Data is the new gold

4 min read

The Aboitiz Group, one of the country’s oldest and most profitable conglomerates, is going full speed ahead with its “Great Transformation” toward its goal to become the Philippines’ first “techglomerate”.

Aboitiz Group President and CEO Sabin Aboitiz firmly believes that this strategy that is driven by the latest in technology, a renewed entrepreneurial spirit and synergy will put the group with interests in key sectors of the economy such as banking, power, food and infrastructure on the path toward boundless growth.

Crucial to the success of this transformation is the proper use of data, deemed the new gold amid an increasingly digital economy.

Few executives know more about this resource like David Hardoon, Chief Executive Officer of Aboitiz Data Innovation and the Group Chief Data and AI Officer of Union Bank of the Philippines.

Here, Hardoon shares his thoughts on the latest in technology, how it is being harnessed by the Aboitiz Group and also how cutting edge developments will likely figure into the discussions during the Philippines’ hosting in Cebu of the Apec Business Advisory Council meeting.

Question: Why is data now considered a resource much like capital?

Data has become an asset in the digital economy because of its economic significance in enabling decision-making, transformative power, monetization potential, impact on personalization, and role in advancing sustainability efforts. Considering the limitless possibilities data offers in today’s digital age, data is considered as a new type of resource like no other.

For example, when gold is used to create a breathtaking piece of jewelry, it can not concurrently be used to create another ornament. However, the exact same piece of data can concurrently fuel different applications and services. It is important to note that, much like capital, it is crucial to use data responsibly—embedding governance into business processes to ensure that data privacy and security as well as ethical concerns are addressed.

Companies and organizations can collect, analyze, and leverage data to gain insights, make informed decisions, and create innovative products and services to meet dynamic market trends and consumer behavior.

Data enables hyper-personalized experiences for consumers as products or services can be tailored to individual preferences. Data also provides a competitive edge by empowering businesses and individuals to make better decisions based on evidence and trends. Like gold, which holds its value and can be a safe investment, data can be turned into actionable insights that can lead to strategic advantages and improved outcomes. In terms of innovation, it fuels the operationalization of AI that transforms industries and promotes operational excellence across organizations.

At the Aboitiz Group, for example, Aboitiz Data Innovation (ADI) works closely with the Group’s business units in leveraging and operationalizing data science and AI (DSAI) to drive operational efficiency, reduce costs, optimize revenue, strengthen risk management, and champion sustainability.

This translates to transforming data into quantifiable business and sustainability outcomes, thereby propelling the progress of both the company and its customers.

For Aboitiz, how is this data harnessed to guide strategic direction? Could you give some key examples?

An integral part of the Aboitiz Group’s Great Transformation is the ongoing technological revolution that has been rapidly changing the way we do business.

The call to action is simple yet complex: Transform data into business and sustainability outcomes by operationalizing DSAI across the Group’s business units, and promote a data-driven mindset and a culture of innovation across the organization.

Operationalizing Data Science and AI ensures that technology is not a separate component of the business operations or processes, but is embedded into the core of the business strategy and decision-making processes.

By adopting a data-first mindset and integrating tech as a business mindset, the Aboitiz Group is able to harness the full potential of technology, capitalize on emerging opportunities, stay competitive in the digital era, and drive sustainable business growth.

Here are just a few examples of how we were able to leverage data and AI:Our AI and Innovation Center of Excellence collaborated with UnionBank’s Customer Engagement Group to utilize the Net Promoter Score (NPS) Freetext Analysis Tool. This tool automates and quickly identifies user needs and gains through direct feedback analysis. The information from its various feedback channels — online surveys, social media comments, and actual interviews — allows UnionBank to create more personalized offers and engagements with different customers.

After using the tool for eight months, the bank was able to streamline the analysis of more than 10,000 monthly survey responses and over 35,000 inquiries and complaints from customers. The tool saves an estimate of 3-5 days or around 16-30 man-hours of manually screening texts and determining common concerns, while providing accurate and understandable keywords per feedback topic.

For risk prediction, ADI worked with the AEV security team to develop the Security Risk Scoring Intelligent Dashboard app. This tool analyzes external security events and incidents as it relates to the facility based on the incident’s proximity, severity, recency, and frequency.

The system processes these inputs to provide the security risk score for each business unit facility; this enables security heads to quickly assess what alert level a facility should be and implement preemptive measures in accordance with the Security Alert Level System. This tool has drastically reduced man hours from 4 hours to 30 minutes to process the data, analyze, and assess external security threats.

ADI automated AEV’s Tax Advisory and Compliance Services (TACS) wherein Information from financial documents is extracted and converted into a system-readable and user-accessible unified material. The solution had freed 925 man-hours from doing the laborious manual process.

What role does AI or data play in the Great Transformation journey of the Aboitiz Group?

Data and disruptive technologies like AI enable and accelerate the Great Transformation of the Aboitiz Group to become the Philippines’ first techglomerate. Having started leveraging data and operationalizing AI some years back, we are already reaping its benefits and seizing the limitless opportunities that data and AI offer. This has also allowed us to be an active part of the industry ecosystem, taking a lead role in its transformation while at the same time drawing inspiration from it, to continuously transform businesses and advance communities.

For this ABAC meet, what is the message that you want to convey in keeping with the theme?

As we gather to explore the theme of “Equity, Sustainability, and Opportunity,” I want to emphasize the pivotal role that data plays in shaping a more equitable, sustainable, and inclusive future. Embrace the power of data to drive transformational growth and positive change, ensuring equal access and opportunities for all. INQ

(The article was originally published by Tina Arceo-Dumlao on the Philippine Daily Inquirer.)