“Big Data Innovation Happens at a Tremendous Pace and There Is No Prize for Second Place” – Interview with Harry Powell, Barclays

This blog post is part of the Big Data Week Speaker interviews series.  Harry shares his thoughts on Fintech challenges, the impact of big data in the Finance field, also offering a sneak peek into his talk at  “Big Data in Use” Conference | Big Data Week 2016.

  1. Why is it important for businesses in your industry to be more data driven nowadays?

Finance has always been data-rich and data-driven but the big data technologies have enabled us to use data to deliver an experience and product at a customer level whereas before data was only used to report aggregated information to managers. And if we don’t do it there is a legion of Fintech challengers looking to do it instead.

  1. What are the main challenges a company encounters when trying to leverage their data?

In big old companies like mine the main challenges are legacy systems and staff. Most big corporations IT departments are staffed by people who have very different backgrounds and skillsets to the Tech and Fintech firms that are looking to compete with us. You can’t build “Google” products without “Google” people.

  1. How do you see the impact of big data in the finance field?

Finance will become more personalised, so you will be offered products that are designed for you specifically. But also banks will be able to use their data to help customers make smart decisions to make their lives better – just like Barclays has done with the Smart Business and Local Insights products.

  1. What do you foresee as being the growing big data challenge you will face in your role over the coming 3 years, and how are you preparing to face it?

Delivering world-class data science applications is always the challenge. Big data Innovation happens at a tremendous pace and there is no prize for second place.

  1. Can you give us a sneak peek into your talk at the “Big Data in Use” Conference | Big Data Week London 2016?

We have been doing some cool work on reimagining our (time-series) transactional information as networks and using them to build customer DNA profiles based on revealed preference. We don’t use any ML libraries and compute the results using functional programming in Scala and Spark. I guess it’s quite nerdy! We look forward to sharing some insights and results with the Big Data Week crowd.

  1. Who do you think should attend your talk at Big Data Week? Why?

Everyone! What we are trying to do is to understand our customer better that the competition so we can offer them better products, service and price. You can’t do that if you use the same approaches as everyone else. Hopefully it should appeal to anyone who wants to know about data science that goes beyond taking some features and shoving them into a ML library.

Come listen to Harry on the Big Data Week Stage. Book now and grab the one-time 25% savings on top of the Early Bird price, using the code: BDW25.


Harry lHarry-Powell-600x431eads the Advanced Data Analytics (ADA) team in Barclays’ Personal and Corporate Bank. ADA is a data science team which innovates, designs and builds applications that deliver, direct to customers, relevant analytical content that will help them make smart decisions to improve their lives. The team is a combination machine learning and Big Data specialists. Because the content is delivered directly to users, without human oversight, there is an emphasis on software engineering and mathematics/statistics. They build their products in Scala and Spark, which are type safe, functional, object oriented and performant.

They are building exciting and diverse projects that will revolutionise the way the 300-year old institution relates to its customers. The long term vision is to give each of the customers the same level of engagement and support in planning their finances and their lives as they would have if they were billionaires.


Leave a Reply