The Power of Data Podcast
Episode 70: Managing The Data Overload
Guest: Frode Berg, Managing Director EMEA, Provenir
Interviewer: Nick White, Head of D&B Accelerate UKI, Dun & Bradstreet
Welcome to The Power of Data Podcast. I'm Nick White, Head of D&B Accelerate. Today I'm pleased to be joined by Frode Berg, Managing Director EMEA of Provenir, a D&B Accelerate partner. How you doing Frode?
Doing great, Nick, thanks a lot.
You're welcome. I'm delighted to have you. Let's start with a bit about you and your career. You've held a number of roles in the Nordics, London and US, one of which is actually part of the D&B family now. Can you tell us a little bit about your career and your journey to Provenir?
Sure, Nick. So last couple of decades, I've been within the sort of risk decisioning industry. I've been working for a number of years with Experian, and last six years with them heading up their businesses in the Nordics. Prior to that, as you mentioned, Nick, I was with Bisnode for 11 years did various roles for them. I was heading up the credit bureau in Norway for a while I was also running their business information business in Sweden for a while. Actually, when I joined Bisnode I lived and worked in London for an American company at the time. And I signed up for Dun & Bradstreet, and I had the three months’ notice period. In the middle of that notice period, Dun & Bradstreet became Bisnode. So when I had my first day at the job, it was Bisnode and not Dun & Bradstreet. And now 11 years later, it's back to Dun and Bradstreet again, that's quite funny.
Full circle, we were colleagues maybe once before.
I think we were actually, and your name definitely rings a bell.
As do yours. So you've been in the data industry for a while number of roles over your career. What are some of your highlights?
Well, I think, you know, being in sort of the risk decisioning arena with you know, two major global trends/developments happening first, the finance crunch, you know, back 10 or 12 years ago, very special times. We were thinking, you know, do we get an upside here? Are we going to have some issues, I think we were sort of pretty counter cyclical at that time. And now the last 12 months, we've been just, you know, very interesting times, with all that's happened globally, with businesses, the issues and problems, many industries have been in some industries have not been subject to the same problems and have actually been able to create further momentum and the digitalization, which you know, a few years ago was, let's do it first. Now, it's not first, it's all digital. I think that's probably the two most interesting times I've had in my career.
Yeah, I guess the economic downturn, sort of 10 or so years ago, and, and now the pandemic, these are to use the phrase unprecedented times, but they really are. And we've lived through some incredible, incredible moments in this industry. I'm interested to know a little bit more about Provenir. For our listeners, who is Provenir. And what is it that makes you unique?
So Provenir is a company that helps fintechs, finance institutions, and also payment providers to make smarter decisions faster by simplifying the risk decisioning process. We find that agility, and innovation are key when you want to become digital first. And we have a cloud suite - Provenir Cloud suite we call it - that differs from traditional product suites by letting clients use all our artificial intelligence, all our machine learning products in a friendly, no cold digital experience. So we try to make sure that our clients do not need to do any unnecessary integrations or unnecessary coding when they want to change strategies. That should be no code as much as possible, drag and drop, so they can focus on their business strategies instead of doing development and integration hookups.
Great. And it's a business that I've taken a fond interest in over the last few years. When you look at Provenir, your role is EMEA, as you said, so which countries are your fastest growth markets at the moment, where are you seeing real innovation coming from today?
Well, to be honest, Nick, I think we have shown the last 12 months we are growing at a very high rate in our business, 25% annual growth last year. We probably having most of our EMEA emphasis and people in the UK market. However, we see a great trend of opportunities in Northern Europe. We like Stockholm as a capital. 50% of all finance decisions in the Nordics are made in Stockholm, so we're probably gonna invest more there. We like what we see in the DACH region in Germany with the sort of new FinTech solutions and players in that region, very agile, very fast moving. We also see opportunities in Central Europe, where a lot of the finance players are again, quite agile, quite keen to have an orthodox approaches to more traditional banking. So I can't pick out sort of one region or one geography. It's pretty much the same game all over EMEA.
Leads nicely on to my next question Frode, which is what are the interesting trends that you see right now, when it comes to data analytics and decisioning? Are there any themes developing that you hope to focus on?
