How Lloyds Banking Group is getting its data strategy in order

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The banking group is looking to strategically 'streamline and simplify' data use within the organisation by 2020

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Lloyds Banking Group is looking to a new enterprise data strategy, bringing it out of silos to get a single view of the customer and cut down long and expensive reporting cycles in the process.

Aline Hayes, head of systems for information management, group transformation at Lloyds Banking Group walked through how the bank is looking to organise its data and the benefits this will bring in the long term.

Hayes was speaking at an exclusive Computerworld UK breakfast briefing event last week, in association with ManageEngine, titled: 'Innovation, control and culture: building systems that enable constant change'.

The group announced its strategic update back in February, with "digitising the group and transforming ways of working" high on the agenda. This includes a £3 billion commitment to 'creating the bank of the future'.

Hayes points to this as great support from the top of the business as Lloyds seeks to make better use of its enterprise data, but it also brings with it a certain degree of pressure.

"The scary moment was a month or so ago I had to present to our chairman and he turned and looked at me and said: 'data is at the top of the board's agenda'. So that's fabulous and not at all scary," Hayes said, dryly.

In a nutshell, the strategy boils down to "streamlining and simplifying our data estate", which Hayes admits "may not sound particularly innovative, other people have already done it, but for a 250-year-old, highly federated business, this is about innovating for our business."

Single data lake

So, what is Lloyds doing to get there? Over the next two years the bank is building out a single data lake for the whole group to utilise, instead of ripping and replacing existing systems.

As Hayes put it: "In terms of IT enablement we want to create a single, logical data lake. What we aren't trying to do is change all of our business systems, we have hundreds, and we aren't wanting to dig all of those out and remove them. What we can do is use big data as a core to pull back data and use it differently. So we solved the issue of changing the back end to gain benefits, but not by removing everything and starting again."

The bank has tended to turn to open source tools to achieve this, as Andrew McCall, former chief engineer for big data at Lloyds Banking Group explained in a talk last year.

This includes HBase for data store and to enrich data as it comes through, Hive for loading data for insight and analytics, Storm as a real-time processing engine, Spark for consuming and loading data into the various systems, and Kafka as the pipeline across the estate. All of this is still run on-premise at the bank.

Read more: Lloyds Banking Group prepares for open banking by shifting towards realtime data feeds

Benefits

The benefits of this will be wide-ranging, from gaining a single view of its customers, to reducing the IT cost involved with generating reports.

"So what does it cost to respond to new regulatory demands, for example? What is the cost of producing a report for HMRC, for example? What are the risks inherent in having that with heightened awareness about control of data," Hayes asks.

When it comes to that single view, Lloyds will be able to see its entire relationship with customers, across all products, regardless of what brand, and across all communications channels.

"This means we can be far more intelligent in the way we market to people, so you don't send someone a letter just after they got a loan out asking if they want to take out a loan because not only is that wasteful but it is irritating as well," Hayes said.

Then, by cutting down the complexity of the IT, and giving teams more self-serve capabilities, Lloyds can stop relying on IT to generate reports. For example, "ending dependencies on overnight batch transfers. So if you could remove that then business areas would be able to to access real-time updated data 24/7."

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