September 03, 2013

My title derives from one of the most successful public service announcements of all time. A written message would appear on your television screen and a sonorous voice would announce – “It is 10 PM, Do you know where your children are?” I believe that attention-getting phrase can be adapted to the increasing data management challenges that all financial services institutions are facing. It sums up the need for effective data governance built on an appropriate technology base.

David Saul, State Street
David Saul, State Street

I am not speaking solely of “big data” which represents only one aspect of the problem. I avoid the term “big data” since it leaves out the most important characteristic of data – its meaning. I believe that by embracing semantic data as an industry we can increase economic value and reduce risk.

Let’s look at four constituencies that have a shared interest in restoring and improving trust in the operation of the global financial services environment. By enhancing trust in the market we increase investment and raise economic standards for everyone. Financial services organizations derive their revenue from their clients while keeping risks at an acceptable level. Product and services companies innovate and sell. Regulators and supervisors ensure that laws are complied with. Standards organizations follow processes to enable simple and effective communication among the parties. When those four constituencies treat one another as adversaries, the financial services marketplace is less efficient leading to loss of overall trust. When the four work together in pairs or as a group they all gain value.

I propose that we move to a new model in which those four groups collaborate to their mutual benefit. To accomplish this goal I posit that we need better data governance built on semantic data standards. When data moves along with its meaning based on standardized definitions it enables transparency. Transparency is at the heart of trust that benefits everyone.

At the recent MIT Chief Data Officer & Information Quality Symposium, four of us, representing a standards organization, a regulator, a data products company and myself from a financial services institution came together to propose just such a collaborative model. Our message to the audience was that they go back to their business and information technology groups to implement and/or enhance data governance.

-- They should answer questions about their data governance, beginning with “do you know where your data is?”

-- They should catalog and monitor their current and future regulatory requirements.

-- They should understand their existing products/services solutions and fill any gaps.

-- They should get involved in and influence relevant semantic data standards.

Just one example of the latter is the Financial Industry Business Ontology (FIBO) from the Enterprise Data Management (EDM) Council and the Object Management Group (OMG).

In future months our core group intends to attract other interested parties. We will be spreading the message of data collaboration through conferences, white papers and a web site that is under construction. In the interim, feel free to contact me directly to show your interest and support.

David Saul is Chief Scientist with State Street Corp.