Yeah, I think what we see now is, we've all been talking about digitization for, you know, decade or plus, plus, plus. But now we see a shift in momentum, where it's not the sort of a nice to have, but it's a need to have to be able to survive and try to find that balance between great customer journeys and great customer experience. And at the same time, making the machines do all the heavy lifting to be as efficient as you can. That balance is the big trend that we see now. It is not a great customer journey at the expense of efficiency, and not vice versa. Both can go hand in hand, if you focus on the right tools, and the right people. Because a lot of this is not only machines and solutions, a lot of this is also insight and knowledge on how to use the solutions and risk decision systems you have, and how to make the most of it. I think that's a trend, everyone is now saying that it's the best time to digitize as much as possible. And not the sort of nice to have. One more thing we see, Nick, is that there is quite a big adaptation of open banking. And open banking is probably a bigger game changer than many thoughts just a year ago, because we see now that consumers are willing to trade their own information and give away their own payment information, if they can get something in return. And something for the consumer is a better finance product cheaper, more efficient, and that they can get access to them in the way they want to get access to them. So quickly, without taking up too much of their time. You know, a lot of us are now sitting more in our homes, and then we are not in the office so much. And we spend much more time with our handheld devices. And you need to get everything right then and there with a couple of clicks, best products in a short timeframe and as user friendly as possible. So I think that open banking, that tradeoff between I'm willing to give away some of my information if I can get some good back. I think that is also a trend that we see all across EMEA.
Agreed. I totally agree with you there, Frode, I think one of the things that we've seen, or a couple of things that maybe we would add to that is financial institutions wanting to make that frictionless journey for their customers as streamlined as possible, but mitigate as much risk along the process as they possibly can at the same time. And that handoff between how much risk am I willing to take on board in exchange for a smooth customer journey is another. And I think real-time data, real-time data is something else that we as an organization really started to wrap our heads around, which leads again, nicely on to my next question, which is real time data is the ultimate goal for many businesses. But it's really quite difficult to attain in its truest form. What are some of the barriers to real-time data, so the organization's are able to receive the sought after real time insights?
That's the million-dollar question, I think Nick. And it's not trivial to come up with a sort of wholesome answer to that. But my thinking is, we don't want to own the focus on real-time data at the origination stage when you're onboard clients. Obviously, real-time data there is critical, but real-time data is something we would like to provide our clients across the customer journey. So both the onboarding, the portfolio performance across the lifecycle, customer management, but also collection strategies when it's time for that. And I think that a lot of the issues that both traditional banks, fintechs and payment providers are struggling with is that there's never a lack of data. There's enough data in the world. It can be data overload. Sometimes you have your own data, maybe if you've been in the market for a long time, you've aggregated data over the years, you have third party data, you have structured data, you have unstructured data, and it can be quite a lot to handle and get organized. So we find that accessing data is easy. Making that data work for you is the tricky part. I also think that making sure that clients don't have to run around and find all these data sources themselves. Spend time on hooking it up developing API's. That is not what banks and finance institution and fintechs should focus on. They should focus on making good customer journeys, making great customer experiences and selling their products in the best way. And that is why we focus a lot on doing that data harvesting and data classification for them and making sure that they can just bolt on whatever data source they would like, in a very non-technical way. So I think that's key. And one more thing I probably should mention on that is that we do think that if finance, industry, fintechs, if they can sort of have data assets from various sources in the same sort of plug and play format, then they have much more time set aside to work on how they can grow the market, and be more externally focused towards their clients, instead of internally focus how to fix this data source or how to fix this new data stream that we might get.
Some really valid point there Frode, and I think it leads again, is a nice segue into one of the things I'm interested to know a little bit more about, which is, Provenir is a D&B Accelerate partner. And you've recently launched a data marketplace that includes a D&B data set. Can you tell us a little bit more about your marketplace, and how that's going?
Yeah, that's going great. We have, I think, now 45 providers into that, you know, Dun & Bradstreet is a really key partner for us in the Provenir marketplace. And what we'd like to do is make sure we do all the work upfront, and then our clients can use our risk decision engines, and have done a raster data loaded up in advance. So they don't need to do that integration. And data need is not something that is sort of fixed data needs change, and evolve, I wouldn't say daily or weekly. But definitely, you might have a new data source that you need to improve your decisioning models, you might implement it in two to three weeks’ time, you didn't know about that data was available two weeks ago. And that is why this is an ever-evolving situation where we believe and clients have fed back to us, they would like sto have all potential data needs in one place and they can just look choose and implement into their strategies depending on what their needs are. And if it's there, I'm not going to use a overused term, but it is a little bit of plug and play. When everything is in the Provenir marketplace.
