If you’ve worked in financial services for any amount of time, you know that data matters. What too often goes unsaid, however, is precisely how to create a culture that uses data effectively. That’s unfortunate because the first step in putting data to use is to create a culture that values it — a culture that uses data to inform everything. 

It’s a pressing task, given that, according to a survey of 1,000 employees in financial services we covered in our Ultimate Guide to Data Transformation, only 15% of respondents said they strongly agree that data is easily accessible across departments.

bank and fintech data survey

So, where do you start if you want to change your company culture around data in banking?

1. Find a core group of data enthusiasts.

Start small. Find a group of 3-5 people who are already committed to using data in everything they do. Get alignment on processes, the software you currently use, and how you track progress. If no one in your organization is a data enthusiast, start with just you. How can you get clear about your own processes such that you can draft a proposal that your team can buy into? If you can build out a clear understanding of these processes and benefits, you may consider running tests of your own to first prove out the value before taking the ideas to a larger team. 

2. Get a unified vision.

The goal here isn’t to get 100% agreement on every possible way forward. Rather, the goal is to find areas of consensus wherever you can and be clear about what you need to de-prioritize. Ask for a list from each person in your core group about how they think data could most help their teams, departments, and ultimately the company. Then look at where the suggestions overlap and start there.

One primary goal at this stage is to make sure the data is easy to access for everyone involved, something that only 19% of employees in financial services currently say they have.

bank and fintech data survey

3. Refine your vision to a 5-minute pitch.

How do you know when you’ve arrived at an effective vision? John Kotter, chairman at Kotter, Inc, gives a useful rule of thumb, saying, “if you can’t communicate the vision to someone in five minutes or less and get a reaction that signifies both understanding and interest, you are not yet done with this phase of the transformation process.” 

Ask yourself how you fare on this front. Can you communicate your vision for data transformation in five minutes or less and get an enthusiastic, informed response? If not, keep refining — paying attention to how your vision ties to a tangible return on your investment.

4. Don’t launch the initiative until you can track your success.

When you start any initiative, you need to know what success will look like when you finish. To do this, you’ll need a way to track progress and success — preferably in an easily accessible and dynamic dashboard that everyone can see. At MX, for instance, we put our metrics on TV screens throughout the office, monitor unified dashboards, use proprietary algorithms to track interactions internally, and more.

A culture of data means that part of launching every initiative includes pinpointing ways to track results. You can set the example by tracking what success looks like for your own data initiatives, starting with this one.

5. Repeat your vision everywhere.

As John Kotter explains, you have to tie your daily communication back to your vision bit by bit indefinitely: “Executives who communicate well incorporate messages into their hour-by-hour activities. In a routine discussion about a business problem, they talk about how proposed solutions fit (or don’t fit) into the bigger picture. In a regular performance appraisal, they talk about how the employee’s behavior helps or undermines the vision. In a review of a division’s quarterly performance, they talk not only about the numbers but also about how the division’s executives are contributing to the transformation. In a routine Q&A with employees at a company facility, they tie their answers back to renewal goals.”  In other words, do everything in your power to promote your vision, mission, and values. 

Talk about your approach to data in your hiring guides. Hang your approach on the wall in your offices. Weave it into your emails and instant messages. Mention it in company meetings. Whatever it takes to keep a focus on data top of mind. After all, changing your culture requires way more than a single email message. It requires changing habits, and changing habits requires constant reminders.

6. When you look at the results, never trust “great.”

Whenever you complete a new initiative and ask your team how it performed, watch out for the word “great.” That’s a narrative, not data. What someone calls “great” results might be just the opposite, depending on what the data says and how you’ve defined what success looks like.

The goal is to make a habit of pushing beyond vague terms and narratives, always aiming for specific metrics. That’s what a culture of data looks like.

For more on how to create a culture of data, see our Ultimate Banker’s Guide to Data Transformation.

data transformation