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Data driven: Digital leader Lyndsay Shields on finding new ways to make an impact

Lyndsay Shields recently won the Digital award at the IOB Future of Financial Services Awards 2023. We speak with Lyndsay about the benefits of a non-linear career journey, the power of data and closing the gender gap in digital and technology.

Lyndsay Shields, Head of Data & Analytics for Danske Bank UK, has followed her own career path. Beginning as a cashier in a retail branch of Danske Bank, she progressed through a diverse range of roles in project leadership and change management before taking on her current role within the bank’s newly formed Technology & Digital Development department. She’s an advocate for ‘squiggly careers’ – seeking out roles that provide fulfilment, opportunity and learning. “I’ve never been focussed on the next grade. I’ve always wanted to do work that has an impact and that I feel is interesting and different,” Lyndsay says.

Lyndsay recently won the Digital award at the IOB Future of Finance Awards 2023 in recognition of her extensive work to improve customer experience at Danske Bank. She has been passionate about driving positive change since her early experiences of project management in the bank. One of the first projects Lyndsay worked on was focussed on implementing faster payments for the bank. “That was really my first case of project delivery. I really loved that whole area… It was around that time that I remember thinking, I could actually have a career in the bank. I could see that there was really interesting work to be done,” Lyndsay says.

Improving efficiency

Following the financial crisis in 2008, there was an increased focus on efficiency. The bank created a LEAN programme aiming to optimise internal processes and operations. Lyndsay took up an opportunity to lead key projects as part of the programme. “That was probably my first time taking a more senior role,” Lyndsay explains. “It was a business process consultant, with no digital tools. A lot of internal management consulting to help managers improve performance of their team.”

Often short-term and focussed on making a difference within 18 weeks, the projects allowed Lyndsay to gain invaluable experience at engaging colleagues across all disciplines and levels. It challenged and helped her to learn and develop. “Often I sought out extra responsibility outside of my role, perhaps at times taking on a little too much - but I kept pushing myself outside my comfort zone. I tried new things, got feedback when things didn’t go right, and gained a lot of valuable experience by having courage!” she says.

Lyndsay Shields 2

Prioritise the process

Lyndsay’s nomination for the IOB Future of Finance Awards highlighted her impactful leadership of a project to improve the account registration process for new customers. Through a series of focus groups, workshops and interviews with business customers, feedback and data was gathered on their experience as a business customer and the onboarding process. Whilst hugely positive about the service from the bank and in particular the support and expertise of relationship managers, a key pain point was soon identified in the then cumbersome account opening process. “When someone wanted to become a customer of the bank, it was a painful paper heavy process,” Lyndsay says. Business customers often opened new accounts at critical and stressful times – when they were starting a new business or making a big change in their operations. “So they had that going on, and then they also had the hassle of the account opening process on top of it,” she says.

Influenced by the success of her previous work in the LEAN programme, Lyndsay sought to improve the customer experience and before exploring any digital changes, began by optimising existing processes. “The process re-engineering phase was actually the hardest – you’re actually asking people to change rather than just introducing digital,” she says. “We actually got great results from that…Then we looked at what could be digitised.”

Previously it could take new business customers up to several weeks to complete registration and set up of a new business account. Through an agile and iterative development process, Lyndsay’s project proved it could be completed within 24 hours. The positive impact was immediately clear. “To be able to measure and get those first few customers through in less than 24 hours… Then we saw the sentiments from the customers, saying they couldn’t believe how easy it was,” Lyndsay explains. It also had a positive impact for internal teams by freeing up time for customer advisors. “They were actually using their skills in a better way and not consumed by manual processing,” she says.

The power of data

Lyndsay took on her current role in June, 2021. She is focussed on using the power of data and analytics to deliver improved experiences for her bank’s customers. “When we find insights that are unexpected in our data, it’s magic. We’re helping to make big decisions and we’re uncovering things that no one knows are there. Some of those insights are absolutely amazing, and are supporting the strategic direction of the organistion” Lyndsay says.

The transition in to digital brought exciting new opportunities as well as some unforeseen challenges. As Lyndsay is not from a tech background, she invested a lot of time during her first-year learning, upskilling and connecting with other digital leaders. “As a female in this role and this area – you’re in a minority and there were different leadership challenges I hadn’t experienced before. A key enabler for me was building a support network and connecting with other female leaders in the data space… That was brilliant for me,” she says.

Closing the gender gap in digital

The lack of women in technical roles in digital and data is an issue and challenge that Lyndsay is passionate about tackling. The gender balance within her technology department is improving all the time – currently split around 60/40 between men and women which is ahead of the industry average. Yet, the technical roles are where the biggest challenge lies. “In the senior technical roles, we see much less diversity and this is a focus for us” In her role as Co Chair of the Bank’s Gender Diversity Committee, Lyndsay is committed to driving inclusion. Lyndsay believes that digital and technology needs to be introduced at an earlier stage. “We need to get out there in skills when kids are learning the core topics and bring technology and digital in at that point. Making sure at GCSE level there are options for those types of subjects.” Through her role as mentor on the SistersIn programme, Lyndsay is showcasing careers in tech and data to the young girls involved.

If not addressed, the gender gap in data and technology can lead to unconscious bias. “We are conscious that technology and data solutions need to be developed by diverse teams of engineers – otherwise the solutions themselves may contain bias and won’t correctly serve all genders equally. There’s something there that has to be addressed.”

Lyndsay is passionate about introducing more women and girls to the benefits of a career in digital and breaking the myth that roles in digital and data are not creative. Through her work with Danske Bank, she has seen first-hand the positive impact that digital projects can have. “We are transforming customer experience – making banking easy using technology and data and building a sustainable future for the organisation and our colleagues. And for our colleagues making these changes - a few years ago we would not have believed to be possible, it’s incredibly motivating.”

IOB Future of Finance Awards

Lyndsay Shields won the digital award at the IOB Future of Finance Awards 2023. Learn more about the IOB Future of Finance Awards the 2023 winners here.