Data & Analytics

06:00 AM
Connect Directly
Facebook
Twitter
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Wells Fargo CDO Charles Thomas Talks Data & Diplomacy

Thomas took over as chief data officer for Wells Fargo in March, after serving in the same capacity at USAA.

For Charles Thomas, the effective use of data and analytics in banking requires a delicate balancing act.

Charles Thomas, Chief Data Officer, Wells Fargo

Thomas, who was named chief data officer for Wells Fargo in March, says the value of data means different things to different departments and lines of business within the institution. And a CDO, besides being technically proficient, must know how to communicate effectively to these different stakeholders. Someone in the bank concerned with regulatory reporting, he notes, has a different use for data and analytics than someone in new product development, though it is important to both people. Thomas half-jokingly says his title could be called "chief diplomacy officer."

"Within the company, certain things are going to resonate to different people, and people might be working on different business goals, though we all have the same overall vision," he says.

Thomas reports to Kevin Rhein, chief information officer and head of the Technology and Operations Group at Wells Fargo, while the company’s Enterprise Data and Analytics team report to Thomas.

Thomas says it's his job to articulate the value of data to the varied departments inside the bank. And increasingly, it's not just the job of the CDO to do that, but also the entire data and analytics team, he believes.

"Even for an entry-level analyst, we have to coach them beyond just being technically adept, but also to evangelize the benefits [of data and analytics] and talk like they are a business partner."

It's also important for Thomas to not get bogged down in the nitty gritty details when speaking to non-data person at the bank, but to elaborate simply and clearly how data can help them do their job better. "I'm immersed in data and analytics stuff, but a lot of people aren't," he says.

Thomas previously served as chief data officer for USAA, a company that is well known for its high marks in customer satisfaction. He says one major thing that attracted him to Wells Fargo was to be a part of its One Wells Fargo initiative. One Wells Fargo is a channel integration initiative focused on improving customer experience so that customer's have a seamless, uniform experience regardless of which channel they use to interact with the bank.

As part of the initiative, Thomas says one of his roles is to use the data Wells Fargo has to find areas where the bank is missing chances to help customers and change that. This might mean creating new products, but it doesn't have to, notes Thomas.

"What some customers need to be served better might not be being sold a new product, but the elimination of a pain point in way they do business with us," he says.

Ultimately, this is accomplished by analyzing the ways customers interact with the bank in various channels, and figuring out ways to optimize each experience in each channel.

"We can use data to paint a picture, and figure out what we could do in each interaction differently to create an optimal customer experience," says Thomas.

[See Also: Wells Fargo Names New Chief Data Officer]





Bryan Yurcan is associate editor for Bank Systems and Technology. He has worked in various editorial capacities for newspapers and magazines for the past 8 years. After beginning his career as a municipal and courts reporter for daily newspapers in upstate New York, Bryan has ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Byurcan
50%
50%
Byurcan,
User Rank: Author
7/11/2014 | 9:55:47 AM
Re: Chain of command
Yes, with the importance of data in today's business world, a chief data officer has a very busy job in his own right, and many difefrent responsibilities form the CIO.
Greg MacSweeney
50%
50%
Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Author
7/11/2014 | 7:23:53 AM
Re: Chain of command
Yes, I have heard that too about CIOs needing to evaluate their position in a company when a CDO is brought on board. However, times have changed and the importance of data to all parts of the organization is growing. Managing data is really a full time job. More specifically, "efficiently" managing data is a full time job. If a company doesn't do a good job managing its data (making sure data is clean; avoiding duplicate & expensive data repositories), data becomes an expensive problem (instead of being a competitive advantage).
Charlie Babcock
50%
50%
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/10/2014 | 9:56:50 PM
Playing a savvty role
Thomas is playing a savvy and creative role in seeing data as a way to cement relations, help the customer and share value that hasn't been p;roffered before. To do so, he needs to understand both the data he's got and the business needs of his customers.  
Jonathan_Camhi
50%
50%
Jonathan_Camhi,
User Rank: Author
7/10/2014 | 5:28:42 PM
Re: Diplomacy
With data typically siloed to better serve individual parts of the organization, since, as you say Greg, those parts tend to have very different needs. But USAA has show the value of breaking down those data silos in its consistently high-quality customer experience. So I think more institutions will try to follow suit. But I suspect that they will often have to take different routes to get there given that each institution has its own unique flair, so to speak, as to how the organization is siloed and how data is handled.
BethSchultz
50%
50%
BethSchultz,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/10/2014 | 4:12:49 PM
Re: Chain of command
I recently had a former CIO (James Dallas of Medtronics) tell me that if a company hires a CAO (or CDO, I suppose) then the CIO should take that as a signal to start looking for another job. I don't imagine that's the case here, though --- since the CDO reports into the CIO. Interesting!
BethSchultz
100%
0%
BethSchultz,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/10/2014 | 3:56:23 PM
Re: Chain of command
I know that USAA has put a lot of emphasis in making sure the business and analytics strategies mesh, too. That goes a long way in being customer-focused too, I would imagine.
Kelly22
50%
50%
Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
7/10/2014 | 11:54:44 AM
Re: Chain of command
That's a smart way for USAA to structure its customer view. I feel like that would make it much easier for people who need to reach out for IT support. 
Kelly22
50%
50%
Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
7/10/2014 | 11:28:17 AM
Re: Diplomacy
Good point, Greg, it does seem that both titles could work. The role of the CDO will require interaction with more business divisions as more employees require access to data and assistance with managing increasing amounts of it. 
KBurger
50%
50%
KBurger,
User Rank: Author
7/10/2014 | 10:15:35 AM
Re: Chain of command
Good question, Beth. I don't know how the role is structured at USAA, either. But I do know that in terms of "customer view" USAA doesn't distinguish between whether you are an insurance customer or a banking customer -- you are a customer. That means that IT solutions are integrated across all parts of the company -- there is not IT support for banking and different IT support for insurance. That's one reason service/experience are consistently good at USAA -- they are focused on behaviors and needs, rather than products or even channels. The channel strategies relate to how their customers/members want to handle their financial services needs.
Byurcan
50%
50%
Byurcan,
User Rank: Author
7/10/2014 | 9:51:41 AM
Re: Knowing Whats Right is ethics and intellectual creativity rolled into one
Thanks for sharing!
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Register for Bank Systems & Technology Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Bank Systems & Technology Oct. 14, 2014
Bank Systems & Technology's new Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of customer analytics. Learn what big data means for banks, meet Wells Fargo CDO Charles Thomas, find out how to connect with your Gen Y customers, and more.
Slideshows
Video
Bank Systems & Technology Radio
Archived Audio Interviews
Join Bank Systems & Technology Associate Editor Bryan Yurcan, and guests Karen Massey and Jerry Silva from IDC Financial Insights, for a conversation about the firm's 11th annual FinTech rankings.