How Big Is Big Data?

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3 April 2013

Big Data Usage and Attitudes Among North American Financial Services Firms


Big Data remains nascent, with the hype surrounding its use far exceeding its actual prevalence. Among financial services firms with hands-on experience, however, Big Data is a big deal that holds big promise.

In the report How Big is Big Data?: Big Data Usage and Attitudes Among North American Financial Services Firms, Celent lays out the state of Big Data usage and attitudes among large North American financial services firms based on a January 2013 survey.

There is significant activity surrounding Big Data among surveyed firms, but this activity has not yet resulted in live implementations, with the exception of a small minority of larger institutions. Most respondents characterized their firm as immature in its understanding and use of Big Data. Most North American financial institutions are still getting a grasp on the topic and are quick to concede significant gaps in their leveraging of “little data” to its fullest, much less Big Data.

In contrast, some financial institutions are comparatively well along the Big Data maturity continuum, but they are in a small minority. The road from product silos to customer centricity is indeed a long one that most have not begun to traverse. To those willing to do the hard work, however, the Big Data hype is becoming competitive advantage.

“Most Big Data projects are an isolated and often uncoordinated line of business-led initiatives that seek specific business outcomes within a traditional non-data driven culture using siloed data warehouses,” says Bob Meara, Senior Analyst with Celent’s Banking Group and coauthor of the report. “While this approach is an excellent way to develop the technical capabilities to manage increasing data volumes, velocity, and variety, it will not produce the step changes in business outcomes that are so sorely needed.”

“Insurers interviewed generally didn’t identify with the Big in Big Data, citing that volume was not their challenge,” adds Craig Beattie, Senior Analyst with Celent’s Insurance Group and coauthor of the report. “But Big Data technologies are enabling them to address variety and velocity issues.”

This report begins with a review of how North American financial institutions understand and value Big Data and data analytics. This includes where banks and insurers expect to see activity and how the investment in Big Data will show up. The report explores the level of experience financial institutions have with Big Data, the technologies employed, and results achieved. It then examines how Big Data is impacting organization, culture, and decision-making in financial industry firms and concludes with a discussion of the barriers to success: both perceived and real.

This 26-page report contains 28 figures and 2 tables.