Data professionals far from endangered

In response to the growing need for financial institutions to make the most of large datasets, JP Morgan WSS' Australian operation embarked on a 10-month search for a suitable data architect.
Written by Spandas Lui, Contributor

Financial institutions are increasingly relying on insight gleamed from an influx of data to formulate targeted ways to engage with customers and create personalised products as a differentiator to competitors.

ING Direct in Australia has tapped big data to get into the heads of customers so the bank can better manage the relationship and drive targeted marketing campaigns.

But as more analytics tools come out to meet the needs of sorting through big data there is speculation that specific roles such as data scientists will soon become obsolete.

JP Morgan WSS doesn't agree with this view, appointing a data architect to respond to the growing need to manage and exploit big data collected by the organisation. The company spent 10 months hunting down the right person with a good mix of communication skills, depth of knowledge about the business, and is well-versed in interpreting structured and unstructured data.

JP Morgan WSS will not reveal who the new data architect is at this stage. There are already iterations of this role in JP Morgan WSS' US and UK operations.

"One of the things the data architect will start looking at is data lineage — the transformation of data throughout the business and getting the most efficient usage out of it such as identifying whether we're double or triple touching data," JP Morgan WSS head of technology for Australia and New Zealand Paul Gladigau said. "That will help us drive more quality in that space, whether we are triple storing data and so on."

The data architect will be working across a number of different spaces in JP Morgan WSS, including the taxation department where large data augmentation and reporting outcomes have to be met. He or she will also be working with operations staff, IT development teams, and so on to provide a more holistic approach to handling big data within the organisation.

"Our data architect will solve one part of the problem, operations staff will solve another, etc," Gladigau told ZDNet Australia. "We see this as a devolved set of responsibilities all solving a part of the business problem."

JP Morgan WSS, which is a division of JP Morgan Chase Bank, says it still sees a need for a profession with domain knowledge.

"In certain cases, you can give these tools to an operations, IT or analyst person and they can gleam information from these large datasets but it's not to say we don't need people with much more rigour around statistics and various other things to help with the data," JP Morgan WSS global funds servicing technology director Bill Conyea said. "I don't see those tools doing away with [data specialist] positions and I do think there is a need for people to fill middle ground.

"These tools actually arm people with more ability to do some of the data analysis."

For businesses with goals they want to accomplish with their big data, data scientists are still a valuable asset to have, according to EMC CTO Clive Gold. The storage vendor has expertise in the big data arena with offerings such as Greenplum, a popular big data analytics product.

"You need a person able to manipulate data but is goal driven — they need to have domain knowledge and have to be social so they can see whether they're going in the right direction and that's where the data scientist fits in," Gold said. "There's a lot of tools and open source codes in this area for sentiment analysis and other things... but the ability to apply the data to reach set goals is what humans do.

"I don't really get this argument that data scientists are going to disappear. This is a career for people for a number of years to come."


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