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Sutton Elaborates on RBC’s Four Priorities for Reference Data for the Next Three Years

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Since her appointment at the end of last year, Julia Sutton, global head of reference data, including customer accounts and onboarding, for the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), has been focused on prioritising the long list of reference data issues that need to be tackled within RBC over the next two to three years. The firm has used external consultants to help it define a list of priorities, which has been distilled down into four distinct areas: gold copy, concordance, issuer ratings and KYC/AML.

Back in February, Sutton noted a whole list of items that were on the radar to be tackled this year, including the “quick hit” of standardising RBC’s firm-wide calendars. She has since been engaged in drawing up a project plan to tackle the 18 data related issues identified by external consultants as important to address in order to retain RBC’s current market standing, which Sutton estimates to be around number 12 in the market at the moment.

The firm has put aside a “bucket of money” in order to ensure that customers’ requirements are being met in light of these data challenges, which Sutton indicates are being exacerbated by the firm’s old legacy mainframe systems in certain areas. These systems and a lack of firm-wide standardised data practices has made it harder to deal with customer complaints and has resulted in some level of internal frustration around the lack of clarity of the client onboarding process, she says.

“In some areas we have manual processes about manual processes,” she jokes. The data may be in a mess at the moment, but no more so than many other large firms, Sutton has, after all, had to tackle similar challenges at BarCap and Citi.

The need to support new and existing customers is just one of the main drivers for the project, however, and increased regulation is another. “We are able to cope at the moment but we need to get better in the face of the huge number of new regulatory requirements such as the incoming Single Customer View (SCV) and tax legislation,” Sutton elaborates.

RBC and Sutton therefore have their four areas of focus in order to kick off the firm’s overall customer data management change programme. To this end, the firm currently has two golden copies, according to Sutton, and has been forced to choose the most flexible one of these to reengineer. Much the same as the project she was involved in at Citi, Sutton has opted to work with Avox to cleanse the golden copy customer records and add new fields to make it usable.

“We chose Avox because of their collaborative model, which works at every level,” says Sutton. “Avox is now helping us to cleanse and then maintain that data.”

The second step is concordance and RBC is working with Alacra to make the golden copy produced during stage one useful. This involves the addition of cross references for the golden copy data in order to allow it to be used by downstream users and systems. “This includes adding something like RIC code cross references to that it is viable for the pricing team to use it,” explains Sutton.

Step number three is around issuer ratings data and the linking of these to the golden copy data. The firm is therefore working with Avox and Interactive Data to achieve this, although it is fairly early stages at the moment, according to Sutton. “Issuer information linked to instrument data is notoriously bad and we therefore need to work collaboratively to join the data together and cleanse it,” she says.

The last stage is related to meeting know your customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) requirements, says Sutton. RBC is therefore working with GoldTier to control the onboarding of all entities onto the system. The initial proposal was to just use the solution for legal entities but RBC later realised it was of benefit to use one route to add this data onto the internal systems, she explains.

RBC is also working with OneSource on the project to automate refresh data for incidents that occur. This means the bank has 70% automation and is able to deal with the 30% of problems that occur, says Sutton.

Markit Document Exchange is also part of the project, as the vendor is helping the firm to retrieve missing documents from its customers, again similar to the work it has been doing with Citi.

This technological change, of course, is only one part of the overall puzzle. Sutton’s previous experience has taught her that change is never easy. The cultural changes required within an organisation are just as challenging: “Data touches all areas of an organisation and all players have a vested interest in using the same data in a different way. There can, for example, be multiple uses for the same field and each player may be using it in a different way.”

This therefore means a level of data control is required to police the use of the data and that is much harder to get a handle on.

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