Former HSBC data scientists see money in banks’ cloud chaos

Chuck Teixeira is in Miami. Speaking to us from his hotel room while on vacation, he shows the beach outside on his computer screen. It’s a well-deserved rest. “Starting a business during a pandemic wasn’t the best idea,” he reflects. “But we focused on building a product, and now we have the product ready.”

Chuck had a big job at HSBC. when we spoke to him in 2019, he was responsible for transforming HSBC’s global banking and markets business, a role that encompassed everything from innovation partnerships to data, analytics, machine learning and an overall effort to transform HSBC from a big giant corporation into a beautiful flying digital thing.

Less than a year after our conversation, he’s gone. Though too polite to say, Chuck seems to be one of many digital evangelists burned by the banks’ painstaking attempts at transformation. The product he developed during the pandemic aims to speed up this process.

Moving to the cloud isn’t as simple as banks assume, says Teixeira. “Cloud companies will say, ‘Spend $100 million with us, and suddenly you can have a data supermarket.’ But what organizations are finding is that they make all these commitments to cloud providers, and they end up being nightmares instead of successes.”

Teixeira says it’s much harder than banks think (and cloud providers say) to move data into the cloud. Indeed, bank data is often stored in disparate databases following acquisitions. It’s also because the data is mislabeled and there are barriers related to data sharing and privacy. Moving to the cloud can be a nightmare for banks, says Teixeira. Instead of accessing data quickly, banks end up spending hundreds of millions in a process that takes years.

Teixeira’s big post-HSBC idea is to ease this process a bit. He developed a product called Data Monitoring, which allows customers to access all of their data, both cloud and non-cloud, through a single console. “It’s data discovery,” he tells us from Miami. “It goes through your network and scans your databases like Google scans the web. It maps your databases and our algorithms tags them, and all of a sudden you can control all your data in one place, with all your built-in data governance rules.”

Sounds like a good idea and in a vote of confidence and a possible indication that things at banks really are as bad as he says they are, Teixeira has just hired ex-head of data and analytics Jonathan Farina. of HSBC for its global banking and markets division, as CTO. Farina is the first of a number of new hires as Teixeira’s business, WCKDRZR, expands. At HSBC, he was responsible for the bank’s migration to the cloud.

“We started, but we just completed a funding round and raised $1.2 million,” Teixeira says. More hires will follow: “So far, I’ve been the salesperson, fundraiser and office administrator.”

Data Watchdog is built in Java and C#, with machine learning algorithms coded in Python. Teixeira did not code the system itself: that work was done by a team of seven UK-based developers. As the business scales, a wider range of hires are likely, but Farina will also bolster the tech team.

Three of the company’s current developers are machine learning specialists. Across the data industry, Texeira says machine learning capabilities are becoming more ubiquitous. “Machine learning is used to find data, clean data, identify quality data, and make it available to customers.”

At the same time, however, Texeira says machine learning jobs are becoming less scarce than in the past. Only one of its machine learning specialists has a Ph.D., one has a master’s degree, and one has a bachelor’s degree. “Now there are model libraries that you can use for machine learning. Workbenches already exist, and you can build models much easier than before,” he recalls.

The intention is to sell Data Watchdog inside and outside the banking sector. The public sector is also a possibility. “WWe look forward to working with any bank or multinational organization that needs to find and manage their data successfully,” says Texeira. “Banks are just one of the sectors that can benefit from this.

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