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Tom Spencer

Tom Spencer, Director of Customer Data Sciences, Aviva

Describe your career to date

 

My first role was Customer Data Analyst with dunnhumby, where I cut my teeth analysing large retail datasets. In 2008 I relocated to Seoul to set up dunnhumby Korea as the analytics lead in a two-person team, working shoulder-to-shoulder with Tesco. I spent the next nine years in Asia, initially in China building and leading the region’s analytics teams, and latterly as Country Head of the South Korea business.

 

In my current position as Head of Customer Data Science at Aviva, I have built a high-impact data team across customer analytics, data science, and engineering. My team and I have delivered multi-million-pound benefits by blending technical expertise with commercial acumen. I have also focused on Aviva’s data transformation and on the creation of a new customer and marketing function, to maximise commercial and customer value from data.

 

My approach is very much focused on nurturing talent and bringing out the very best in people. I am proud to say my team strikes an impressive balance between commercial impact and a spirit of fun and diversity. They actively dedicate time to champion data-for-good initiatives, embodying the ethos of responsible data use.

 

In addition to my roles in the chief data office and global data practice, I am Site Lead in London and use this position to create a better working environment for colleagues. Additionally, I chaired the Gender DEI Community for over two years.

 

I am also proud to say I have been in the DataIQ 100 for the last six years. My team twice won Best Place to Work in Data at the DataIQ Awards, and New Ways of Working with Data in 2023. I am also a speaker and panellist and serve on the DataIQ Leaders Advisory Board.

Data literacy is a key enabler of the value and impact from data. How are you approaching this within your organisation?

 

We try to promote data literacy in several ways at Aviva. For example, we have data training for all employees and a company-wide data community of practice that enables anyone to get involved. Specialist roles have more in-depth training, both internal and from specialist providers.

 

Role modelling is a powerful tool, so we have senior leader training to help inform, inspire, and propagate data literacy throughout our business.

 

We also recently rolled out new data job family requirements to help set clear expectations and inform development discussions. Throughout the company, colleagues are encouraged to challenge decisions that are not based on data and encourage open discussions about the information required to support better actions. This is enshrined in our company values, so the expectation that we all need to be using data to make better decisions is clear.

 

Additionally, we spent a lot of time refining and improving understanding of our KPIs and use of self-serve reporting dashboards. This focus on the numbers helps to make data a currency of communication.

What are the key challenges to your data function that you are facing as its leader?

 

I would say my top three current challenges are:

 

  1. Data quality and integrity. Ensuring that the data collected and stored is accurate, consistent, and reliable is a constant challenge. To put it somewhat crudely, “garbage in, garbage out”, so working with our Technology and Governance Team to ensure good data quality to power our analytics and data science is critical and an ongoing effort.
  2. Hiring and retaining talent. There is always natural churn in a team, so a big part of my role is ensuring we have great hiring practices, working in collaboration with our people function. We try to strike the right balance between speed-to-hire and quality when recruiting new team members. It is an area that needs continued monitoring and refinement in response to internal and market conditions.

  3. Data strategy alignment. Aligning data initiatives with Aviva’s overall business strategy is complex. However, it is essential for us to ensure that data is used effectively to drive business goals; specifically supporting our Chief Customer Officer. I also need to ensure we stay the course on longer-term data related investments that are required for the strategy but may not pay back immediately.
Tom Spencer
Tom Spencer
has been included in:
  • 100 Brands 2019 (EMEA)
  • 100 Brands 2020 (EMEA)
  • 100 Brands 2022 (EMEA)
  • 100 Brands 2023 (EMEA)
  • 100 Brands 2024 (EMEA)
  • No. 9 100 Brands 2021 (EMEA)