October 25, 2012

During the height of the financial crisis, John Bottega was right where he needed to be: at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As the New York Fed’s chief data officer, a role he assumed in February 2009, Bottega was at the epicenter of financial data collection, analysis and dissemination while the bank worked with many of the world’s largest financial institutions, the U.S. Treasury and the newly created Office of Financial Research. To help the public and private sectors work together on data management objectives designed to provide transparency into the financial health of many institutions, Bottega tapped into the experience and knowledge he gained from his previous senior data management roles and his work with the Enterprise Data Management Council. Now Bottega is CDO at Bank of America. He recently spoke with Greg MacSweeney, editorial director of Wall Street & Technology, about the changing role of the chief data officer and the growing importance of data in the enterprise.


WS&T: What knowledge and experience did you gain while at the New York Fed that will help you at Bank of America?

John Bottega
John Bottega, Bank of America
John Bottega: My experiences as a chief data officer started back at Citi and then continued at the Federal Reserve [of New York]. I worked at the Fed at a very critical time during the financial crisis. Both in the public and private sector during that time, there was a renewed awareness of the importance of data, how important data is to financial stability and how important data is to determining an individual firm’s financial health. I say this from the bottom of my heart—that I was very honored to have worked at the Federal Reserve and to be able to do work with the Treasury and the Office of Financial Research. Many of the seeds we planted for work between the public and private sectors are coming to fruition now.

WS&T: You’ve been a CDO for a number of years. How have you seen the role change over the years?

Bottega: It has gone through a rapid evolution. When most firms created a CDO-type position—whether it was a head of market data, a head of reference data, a chief data architect or whatever the actual title—it started as a siloed business focus. Today, it’s more of a horizontal responsibility across the enterprise. I’ve seen this shift not only in the banking industry but also in other industries. You’re seeing chief data officers pop up in the medical industry and in government roles. The city of Chicago has a CDO, as does the city of Philadelphia.

So, we have seen it grow from being siloed to now taking a much broader view across an enterprise. However, you can’t discount the individual work done in each silo, but you need both views [siloed and horizontal] into data to be successful. WS&T: You are one of the few CDOs in the industry, which is surprising given financial services’ ongoing struggle with data and data standards. Why haven’t more data architects risen to the CDO level? Or, why haven’t more financial firms created a CDO position?

Bottega: Firms are starting to change. They may not be outright calling it a CDO. I have been contacted by a number of colleagues at other companies who’ve inquired about how the role has been established and what responsibilities it encompasses. Many firms are recognizing the importance of data and are starting to position themselves for it. Citi has a chief data officer at an executive level. Other banks are starting to move in this direction. You may not see firms calling them chief data officers, but they have established the office and have given data relevance in their organization.

WS&T: You’ve worked with the Enterprise Data Management (EDM) Council for seven years. How has it changed data ­management?

Bottega: I have been really fortunate to be part of the EDM Council since it started. To drive change across an industry, it has to happen collaboratively. The EDM Council created a forum where we can get together and have discussions. But they weren’t just discussions—we have built some action plans. EDM has been focused on finding common ways to describe data and common semantics. EDM has also been working on the data maturity model, which is a cookbook, if you will, of best practices around data management. These are the results of collaborative exercises with subject-matter experts from across the industry.

I think that this is what moves a discipline in an industry, by having the collaboration. They’ve done that effectively, and that’s why EDM has been so good at driving change. There are other industry associations, and they’re all important, but EDM and its rifle focus on how to manage information and data has been a game changer in the industry. I certainly hope it continues.