A new breed of CDO

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Chief digital and data officers are helping drive banking into a new technological age.

Collateralized debt obligations were at the core the financial crisis but in its wake a new type of CDO is emerging that could be a force for good in helping banks grow and shape their business. 

Chief digital and chief data officers are increasingly becoming commonplace within the senior executive ranks of banks globally, positions that form part of a broader trend or development that includes the emergence of chief innovation officers.

ING, Asia’s DBS Bank and the UK’s Atom Bank, a digital only bank, are among some of the most recent examples of CIO appointments. Citi however, hired for this role way back in 2008.

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Chief digital and data officers are similarly emerging. HSBC appointed a chief or global head of digital last year, while in February this year Wells Fargo named its first chief data officer. Other banks that have chief data officers include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citi, JPMorgan, Royal Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank of Canada, according to Gartner, an information technology research and advisory firm.

Gartner estimates there are currently over 100 chief data officers, mainly in financial services and government, and executive headhunting firm Russell Reynolds reckons half of Fortune 500 companies will have a CDO by next year.

These roles may not be especially new and could just be banks breaking up or rebranding the long-standing roles of chief information or technology officers.

But what it does point to is the importance that banks are placing on their digital presence across platforms, the reams of valuable customer and client data they sit on and what they do with it, and the role of technology in how they operate and indeed how they interact with their retail and institutional wholesale clients.

There are a number of factors behind this: the revolution under way in how people and institutions prefer to use banking services, namely online and via their smartphone; the rising threat posed by technology companies such as Google and PayPal in traditional banking areas such as payments; the potential to generate a rich revenue streams through deep data analysis; and ultimately operational efficiency through technology.

Time will tell whether this new breed of CDO will be successful or not. What is certain is that they are unlikely to cause a crash in the way in the way the old holder of the acronym did.