Think outside of the box. Imagine beyond what you know … and follow your dreams. That was the common thread in Tham Ming Soong’s comments in a Premier Business Leadership Series Amsterdam panel called “The High-Performance Organization.”
In the panel discussion, Tham Ming Soong, the former United Overseas Bank (UOB) Chief Risk Officer (CRO), emphasized that high-performance analytics is more than just a new solution to help financial organizations meet regulatory requirements (e.g., Basel 3 capital, liquidity, counterparty (CVA), etc.); organizatons in all industries are creating huge value from this innovation.
Here are some of the highlights from the discussion between Tham Ming Soong and SAS CEO Jim Goodnight:
Outside of financial services, what industries are most impacted by big data and would benefit from high-performance analytics?
Jim Goodnight: We see telecommunications picking up on high-performance analytics, as well as publishing websites that are constantly (and immediately!) tracking visitor data to target marketing campaigns.
Retail has seen excellent results from high-performance analytics through mark-down optimization. For example, a large department store retailer has to markdown prices across 350 stores and 3 million SKUs on a nightly basis. High-performance analytics can calculate the resulting 1 billion rows of data in a matter of minutes – it used to take a week.
Tham Ming Soong: The financial services industry is actually not too different from the retail example. Today the UOB Group has a network of more than 500 offices in 19 countries and territories in Asia-Pacific, Western Europe and North America. So the time gain from high-performance analytics proved critical to each area’s growth. It gave us the ability to know customers better and improve our financial standing and stability.
What has been the catalyst for HPA? What is enabling this to happen and why now?
Jim Goodnight: I visited Ming to talk about how his analytics is working for him and he explained his challenges to compute all the data the mega bank has to manage in a timely fashion. I took this problem back to my team and figured out that you have to split up the computing process so they can run at the same time. So you’re basically taking advantage of several processes at once.
We fine-tuned this concept and were amazed by the drastic reduction of time to compute incredibly large amounts of data. Ming had a lot to do with our high-performance analytics offering … (turns to Ming) and I thank you for that. We went from 18 hours to process your data to 15 minutes.
Tham Ming Soong: SAS and UOB had a series of discussions on what we could do with this time savings. I had this sandbox initially, and now with high-performance analytics, I could have a nice sandbox and could build bigger sandboxes. It opened up a world of possibilities.
What advice would you give executives and other senior business leaders, who are facing the very same challenges and strive to become a high(er)-performing organization?
Tham Ming Soong: Identify a champion within your organization who leads high-performance analytics. An innovative person. A creative person. I hesitate to use the word, but – a visionary. This person needs to produce results that senior management can see by exploring how analytics can help other parts of the risk business that have the incredible impact on business.
Question from the audience:
You didn’t cover unstructured data – social media, online nuggets of info. That’s a big challenge facing organizations as well. If I had one approach to “sell” to upper management, which would it be – high-performance analytics or social media analytics?
Jim Goodnight:The unstructured data is much simpler to do in parallel, to take the unstructured data and spread across processes. And if you want to use social media for sentiment analysis to track, measure and respond to your brand’s perception, then that’s a pretty easy sell for the CEO. Brand image is always a priority.
As for high-performance analytics, you need to examine the best way to show the cost benefit for buying the analytics.
Tham Ming Soong: Risk managers are often seen but not heard. We were forced to look at what was the payback for everything we did. Relative to the high-performance analytics project, it took about 24 months. But the challenge was not the time – it was convincing people that it’s worth doing. Many thought risk managers shouldn’t be so involved with IT (in implementing the analytics). But after the project, both the SAS team and my management team said, “You know what? We learned a lot and look at what we’ve accomplished.”
Jim Goodnight: Another “how to sell analytics” tip is to present how the analytics may start within the compliance organization and also apply to marketing. It’s easier to sell this way because if you’re using it to get results for more than one business unit, it becomes a lot cheaper.
Tham Ming Soong: A wise person once told me a quote by Goethe that is very powerful and to which I can attribute my venture into enterprise risk management, high-performance computing and analytics: “Whatever you dream you can or know you can do, start it. Boldness has power and magic.”
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