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OCBC Bank appoints new Group Data Head as it intensifies digital transformation efforts

OCBC Bank appoints new Group Data Head as it intensifies digital transformation efforts

  • 08 Jun 2022

OCBC Bank announced today that it has appointed Donald MacDonald as its first Head of Group Data Office with effect from 1 June 2022, a newly created role to drive the Bank’s data strategy and establish OCBC as a leading data-driven organisation in the region.

Mr MacDonald, who has been appointed the acting Head of Group Data Office since June 2021, will be reporting directly to the Group Chief Operating Officer (COO), Lim Khiang Tong.

With close to 30 years of experience in the data and analytics field in various global and tech companies including PwC Consulting and IBM, Mr MacDonald is recognised as one of the most experienced analytics practitioners in the world.

He joined OCBC Bank in 2004 as the lead of a customer analytics team in the Consumer Financial Services division, before rising up the ranks over the years, eventually taking over as the Head of Group Customer Analytics & Decisioning in 2010.

One of Mr MacDonald’s achievements was to successfully create and build a dedicated Artificial Intelligence (AI) unit in 2018, with OCBC becoming the first bank in the region to do so.

Today, the AI Lab team is one of the largest data science teams in Singapore, driving key initiatives like using machine learning to create greater value for customers through personalisation and lowering compliance risks through transforming processes such as detecting and prioritising accurate anti-money laundering alerts.

On top of establishing teams, Mr MacDonald also played a major role in developing much of the data infrastructure used in the Bank, including developing a platform for opening an account with the bank that achieved the highest customer rating at launch.

Group COO Lim Khiang Tong said: “Since joining OCBC Bank 18 years ago, Donald has transformed the scope of the analytics function from a smaller-scale division team to a group-wide capability that supports all divisions and entities across the region. Donald is synonymous with data and analytics, and I have confidence in his stewardship in guiding and accelerating our data strategy, as we continue our transformation efforts to provide a superior customer experience and create greater value for our customers.”

Recent OCBC tech initiatives

In March 2022, OCBC Bank announced that it plans to identify and hire 1,500 tech talents to fill in-demand positions over the next three years, with roles in areas such as application development, cyber security, data science and artificial intelligence. Most of these roles will be based in Singapore, with the rest in overseas entities in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia.

A number of programmes have been rolled out to develop OCBC Bank’s workforce in the area of digital proficiency over the years.

In 2018, the OCBC Future Smart Programme was launched and till date a total of $50 million have been committed to train and transform the Bank’s workforce. It was the largest-scale and most ambitious transformation initiative by a Singapore bank. As of end 2021, more than 10,000 programmes have been developed, with more than 516,000 completions.

Amongst the programmes that were rolled out were the Data Certification Pathway and the Cyber Certification Pathway, which groom data scientists and cybersecurity experts in house by providing participants in-depth training in data analytics and cybersecurity over 12 to 18 months. The Data Certification Pathway is accredited by the Institute of Banking and Finance, the national accreditation body for financial industry in Singapore. As of April 2022, close to 300 staff have completed both pathways.

Staff from other functions are provided with opportunities to join and bolster the technology teams. For example, about 550 of the Bank’s operations staff are on board Career Conversion Programmes, to be retrained and redeployed into new or enhanced roles by 2022.

Specific to employees in technology functions, the investment in their training and development have been increased over the last five years. Compared to 2018, the committed investment in 2022 is seven times higher. In 2022, a new e-learning platform has been availed where tech colleagues have access to over 8,000 courses to be kept updated with new skills in software development, cloud computing, machine learning and AI.

OCBC Bank is also committed to nurturing tech talents of the future and contributing to Singapore’s talent pipeline and is identifying tech talents early through programmes and partnerships with tertiary institutions targeted at different qualification levels.

In March 2022, the pioneer batch of 20 students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic started their 1-year internship with OCBC Bank. Through the internship, the third-year Diploma in Information Technology students will deepen understanding of the financial sector, develop industry-current tech skills, and amass real-world work experience early, all of which will ready them for the workplace upon graduation. Each student’s internship plan will be curated according to their strengths and interests, which could include data visualisation, machine learning, cloud technologies or mobile app development.

In 2021, OCBC launched the STEM internship, which is open to university students in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics disciplines. Interns are placed into either the Analytics or Coding track and undergo business attachments where they learn how the Bank leverages data and tech to build business insights and digital solutions.

In 2019, OCBC also launched a postgraduate Artificial Intelligence (AI) scholarship, the first to be offered by a Singapore company and the first by any bank in Asia. Worth up to $100,000 each, scholars will work at the OCBC AI Lab for 12 to 18 months, where they will participate in and contribute to the test-bedding, deploying and scaling-up of bank-wide AI solutions.


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