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Danske Bank: Data-enabled Digital Transformation

  • Lyndsay Shields, Head of Data and Analytics at Danske Bank in Belfast, explains the role of new tech and data in banking

    Change is apparent everywhere, but one of the sectors where digitisation is most obvious is banking and financial services. As banks digitise and transform customer journeys and customers interact more and more with digital channels, making sense of those interactions is increasingly important.

    “The pace of change in financial services is rapid and we need to be agile when it comes to the skill sets required to keep up with those changes,” says Lyndsay Shields, Head of Data and Analytics at Danske Bank in Belfast.

    Lyndsay heads up a team of 25 working across data management, data architecture, business intelligence and analytics, and business analysis.

    “There are roles today in the bank that didn’t exist two years ago. In data, we have evolved from having analysts and developers to now having engineers, data scientists and data architects.  The team sits alongside API developers, coders, business analysts and other roles you might not traditionally expect in a bank- and it is evolving all the time.”

    The team’s mission is to make banking easier, leverage data and drive more value from it to improve products, services and experiences for customers and colleagues.

    Having analytics at their fingertips helps the bank understand and predict what customers need, helping its people to make faster decisions.

    “The aim is pretty simple – to know our customers through data and make that knowledge available to colleagues in the organisation who can use it effectively to support customers or improve the business,” says Lyndsay.

    “But the actual delivery of that objective is less simple. It involves focus right across the data value chain and everything from engineering and architecture development, knowing how information flows through systems and applications right through to equipping colleagues with the skills to analyse and interpret dashboards.”

    Unlocking the value of data

    Danske’s Data & Analytics team has grown in size and capability since the Technology & Digital Development department was set up two years ago, headed up by Chief Information Officer Liam Curran.

    Lyndsay, who has had a long career in Danske Bank and has held strategic roles in business transformation, change management and customer experience, says the team has a blend of different skills and experience.  

    “Whilst there is obviously the very technical side to working with data, it is actually a business topic. It is about how we use data to improve our products, and processes to make things better for customers,” she explains.

    “We have been very deliberate in putting the team together. As we are on a transformation journey, we need really skilled technical people with external experience but we’re a data team embedded in a bank, so we also really need to know the organisation we’re working in. So, we also have people who have worked in customer-facing roles and can navigate our processes and systems easily, who have reskilled to become developers and engineers”, says Lyndsay.

    Artificial Intelligence

    It is impossible to talk about data transformation without bringing AI into the conversation, such has been the hype about generative AI.

    Danske is investing in a number of use cases, while also being mindful of the ethical considerations of AI and its limitations.

    “AI has actually been around in the bank for years. We use AI in lots of our processes, like transaction monitoring and fraud detection. Generative AI is the new kid on the block and we are seeing huge potential to use it to improve customer and colleague experience,” explains Lyndsay.

    “We’re looking at AI as another tool in our toolbox to enhance customer experience and act as a co-pilot for colleagues. We’re starting with “human in the loop” use cases so we’re not releasing the AI completely to the customer where there is any complexity involved in the process, but for low-risk engagement tasks or where there’s a human safety net.”

    The team is also working with analytics counterparts in Danske Bank Group who are developing large language models and is working on its own version of Chat GPT.

    “That’s very exciting. It will be used for back and forward conversation style processes to free up adviser time,” says Lyndsay.

    While Danske Bank wants to use data to help replicate human interactions, it is conscious of its responsibilities and takes a “data for good” approach.   

    “When a customer shares their data with us, that is done with trust. We don’t share that data, we don’t sell it. We treat it very carefully. When we talk about value from data we mean customer value, operational value for colleagues and using it to improve products, services and bank performance,” explains Lyndsay.

    “For example, we’re in a cost-of-living crisis and one of the projects we delivered recently was looking at customers’ financial wellbeing to predict where they might be heading into difficulty early on before they know it themselves, through early behavioural triggers. That information is passed to skilled advisers who can reach out proactively and help them.”


    In addition to bringing in team members from diverse backgrounds, Lyndsay is passionate about getting more women into technology roles and is a co-chair of Danske’s Gender Diversity Network.

    It’s an industry challenge, and while Danske’s technology team is ahead of the industry average in terms of its female-to-male split, Lyndsay says it’s about more than numbers.

    “We see opportunities for more women in senior roles, driving representation at the more senior grades and in external technology and data recruitment where it is still more heavily weighted to male applicants,” she says.

    “Talent will get the role. What we ensure is that the end-to-end process – from how the job advert is written, to the recruitment process to how we set the criteria, to the interview panels, that it is as genderless and accessible as possible. That encourages a balance of applicants.”

    The focus on diversity is one of several reasons Danske has topped the prestigious Best Place to Work list in Northern Ireland and was recently awarded the Business in the Community NI Responsible Business Award for Diversity & Inclusion. The Bank continually invites feedback from employees in order to keep improving.

    The bank’s approach to skills development and career support is also innovative, with mentoring and development days offered alongside more structured training programmes, such as apprenticeship programmes where colleagues can learn on the job while studying for a third-level qualification, or its Digital Academy, which enables colleagues with an interest in data and technology to be seconded for 6-9 months to get experience they can take back to their teams or use to apply for new roles.

    Lyndsay adds: “There are endless opportunities within Danske and a number of different learning and growth pathways. Colleagues can progress their data career, for example, from entry-level to senior technical roles or leadership. As an organisation, we are well placed to stay agile and keep moving with the industry.”

    This article appears in the Big Data edition of Sync NI magazine. To receive a free copy click here.

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