Analytics (or rather deriving insights from data) is an emerging field in South Africa. Due to differing strategic views, lack of infrastructure, or lack of skilled resources, few companies have fully capitalised on the information available in their local markets, much less so in subsidiary markets, says Yudhvir Seetharam, head of Analytics: FNB Business.
Given both the emergence of the field, the first stab at getting analytics to grow would be to simultaneously ensure infrastructure is in place and hiring/retaining the skilled professional. Secondly, businesses need to start thinking with numbers in mind – ensuring that reasoning, figures and insights play a significant part in the decision making process. At least this trend is on the rise, with many stakeholders in financial service companies beginning to see the value in utilising data more effectively – moving away from the “traditional” service offerings into more holistic offerings, tailored to the customer.
With many South African companies looking to expand into Africa, data and analytics can be leveraged off the South African best practices to ensure smoother, faster and more efficient implementation in each subsidiary. Analytics, while not near its full potential in South Africa, is arguably at a higher level of development compared to the rest of the African region. As such, knowledge, skills and strategies derived from analytics in South African based banks can be extended, with some revisions, to African subsidiaries. This form of collaboration can benefit both parties as knowledge sharing and experience permeate across borders. In particular, one might find data gathering to be “easier”, in the sense that one can start building processes from the ground up, enabling better management of data; and therefore analytics.
From a conceptual viewpoint, if something can be observed, it can be recorded and saved for future use. With financial institutions expanding into subsidiaries, they are effectively “creating a bank from scratch”. In order to do this, the most basic data has to be recorded and accessed to ensure smooth operations. Once that is in place, analytics can then assist with deriving insights from the data. Analytical ability may be relatively lower in some countries, but by leveraging off SA counterparts, knowledge sharing and training can occur.
This however can be seen as a double edged sword. A one size fits all approach does work for your simpler products – a cheque account is the same regardless of where you are in the world. However, for more “periphery” products and transaction mechanisms, these need to be informed by the needs of the market. For example, one can say that the SA population can be considered “online” savvy as opposed to “mobile” savvy. However, in many African countries, this is the reverse. As such, SA strategies need to first develop a basic cheque account, similar to the local market, and then decide on new products and transaction mechanisms based on market and country analysis.
In my opinion, SA companies in general are still at the emerging stage of effectively utilising big data and analytics effectively. While this maturity is different per sector (for example, telecommunication companies would be slightly more advanced than financial services), the increased attention on Big Data and Analytics has seen this buzzword being used in C suite conversations.