreed business outcomes — or how do we measure success?”
UnionBank did, and it helped their MDM project succeed. And when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in early 2020, the digital bank was ready.
Besides being ready for a surge in digital banking, UnionBank also disbursed cash subsidies from the second tranche of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) quickly. When the Government’s Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) appointed the bank as one of the six financial service providers (FSPs), it worked closely with its digital bank EON Bank, its fintech business UBX, and partner DragonPay to distribute the cash electronically, meeting its initial objective of financial inclusivity.
The bank is not done yet. With MDM deployed and data quality on track, it is now looking to democratize data access and enable self-service analytics. Montino shares that his team is now looking at data lineage, catalogs, and dictionaries.
“We built the foundations [with MDM], and now we’re opening the gates,” Montino concludes.
Winston Thomas is the editor-in-chief of CDOTrends and HR&DigitalTrends. He is always curious about all things digital, including new digital business models, the widening impact of AI/ML, unproven singularity theories, proven data science success stories, lurking cybersecurity dangers, and reimagining the digital experience. You can reach him at [email protected].
Image credit: iStockphoto/peshkov