The Path to Data-Driven Banking with ABN AMRO’s Marcel Kramer

October 26, 2020

By Marcel Kramer, Head of Data Engineering at ABN AMRO 

From my perspective as Head of Data Engineering at ABN AMRO, it was essential that we prioritize security as we looked to modernize our architecture, because of the highly sensitive nature of the data involved in banking. We know security alone doesn’t safeguard data, protecting the privacy of individuals in that  data also plays an essential part. We believe that client data must be safeguarded by applying the highest possible privacy standards. In my role, to put it simply, I focus on two things:

  • Delivering the data capabilities within ABN AMRO to become a data-driven bank.
  • Overseeing the practice of data engineering within ABN AMRO. 

One of our primary goals in changing our architecture was to make sure that all the teams within ABN AMRO adopt the latest technology when it comes to data engineering, and to make sure that the way we implement that technology makes sense in terms of modern architecture and technologies.

Banking for better

At ABN AMRO, we have a clearly stated purpose: banking for better, for generations to come. And the way that we do that is certainly closely connected to how we innovate. We’ve really looked very closely at our data to see how our customers are using our solutions, so that actual usage is driving how we build out new functionalities and features. In the past, we operated with monolithic central data warehouses, and as we continued to evolve our solutions, we encountered all sorts of challenges. One of the biggest challenges we had was related to governance. This isn’t really surprising – most organizations find that there are some real questions when you look at all the data available in your data warehouse, such as: 

  • Who owns the data? 
  • Who recognizes the data? 
  • Who can take responsibility for the quality of the data? 

And that’s just the beginning. Once you’ve answered those questions, you need to think about how to protect that data, but also make it available for analytics to the appropriate teams within the bank, while still meeting regulatory requirements for data protection. And it’s not just about the regulations – we believe that by respecting our customers’ data privacy, we are also serving our purpose of banking for better. 

New technologies, new challenges and opportunities

We’ve seen a lot of newer technologies in recent years, and as they mature, they provide a lot of new opportunities as well. We looked at our centralized data warehouses and realized that we wanted – and needed – to do things drastically different than we had done it in the past. And so we designed a future state architecture, and our goal was to build something that enabled us to share more data, make sure that the agility would increase, that we would be able to deliver more and faster value with data.

Data-driven innovation

What we really want to provide to the rest of the teams within the bank is opportunities to be more responsive. In the past, if a customer performed an action, and that action created data, we’d have to collect the data. Then we’d need to transform that information into a generic data model, and store it in a data warehouse with daily processes. Once you’ve done all that, you’re reacting at least two days later, and you can only start to act based on a customer action. In many cases, that’s actually too late. It’s not just about innovation, either. The data that we collect can help us track fraudulent activity, and with our new architecture, we were able to respond much more quickly when our data showed problematic activity.

There are many use cases we can talk about, but basically it all comes down to being able to foster and use the data that is at hand, and then do something of value with it. Our architecture now enables us to proactively offer new products or services to customers based on our data, or we can use our data to make sure that we’re protecting ABN AMRO’s assets or services. All while still protecting data privacy. We’re now able to safely use our sensitive data to respond quickly, better serve our customers and our business, and provide banking for better. 

Learn more about ABN AMRO’s journey to becoming a data-driven, privacy-first bank on October 29 at In:Confidence Digital. 

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