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Matt Willis, Global Head of Data, Analytics and AI Capabilities, Refinitiv

Path to power

After graduating in maths and computer science from Sheffield University, my first job in data was building an access database for a small hotel in Kirribilli, Sydney, while on a year of travel. Stunning views of Sydney harbour and enough pocket money to keep me entertained (student style) provided a soft landing into the world of data. 


In the following decade, KPMG Consulting (later Atos) provided me with opportunities to specialise in building data warehouses and business information platforms in the telco sector. My next career move was to Refinitiv (previously the finance and risk division of Thomson Reuters), where I have been for over ten years. I’ve had the opportunity to hone my leadership skills through both formal training and progressively larger roles across marketing, customer operations and technology.


As Refinitiv separated from Thomson Reuters, we brought several technology teams together within a central business technology group, providing an opportunity to head a global team of passionate data technologists and lead our internal data, analytics and AI capabilities. 


The team designs, builds and operates a suite of data and analytics platforms and services that include: AI solutions; an analytics platform (data lake + data warehouse + Ddta Viz/BI + data science tools); financial planning and analysis systems; and application integration.


What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

For the past five years I have worked with Hertfordshire Independent Living Service (HILS), who provide a range of services to help older and vulnerable people stay happy, healthy, and independent.


Working with HILS has afforded me fantastic learning opportunities and the satisfaction of supporting a not-for-profit organisation through my professional expertise. Tackling strategic challenges, expansion opportunities and implementing critical governance has provided me with learning that enables me to better support my team and fellow leaders at Refinitiv.


I spent a month last autumn seconded to the HILS and was honored to receive a Social Business Trust award for the analytics capabilities I built.


Who is your role model or the person you look to for inspiration?

Tim Harford, the Financial Times’ Undercover Economist, makes statistics endlessly interesting and entertaining. Tim has a fabulous blog and hosts my favorite podcast, More or Less, which explores numbers in the news. I consume all his content and read many of the books he recommends.


Did 2019 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

2019 presented a significant challenge for my team and a change from any other year as we separated our business systems from Thomson Reuters and used the opportunity to move to best in class software-as-a-service data platforms. One standout achievement was a significant and successful enterprise data warehouse migration and re-platforming programme. Among all the critical separation work, we also delivered key BI programmes supporting internal user groups visualise and analyse data to improve investment decisions and customer experience.


What do you expect 2020 to be like for the data and analytics industry?

2020 will continue to see AI solutions mature and attract attention from executive teams. Industry buzz must be tempered with strong use cases and an agile delivery approach, while being prioritised and sufficiently funded to ensure organisations build the experience and skills required to take full advantage of AI and machine learning opportunities, specific to their domains.


Data and technology are changing business, the economy and society – what do you see as the biggest opportunity emerging from this?

The quality of data journalism is improving year on year and a focus on fact checking and basic data literacy is on the rise. There remains a great opportunity to improve public understanding of data science and building confidence in the numbers in the news and all around us.


What is the biggest tech challenge your clients face in ensuring data is at the heart of their digital transformation strategy?

My clients’ (primarily internal) tech challenges this year have centred around a need to predict outcomes and next best actions in their daily workflow. A key challenge is to design a workplace where chat and voice enabled virtual assistants leverage machine learning across diverse data-sets and augment knowledge worker activities.

Matt Willis
has been included in:
  • 100 Enablers 2020 (EMEA)