Rick Kochhar: Data strategy and the search for the truth

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Rick Kochhar Former Chief Data Officer, TD Bank

Rick Kochhar is the former senior vice president and chief data officer for TD Bank Group. (Editor’s note: This piece focuses on his work as TD Bank Group’s CDO.) He’s responsible for integrating data across a bank that has rapidly grown by acquisition, and using that data to provide value for every aspect of the bank’s operations. He’s spent more than 25 years in strategic data roles in organizations such as Wachovia, Capital One, Eli Lilly and Hughes. Here, he shares his insights on the role of a chief data officer, and the approach he takes to executing data strategy.

It has been said that banks are in the data business. If that’s true, what is the role of the chief data officer at a major bank?

TD grew up, as many large banks did, with a lot of mergers and acquisitions. And we operate in a federated model. So the opportunity is not just growing the business within the verticals, but cross-pollinating between each of them, integrating both platforms and processes.

So the first thing we have to do is integrate our data as it pertains to our customers, risk management, regulatory filings…you name it. My role is to figure out how we put into place the foundational data processes and structure to enable that integration. And I am focused on creating environments and processes to use data as an asset.

But the CDO role itself doesn’t work with data directly. We provide policies, procedures and guidelines for the mechanics of using and sharing data better. We are executing strategically across the entire enterprise, every aspect of TD. And we apply this strategy to all aspects of the company equally. In this way, we are essentially data-flavor agnostic.

Your work touches every aspect of the bank’s business. Where does a function like that sit in an organization?

All organizations are trying to figure out where the CDO role should sit. At TD we embraced it as an enterprise-wide role that sits at the top of the house and works across the entire corporation. In many organizations, the role reports to the chief operating officer, but that construct is not part of our corporate structure. We didn’t feel it should report into the technology organization, because it’s business-focused and because my role does not involve the procurement of technology. So ultimately we decided I would report to the chief marketing officer, who has been a data champion for many years and is closely aligned with TD’s businesses.

But it’s misleading, because we do not operate through a marketing lens. We work closely with marketing, but just as closely with the heads of insurance, auto finance, wealth management and so on. We’re deploying data governance across all of TD. So I interact with every team every day. Our function is highly strategic.

Without giving anything away to the competition, what is your data strategy?

We no longer look at an enterprise data strategy as a potential competitive advantage; we look at it as marketplace survival. The competitive marketplace requires more efficient and effective use of data. So we don’t want just a 360-degree view of the customer anymore. We want to think multi-dimensionally. We want 360 degrees in three dimensions, so that we know our customers and they know everything about TD. We want it to be bi-directional.

So the elements of a strategy like that are three-fold: First, you put in solid foundational functions – data governance and data quality. Then we layer initiatives that build the nuts and bolts like metadata, master data, and managing data models. We finally add operational elements, which include the effective use of business intelligence and analytics. And then we start applying that intelligence to create value. So it’s a layered process: foundation, operation and value creation.

What kind of value does data bring to your company?

There are so many different kinds of value that quality integrated data can deliver. I’ll give you one example. TD Canada Trust has received the JD Power Award and Ipsos Reid Best Banking award for Customer Service Excellence for nine and 10 years running, respectively. It is part of the identity and DNA of the bank, and it adds value to the bank. Getting our data right enables and expands that level of customer service. And good customer service increases brand value.

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