Data: the lifeblood of innovation

Date: February 11, 2020

Publication Type: Articles

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One hundred years ago, trust in financial services was anchored around financial stability and strength. Will this bank be able to safeguard my deposits? Will this insurance company be around in 50 years to pay my claim?

We responded by building large, stately buildings of granite and marble, buildings that would last for centuries. They were designed around trust – to impress upon clients that their families, their investments and their future would always be safe and protected.

Today, most people take for granted that the bank or insurance company will be solvent – and if they’re not, the government will bail them out, right? So what is the new and future definition of trust in a modern economy?

Increasingly I think it will be about client data. Are you using my data to help me, or to hinder me? Is my data safe, and is it kept private? How are you profiting from my data and what do I get in exchange? Can I trust you with my data?

Data is increasingly the lifeblood of innovation, the lifeblood of organizations, the lifeblood of society.

But with all the advantages of data, it is creating a new set of challenges. Data is valuable, so not only do companies want to buy it, others want to steal it. It is creating tectonic shifts in business models and in industries.

To better understand how people feel about the issue of data specifically, the Canadian Marketing Association commissioned a survey earlier this year, and Sun Life was a sponsor of this important work. Here’s what the study found:

  • First, while most Canadians say they read parts of privacy policies, a quarter admit they don’t read these policies at all.
  • Second, people find privacy policies too long and difficult to understand. If you’ve ever tried to download an app and read the material on your phone, you understand this point exactly.
  • Third, many people do not feel informed about Canadian data privacy laws, individual rights and the obligations of companies.
  • Fourth, Canadians care about how we store and secure their personal data and want to know how and why organizations collect and use it. Of least concern is how companies monetize data and their use of third-party data providers.

I believe that every organization’s brand, reputation and what it stands for will increasingly be about how it treads its clients’ data. We need to create and communicate forward-looking data governance policies. If we don’t, client trust will erode. And if we leave it to governments to tell us what to do, we will have failed.

The onus is on us – the leaders in this room and beyond – to lead the way.




Dean Connor, President and Chief Executive Officer, Sun Life


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