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Fintech Updated: 09 Jul 2019

Derek White: "Customers must win the Game of Data"

BBVA’s Global Head of Client Solutions, Derek White, told a conference in the Spanish capital Madrid this morning that it was crucial the customers win ‘The Game of Data’.


In a tongue-in-cheek reference to HBO's smash hit TV series Game of Thrones, the BBVA Executive likened the battles taking place around data to the wranglings in the fictional land of Westeros.

Speaking at the MoneyLive Spring event, Derek White said the issue centred around how data is used by companies, and more importantly a broader understanding that the data belongs to the customer and not to the business that stores it.

White, who is responsible for delivering the digital transformation strategy at BBVA, articulated how what we are seeing in the world today is that some of the big tech businesses tend to hoard the data their customers generate, and only allow the value this data can create to be used by themselves.

This, he joked, could be seen as analogous to the way the main warring houses in Game of Thrones try to control the resources in their lands to ensure they come out on top against their adversaries.

"The data belongs to the customer and not to the business that stores it"

But for White the argument is actually more complex. Because, as he told the audience of several hundred, while data is often cited as being the new oil, it is really far more valuable. That's because data, unlike oil, has no inherent value to it - rather it is what you do with the data - the insights you build - that have the value in it. More importantly, data can be used over and over again, at the same time, by different companies, without that potential value being diminished.

Speaking at the event, he said: “Now don’t get me wrong, we have great partnerships with many of the big tech firms, and their focus on things like user experience, customer personalisation and blurred industry line growth is something we highly respect. And I am not saying they are like the bloodthirsty Lannisters or Mother of Dragons.”

“But the issue for us is that they, sometimes, treat the data they gather as though they own it, and we don’t believe that is right. Just because you gather it, doesn’t mean it is yours to use as you like and that only you can get the value from it.

A threat to innovation

“The asymmetry in the way the current data ecosystem operates - where monolithic hugely scaled businesses with giant data nets are growing at exponential rates - is potentially a threat to innovation”.

“Why, well because the bigger some businesses get, the easier it is for them to absorb other smaller business or put them out of business. And the fewer businesses there are, the less competition drives on innovation and the less new ideas, products and services come to fruition. That’s the threat.”

“We believe it is the customers' data and that they should be able to share it safely with whomever they want"

Making the point, White outlined how there are four types of business. Those that gather data because they have to, but effectively work offline, not using the data or even effectively processing it, and leaving it to fade away in storage.

Secondly, those who gather the data, process it but then leave it in their own data lakes, not really utilising any value from it.

Or,  White outlined a fourth way, saying: “At BBVA we believe in a different approach - as we demonstrated by opening up our APIs a long time ago.

“We believe it is the customers' data and that they should be able to share it safely with whomever they want so they can get the best value from it. Our job is to do the best job with it, so that where they want a service we can offer, they want to use us for it, but where it is something we don’t do, they can share their data in a way that works for them.

“And we also believe the world needs to change so that all data - financial and non-financial alike, can be shared so that the digital era really does bring about opportunities for all.”