Scotiabank preps for master data management

TORONTO – Scotiabank is taking a closer look at its data warehouse and business intelligence environment to develop a “master data management” strategy, an executive told an audience of IT professionals on Thursday.

Neil Freake, Scotiabank’s senior manager of business intelligence (BI) planning and development, said he is working on a number of data warehouse projects that will help the financial services firm get a better handle on the reference information that underpin a lot of its customer relationships. This approach, which is called master data management, will potentially help improve the quality of information that resides in data warehouses or data marts.

Freake, who spoke at a breakfast seminar organized by SAS Canada, said Scotiabank first set up a data warehouse in 1998 that was mostly used to manage marketing-related information. Since he joined the company in 2000, he said the company has become more focused on using it for customer relationship management (CRM) data and helping other parts of the business make decisions. The company has some in-house CRM tools, including one called SalesBuilder – a proprietary system developed by the Bank’s own technology team IT&S.

“The end result is that you have information across these systems with customer data, but the context is different,” Freake said. “When you see the address, you have to ask: is that the person’s personal address? Is it the address of a guarantor? It’s it the person with power of attorney?”

This is the classic kind of problem master data management is supposed to solve, said Jill Dyche, co-founder and partner with Baseline Consulting. She explained master data management with the example of someone using an ATM machine. IT systems tend to track the transactional information about what happens when someone makes a withdrawal or transfers money between accounts, she said. Master data management is focused on the reference data – who the person using the ATM is, their history with the bank, and so on.

“It’s very subject area-specific,” said Dyche, who recently co-authored a book on master data management called Customer Data Integration. “You have customer data, that tends to change a lot. Then you have product data, which tends to be much more complex . . . what you can do with a data warehouse is really only as good as your data supply chain.”

Scotiabank does a lot of the data matching and cleanup associated with master data management in the warehouse itself, Freake said. Scotiabank tends only pull about 30 per cent of the information that sits in the data warehouse, because the key is making sure it meets the needs of the business.

“We’re not going to add fields into our warehouse because it exists, but because it’s what our users want,” he said, adding that the cleanup involved is not for the feint of heart. “We’ll see a lot of nulls in non-nullable fields.”

Freake did not give a specific timeline for when Scotiabank would set up its master data management practice, but indicated it would be a long-term initiative. With any MDM initiative there is the risk that different technology groups work independently of each other, and Freake said “it is important that the different technology teams – systems groups and the data warehouse work together.”

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