TD Ameritrade Chief Data Officer Discusses Appointment #MITIQ

In their ongoing coverage of MIT Data Quality conference, Dave Vellante and Jeff Kelly spoke with Derek Strauss, Chief Data Officer, TD Ameritrade. The three discuss his responsibilities as CDO and the importance of data science to the financial services industry.

Strauss was actually sought after to be TD Ameritrade’s CDO, a position created for him. He ventures that the percentage of people carrying the title CDO is small, perhaps less than 10%. Vellante suggests, presumably, financial services would be an area that would adopt that role sooner.

Strauss explains that the need for a CDO was “enterprise wide.” The company had been focusing on systems and applications, but paid less attention to data and information. The need for a CDO grew with increased demand for strong analytics for internal consumption and to provide insights for TD Ameritrade customers and clients. His role involves reporting to the Chief Operating Officer, but not IT; the IT sector are Strauss’ peers. The CDO is mainly in talks with constituents that are going to be consuming data. As CDO, Strauss says he is concerned with “the three A’s” to secure data that is actionable, accurate and accessible.

Kelly notes that the first focus of the CEO really is around the business, not the data. He asks Strauss how he manages a potential disconnect in priorities stemming from this perspective. Strauss explains that he aims to find a common thread across the different interests. He goes on to say, “We’re focused on the analytics side. In some corporate cultures, it’s very difficult to get the budget to try something. Fortunately, we have an innovative culture and we’ve been able to try out a lab environment where we can bring different types of data together.”

Kelly inquires about how companies can optimize and find a balance between assessing in-house structured data and big data that is often unstructured as traditional data that is in-house is not always being used to its full effect. When it comes to deciding when to make sense of the data you have in-house and when to get the big data, Strauss suggests the task of analyzing structured data will never be complete. He suggests the appropriate strategy is to, “hit them both simultaneously and start small in both places.” He adds that there are significant insights in the unstructured data world, much of which can be uncovered rather quickly.

According to Strauss, strategic goals over the next 6 to 12 months include “quality dialogue with all the key business needs [and] taking course corrections depending on how the business has changed.”

Here is the full interview with Derek Strauss: