Nedbank bolsters data strategy with data science interns

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Pete Kropman, head of quant talent analytics at Nedbank Retail and Business Banking.
Pete Kropman, head of quant talent analytics at Nedbank Retail and Business Banking.

Nedbank says it is making efforts to become a data-driven organisation, through its commitment to skilling and employing data scientists.

The big-four bank says it is making inroads in its strategic roadmap focused on using data science to perform various functions, including to improve customer engagement, real-time sentiment monitoring and credit risk analysis of customer profiles.

According to the bank, a key part of this strategy has been implemented through its partnership with the Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA), which has seen it train 40 aspiring data scientists, and place some in various jobs within the bank.

In addition, it says it has taken a number of practical steps to re-skill and up-skill its employees in order to build data science competence internally.

Pete Kropman, head of quant talent analytics at Nedbank Retail and Business Banking, says data science is transforming the banking sector’s competitive environment by helping to build intelligent systems and forge sustainable relationships with customers.

“The EDSA, through its 12-month data science learnership, has supplied us with an injection of much-needed ready-to-go skills in data science. Almost every aspect of our business can be optimised using data and analytics, and we have a solid track record of doing so.

“The demand for data science within the bank is high and growing. We have seen significant business value added in the places in which we have attempted to build models using machine learning techniques, which means finding and/or building these skills,” notes Kropman.

Nedbank sponsored the first cohort of EDSA students in 2019 and a further cohort in 2020.

The interns are placed throughout the bank’s various divisions – including risk management, pricing, product design, credit policy, financial modelling, robotic process automation, people analytics, collections optimisation, marketing, fraud and cyber crime, to mention a few, adds Kropman.

As financial services companies embark on a journey to gain better understanding of customers, data is driving the modern financial industry in many ways, ranging from boosting cyber security, to cultivating customer loyalty, reducing customer churn and more.

Research firm MarketWatch says the big data analytics market in the global financial industry was valued at $29.87 billion in 2019, and is expected to reach $62.10 billion by 2025.

However, EDSA says the shortage of data skills is growing exponentially, putting pressure on organisations to import these skills into the country, and hampering SA’s plans to participate meaningfully in the fourth industrial revolution.

Established in 2017, EDSA says it has grown exponentially in size and is set to produce up to 5 000 new South African data scientists through its various courses by 2025.

The academy has been working closely with the banking sector for several years, and also has a partnership with Absa and African Bank, among other firms.

“Compared with their international counterparts, South Africa’s banks are badly in need of data science skills, but the country is not producing these skill sets at a fast enough rate," says Mark Schroeder, chief commercial officer at Explore Data Science Academy.

"We have found that tertiary institutions are not geared to teach state-of-the-art, practical digital skills in an environment where technology is changing all the time.Nedbank is very progressive in terms of its application of data science to solve business problems at every level within the bank.”

Over 320 learners are currently enrolled between the EDSA campuses in Cape Town, Braamfontein and Durban. The learners are enrolled in the 12-month data science learnership programme, which is Sector Education and Training Authority-accredited and funded by local corporates drawn from the banking, financial services, telecommunications and IT sectors.

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