An interview with Michelle Lee

Sainsbury: What are your priorities for the next 12-18 months?

Lee: The concept of data management is relatively new in a lot of financial institutions.  Bank of China (Hong Kong) is one of the visionary banks that has set up an independent business unit to take care of data management.  The Enterprise Data Management has been set up for less than a year in the bank and there are a lot of critical missions down the road.  Reference data management and common data management will be the key areas of work, since they form the foundation for subsequent improvement programmes.  On top of that, data quality monitoring and improvement for critical data elements is always a priority.  And on the soft side is cultivating bank-wide awareness and culture for data management since everyone in the bank has a part to play for data, be it provider or consumer.

Sainsbury: Where do you see the best opportunities to leverage data to improve customer engagement?

Lee: Data provides precious information on a customer’s behaviour and needs.  Mining the data with a view to providing products and services that people want is basic, yet impressive.  We are still receiving loads of calls and mails trying to cross-sell us things that are not targeting our needs.  This discourages us from further providing information and we tend to opt out from the promotion programme. Getting to know what your customer needs is the very first step.  Mine the data, know your customer and you will get a positive response from them.

Sainsbury: How do you see big data challenges evolving into the future?

Lee: The challenge will not be technology, since hardware and software can now handle huge volume of data without much problem.  The greatest challenge is on the usage.  Users of the big data must know what they are looking for and what they want to achieve.  Even without big data from social media, users sometimes already have difficulty in telling what they want to get out from the data.  With the influx of unstructured data from social media and other channels, the key success factor will be the capability of users to articulate their usage so technical folks know what valuable information can be dug out for their use.

Sainsbury: What emerging trend or innovation is currently flying under the radar that you feel is destined to make an impact on banking in Asia Pacific?

Lee: Mobile technology is the trend that each and every institution should not overlook. The mobile phone is no longer simply a phone but also a piece of electronics that people carry with them day and night.  A lot of retail banks have mobile phone versions of their websites and mobile apps accessing banking transactions.  While some banks also provide other mobile services including payment or GPS location tracking for banking facilities, the next to come will be gamification.  We need to be innovative in the design and blend in with games to attract and retain potential as well as existing customers. The banking sector used to be a more conservative industry, but there is a pressing need to make use of mobile technology as a medium for breakthroughs.

Sainsbury: How do you see the regulatory environment impacting on an organisation’s use of data?

Lee: Regulatory bodies have been setting up rules and regulations for the use of data and it has been a challenge for a lot of financial institutions in recent years. Some regulations demand stringent control to protect personal privacy while others demand accurate and thorough analysis for anti money laundering or risk exposure.  The challenge for banks is to fulfil these diverse requirements by implementing various process and procedures, as well as making significant investments in flexible infrastructure to support changing regulatory requirements. 

Sainsbury: How do you see customers looking to use mobile technology in banking?

Lee: Customers will adopt mobile functions much more than offers from other channels.  As such, functions on mobile should fit everyday activities, such as discount offers for shopping and dining, mobile payments and other online banking transactions. It should be easy and safe to use.

Sainsbury: How do you encourage a culture of innovation in your team?

Lee: Data management is a relatively new domain and involves a lot of analytical tasks, such as data definition review and data quality monitoring.  The key to being innovative is to never take things for granted and always think critically.  Believe in progressive improvement at all times.  Things can be better, always.

Sainsbury: Which business leaders inspire you, and why?

Lee: My favourite business leader is Bill Gates.  He is a genius and he changed the world of personal computers at home and in the office.  He knew exactly what he wanted in his youth and worked towards his dream, even at the cost of giving up university studies. When he was the CEO of Microsoft, he led the company to become the world’s largest and most influential personal computer company.  And when he was at the peak of his career, he handed over to other executives and started devoting to charity endeavours. All his moves are remarkable and demonstrate that he is a great leader in every sense.

Sainsbury: Are you a technology person outside of work? What are your favourite gadgets currently?

Lee: Technology for me is a means instead of an end.  Technology keeps changing and there is a definite need for me to keep abreast of new trends in order to know better ways to get things done.  For personal use, I have been using i-products due to the user-friendliness that nothing else has been able to beat so far.

Sainsbury: Every leader, particularly at your level, has a legacy they wish to be remembered for. What is yours?

Lee: I have been building different teams to work on new setups within the bank, from building data warehouses, offering information delivery and now data management.  There are lots of challenges for each role but success is the result of dedicated effort from the teams.  People development is always the key and our greatest asset.