It's definitely something that we picked up from our customers that the ease of doing business and taking data through an application is why my team exists in the first place. So yeah, I'm delighted that we have this partnership with Provenir and I look forward to lots of success with it. I'm going to change tack and focus a little bit on industry again now. I'm interested to get your perspective Frode on what do you think are the biggest challenges that fintechs and banks are currently facing when it comes to risk in decision making? And a follow on question, how can data provide the solution?
I think that's a great question, Nick. Because the fintechs are probably the area where changes happens past us. There's an evolution week in week out we see changes we see fintechs having different business models and speed to market is so key for them. Having real-time data decisioning capabilities is therefore critical. If you cannot provide a decision quickly, your competitor will. And in this space where we are now you don't really know who your competitors are. I think it's difficult for neither of us to be able to predict what a lender will look like in three years’ time. It is a very fast-moving game and being able to then have these quick decisions, real-time data is particularly important for the fintechs. Because the fintechs wants to do something a little bit different. They want to disrupt and they wanted to sort of use momentum. And that is why I think real-time decisioning and data on demand is so critical. And one more thing I'd like to mention on that same topic when we talk about fintechs is that we find they are a little bit more eager to use a variety of data than others. So they would sort of test, check fail, succeed in a faster pace than others. And that is also quite interesting to see that in the thrive to drive better customer experiences, they use actually a more experimental approach to new data sources than maybe more traditional players do. And that is something that we follow with interest. We look at ourselves a little bit as a techy company as well, although we are probably more of a risk decision / software decision engine company.
Great. Thanks, Frode, that was a really great answer. Looking ahead. What opportunities are you most excited about for the financial services industry?
I think we we've covered a lot already. But one thing that comes to mind is that having a good balance between what the machines can do and what your people can do. A decade ago, machines did half and then you had manual processes doing half. Now, I think, looking ahead, there is an expectation, and there's a trend that the machines will do all the heavy lifting, and your staff will do the smart stuff and the intelligence stuff, not part of the decisioning, but more, what strategies should we choose? And how can we change strategy in the middle of the month or in two days’ time, if we feel that there is a competitive or a market situation that requires us to, and trust that the machines will do what it is instructed to do, and that your staff, and the smart people out there can just focus their time on changing strategies in a very fast changing environment. I think that is one of the big opportunities that we see going forward. We also see that with improved processes and wider access to data, as the SME lending is starting to really evolve and move towards a more consumer lending type experience with the removal of sort of traditional manual underwriting processes. And we see that many of our clients are continuing to shake up things in the space, for example, White Oak, Detache Capital and Funding Circle is three examples. There’s still a lot of work to be done across the sector, but the continued sort of rise of new fintechs and digital lenders are pushing things forward really quickly. So we need to sort of be aware of these changes.
And capitalize on the opportunity. We've seen that ourselves in our customers the appetite to treat a small business and micro business almost like a consumer with access to content that maybe didn't exist a couple of years ago. So we're excited by the opportunity we have in the SME space as well. I have one more question for you as we bring this podcast to a close, Frode, it's been fantastic, I've really enjoyed speaking to you today. My final question is what's next for Provenir?
I think there's so much stuff that we can do. And we haven't really, what I would say we're at a place where the journey can go a long, long way and very interesting times. I think, one if I should single out one area, we think that the mortgage place is interesting. We think that is ripe for innovation. We're really doing a lot of studies within the mortgage space, how to really speed up that part of the lending industry, but Nick maybe that warrants another podcast episode because there's so many things we can say about this.
Yeah, part two to follow. Frode, it's been an absolute pleasure to speak to you again, I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. I wish you all the very best in your new role at Provenir.
Nick, pleasure has been mine. Thanks for having me. And I really look forward to continue working closely with you and the rest of your team at Dun & Bradstreet.
Brilliant. And thank you for listening to The Power of Data Podcast.