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Data is valuable only when it can benefit customers

How is data utilised in the financial world? We interviewed Sameli Mäenpää, Chief Data Officer at the OP Financial Group, to find out the role that data plays in the largest banking group in Finland.

Sameli Mäenpää / March 20, 2020

How is data utilised in the financial world? We interviewed Sameli Mäenpää, Chief Data Officer at the OP Financial Group, to find out the role that data plays in the largest banking group in Finland and why data is the most valuable form of capital that an organization can have.


Summarising the value of data with a Data Balance Sheet 

The financial sector is at the forefront of digitalisation, and a significant amount of data is managed by banks every single day. Since 2019, OP has summarised its data capital with a Data Balance Sheet, a new kind of report on the data that OP has at its disposal and how this data is processed, utilised and managed. 

“For us, the Data Balance Sheet is a strategic management tool that is strongly linked to the benefits we provide to our customers – it contains concrete examples of how data can be used to generate added value to everyone,” emphasises Mäenpää. 

While data protection constitutes a vital part of the Data Balance Sheet, the report does not focus solely on regulatory demands and risk management policies, but also on the benefits that can be achieved with the help of data capital. 

"The Data Balance Sheet contains a concrete balance sheet model that can be used to estimate the value generated by our data. In this model, one side presents the raw data capital that has been measured, while the other indicates the benefits that have been achieved with the help of this data,” Mäenpää explains.

Data as capital 

When it comes to Finnish companies and organisations, the OP Financial Group has a very significant amount of data capital at its disposal. “As a matter of fact, OP manages the largest amount of data capital in Finland right after the Finnish state,” notes Mäenpää. 

According to Mäenpää, the most valuable asset of today’s most successful companies is the data at their disposal. “For example, Facebook’s market value is so significant because it has access to the data of 1.5 billion people, and the same goes for LinkedIn, Amazon, Google, and so on.” 

While more data means more responsibility, having a significant amount of data capital provides more opportunities for creating added value to customers. At the same time, Mäenpää also wants to emphasise that data has no intrinsic value in and of itself. 

“Data is valuable only when it has a purpose that can be implemented at the right time and for the right customer. If a piece of data cannot be utilised when we meet a customer, be it in a physical location or online, then it has no value.” 

Making effective use of data capital 

At OP, data-related knowhow can be found throughout the group’s various business divisions. Sameli Mäenpää understands the importance of integrating data development practices with OP’s other business activities and their development. 
"For example, we have made our strategic AI more commonplace by integrating an AI-oriented perspective into our different business processes. This will allow our staff to identify new use cases that could result in direct customer benefits.” 

According to Mäenpää, this emphasis on AI could be taken even further in the future. 
"We’ve even thought about training our entire staff roster in the basics of AI development. This way, everyone could identify the facets of AI that would best enhance their work.” 

The world of financial intelligence is full of potential 

OP already has several AI applications in place – although, within OP, these are referred to as ‘financial intelligence applications’. Some examples of these include OP’s customer chatbot and an automated credit decision service that customers can use to obtain a home loan decision right after seeing a potential house. 
In addition, OP has developed an advanced mobile service that people can use to manage their personal finances: the service automatically categorizes different transactions and recurring revenue streams with the help of AI. 

And what does the future of the financial intelligence world look like? 
“I believe that a lot will happen in the world of artificial intelligence and data, and one great example of this is image analysis,” Mäenpää notes and explains how an automated damage detection and case processing service could benefit OP’s insurance arm: “If you ever had an accident, all you’d have to do is take a picture, send it to us, and we could initiate the damage compensation process without having to send anyone out to verify the damage.” 

Mäenpää emphasises that a responsible actor is one that uses data for the benefit of its customers. 

“Above all, we want to make our customers’ lives easier and help them achieve their goals.” 

This article is based on our data related podcast Tietoa tulevasta. Listen to the related episode in Finnish now!
Sameli Mäenpää
Chief Data Officer at OP Financial Group

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