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Michael Lewis, Group Chief Privacy Officer, The Admiral Group

Describe your career to date

Leaving university, I was happy enough skateboarding and fixing surfboards. However, free skate-shoes and other merchandise doesn’t really help to pay the bills, so I took a temporary job with Admiral, and 20 years later I am still here learning new things.

 

My early years in Admiral were spent in the customer contact areas, and I credit this time as being foundational in helping me understand how the business works and, more importantly, what the important people expect – customers are central to everything.  I spent a very short period then as an internal auditor, focusing on regulatory risks, but again getting great insights into varying aspects of the business, before “inheriting” the data protection officer role in 2007.

 

The role has developed in parallel with the business and has expanded into new territories as new businesses have been created. Over the years, I have witnessed numerous regulatory and legal challenges, in particular designing and delivering the GDPR governance framework across the entire group. At all times, I aim to be sympathetic and supportive of data innovation practices and strategies, and my focus has always been on breadth and precision within my understanding, which means that I am constantly researching and exploring complex legal and technical issues.

What stage has your organisation reached on its data maturity journey?

The Admiral Group is a home for several businesses. Admiral Insurance is a very mature, highly regulated business, which started in 1993, whereas Veygo and Pioneer are certainly more recent endeavours. There are obvious commonalities within each individual business in Admiral, certainly culturally, however, maturity in specific areas can vary.

 

Tell us about the data and analytics resources you are responsible for

I am responsible for data protection, privacy and data ethics strategies and approaches for all our businesses in the UK, France, Spain, Italy, and the US. I am supported in each business with a small team of local experts, which in total is around 35 employees. These have a range of backgrounds, such as technologists, lawyers, data scientists and data protection specialists, who all work directly with their first line counterparts, providing strong guidance and steering on privacy and ethics risks, driving a positive privacy culture.

What challenges do you see for data in the year ahead that will have an impact on your organisation and on the industry as a whole?

Advancements in data processing capabilities and technologies don’t come alone, but they also raise a need for ethics by design, as well as the more commonly referenced privacy by design. There is growing regulatory concern and scrutiny on usage of data, but also the unintended consequences or unsighted risks arising from innovation in these areas, particularly within the financial services. As a result, there is a rising prominence of the concept of data and digital ethics, and the importance of a framework for such decision making. I think the pressure on businesses to be able to explain what they do, convincingly at all levels, will increase, as will the need to define responsibilities and accountabilities.

Have you set out a vision for data? If so, what is it aiming for and does it embrace the whole organisation or just the data function?

I am focused on the regulatory and legal side of things, and our vision is one that is supportive of business innovation, that is focused on building trust through championing the fair and ethical processing and usage of data.

 

Have you been able to fix the data foundations of your organisation, particularly with regard to data quality?

Strong data foundations are obviously key, and we recognise the opportunities to review our foundational capabilities and identify areas that can be further matured. Data quality is one of those critical areas where we are driving for further improvements in order to help us safely accelerate future delivery.

Michael Lewis
has been included in:
  • 100 Brands 2023 (EMEA)