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Interview – Nathan Falkenborg, Head of Analytics, APCEMEA at Visa

Interview – Nathan Falkenborg, Head of Analytics, APCEMEA at Visa

Bhasker Gupta

[dropcap style=”1″ size=”2″]AIM[/dropcap]Analytics India Magazine: What are some of the main tenets (philosophies, goals, attributes) of analytics approach and policies at Visa?

[dropcap style=”1″ size=”2″]NF[/dropcap]Nathan Falkenborg: For the Visa Analytics team based in Singapore, I view one of our key objectives as providing better information to our stakeholders. Providing a fact base to inform strategy, and using analytical outputs to create strategic frameworks are core to our day-to-day work.

With the experience of the team, working with the business units within Visa, and with our issuing, acquiring and merchant clients, we look for the most elegant solutions – or said in a different way, “analytics is applying common sense to solve everyday problems using information at hand.”

There is a tendency for advanced analytics organizations to overcomplicate – we make sure that our analyses and tools benefit from the most complex thinking and techniques, and we strive to create very powerful, yet simple methodologies.

AIM: What is your approach to face the challenges of meeting the needs of so many clients across vast geographies?

NF: In the region that I am responsible for, which covers 120+ countries across Asia Pacific, Central Europe, the Middle East and Africa, we face a unique and compelling challenge – how do we serve so many countries, clients and business units with differing needs?

One of the ways we are solving this challenge is through automation of common analytical work products – we apply our experience working with clients and our other business units and develop very simple self-service interfaces that enable our frontline staff, across all of the countries we serve to quickly access compliant, consistent and compelling information in a go-to-market ready format.

I think that analytical work product standardization combined with automation is a great way to service a large region.

AIM: Would you like to share any example of an Insight that generated a huge positive impact for your clients?

NF: In the context of risk management, we introduced a new analytics engine in 2011, which has helped Visa to combat fraud. The analytics platform harnesses the power of Big Data and we estimate that the model has identified $2 billion in potential annual incremental fraud opportunities since its introduction. This helps us to stop fraud in its tracks, providing real value to our clients as their customers are better protected.

AIM: Working with many analysts that are based in India, what are the qualities that set apart high-performers?

NF: In my experience working with many excellent analysts in India, high-performers really dig in to understand the business context of the work they are doing, and frame the solution within that context. Proactive ideas to create innovative solutions or making improvements to methodologies are some of the stand out qualities of a great analyst.

AIM: What are the next steps/road ahead for analytics at your organization?

NF: Our focus will be to continue to invest in this area to continue to drive value and efficiencies both within the organization and for our clients. With new technology constantly being developed, I’m really excited about the future and the possibilities it will bring for the analytics industry in general.

AIM: How should organizations think about centralizing and/or de-centralizing Analytics?

NF: This is a question that I’ve discussed both with industry leaders at our clients, many of whom have regions that span many businesses and countries.

In my experience, a global or regional firm should consider centralizing some of the highest value analytical work – such as predictive modeling, analytical consulting, where the skillset tends to be more expensive, and where there are opportunities to create advanced solutions that are applicable across borders and functions. This is purely for efficiency purposes.

The centralized experts should execute larger, advanced projects, and also provide mentorship and a degree of oversight to the local or embedded analytical teams. I also think it’s important that an organization has analytical resources on the ground, and sitting with the frontline so that the day to day needs are met.

If an organization doesn’t provide analytical support on the ground, it may miss out on the benefits that are generated by providing easy access to information that helps the business make better decisions, and simply manage performance.

That said, it’s doesn’t always make sense to have a data scientist in every business unit, usually experienced and competent business analysts are enough. The data scientists can sit within a central hub and provide mentorship, and a level of oversight to the analysts on the ground.

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AIM: What are the most important contemporary trends that you see emerging in the analytics space across the globe?

NF: I am very optimistic about the future of the analytics industry. Working in the payments industry, it’s very interesting for me to observe how different industries start to apply big analytics and see tangible value in a hyper-competitive ecosystem. Advanced analytics used to be only accessible to large firms and specialists that were able to afford the expensive infrastructure and skillsets that were out of reach for mid-size and small businesses.

As a result of the dramatic reduction in storage and processing cost, and availability of more intuitive analytical tools – more organizations are able to gather insights that make them more intelligent, and better able to compete. I think this is exciting, it means that smaller businesses that are nimble may have a chance to challenge larger competitors by targeting specific customer segments with customized products and services.

[spoiler title=”Biography of Nathan Falkenborg” open=”0″ style=”2″]

Nathan Falkenborg is the Head of Analytics for Visa across Asia Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East and Africa. He is responsible for turning data into insights that help Visa issuers to succeed.

As part of his work at Visa, he consults regularly with Visa clients to develop fact-based solutions to complex business problems.

Mr. Falkenborg was previously the Regional Director of Affluent Products for the APCEMEA region. Leading premium product strategy and execution from South Korea to South Africa, he and his team helped issuers find new ways of serving affluent cardholders.

He was also previously the Head of Consumer Credit Analytics for Visa. Under his leadership, his team developed powerful and flexible analytical capabilities that drive deep consumer insights, and empower banks to serve their customers better through actionable segmentation.

Mr. Falkenborg began his career at Visa in 2006, as a Director of Product Management Consulting, responsible for managing clients such as Citibank and JP Morgan Chase.

Prior to joining Visa, he developed product and marketing strategies for GE Money and Providian Financial.

Mr. Falkenborg earned a MBA from the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, and a Bachelor of Arts from Saint Mary’s College of California.[/spoiler]

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