Ine Oftedahl: – I know enough to know when someone is talking bullshit.

Ine Oftedahl is the economist who loves data. Even though she leads a department consisting of some of the country's foremost data engineers, economists, and number crunchers, she is clear that anyone can and should work with data.

Ine Oftedahl, Director of Data Transformation at DNB, has spent her entire career at Norway's largest bank. She believes that smart use of data is as much about communication as it is about technology.

– We have a simple mandate; create value with data. With such freedom, it's very exciting to explore all the interesting things we can do with data.

Oftedahl believes communication is key to succeeding in getting the entire organization to become more data-driven.

– I see my role as a facilitator. A kind of translator. Four billion transactions a year should form a story that people find exciting. We need to get those who aren't otherwise interested in numbers and data to become super engaged, both internally and externally.

Alternative text

Forte Digital meets Oftedahl in a meeting room near the cafeteria at DNB's headquarters in Barcode. It's 11:30, and more than 4000 bank employees are having lunch. The cafeteria alone is larger than the offices of many Norwegian companies.

– We need to demystify data and make it easily accessible, understandable, and fun to use. Especially in such a large organization like DNB. It's about getting everyone to become more data-driven to create value for our customers. It's a process that requires a focus on competence development and, not least, a lot of communication.

A single source of truth

Oftedahl explains that the department of seven not only works on crunching numbers but also on how to make the information available in a way that the rest of the traditional bank understands. The result is called the Insights Factory, a data platform where you can find insight products built on transaction and customer data.

The goal is to further develop this in product development, analysis, and customer dialogue for everyone working at DNB.

– It's about replacing gut feeling with facts. Everything DNB will do in the future will be based on data, both within the organization and in our dialogue externally with customers. That is what lays the foundation for new value creation and innovation in DNB.

My colleague Pål Werdenhoff recently wrote the article "How many truths can we operate with before it breaks?". Here he argues that more businesses must work towards having a single source of truth in the organization. It sounds like you're well on your way there.

– It's a beautiful concept. In a large corporation like ours, many have their own Excel sheets and their own truths across different departments. The Insights Factory must be built on one truth for everyone working at DNB. Then the data must be of quality. Four billion transactions per year linked to customer data require a lot of cleaning and quality work.

Alternative text

Data as a competitive advantage

In the global survey Digital Banking Maturity 2023, consultancy firm Deloitte has mapped the digital maturity across various banks and how new technology can create a competitive advantage in the industry.

Here, personalization and relevant customer experiences are highlighted as crucial to being prepared for the future. Smart use of data is pointed out as one of the most important ingredients for success.

– We have the industry's best data, simply because we have an enormous number of customers with a wide demographic range. Utilizing this will give us a spearhead that few of our competitors can match. It is obvious that data will become a competitive advantage for us and be part of everything we do towards customers.

You need people who understand AI but who don't join the AI congregation.

Focus on relevance and personalization

Oftedahl and her department have, among other things, worked extensively on how DNB can help business customers make more data-driven decisions, whether in the form of competitor analysis, customer insights, or "cash cows" that have not yet been exploited.

For retail customers, it's about doing something as simple as providing relevant context for transactions so they don't have to call the customer service when they don't understand what has been deducted from their account. Smart use of data has been at the center of this development.

– The most important thing we as a bank manage is not money but trust. We work with sensitive customer data. We cannot afford to make mistakes or misuse them. Trust is our foremost competitive advantage

Oftedahl believes that the bank of the future will look very different. Trust will be crucial, she believes.

– The traditional bank as we know it today will change along with a more fragmented market, new competition, and business models. Those who manage to crack the code of trust, relevance, and personalization will win the customers

Alternative text

Advocating for boring AI

Like everyone else in society and business, Oftedahl closely follows what's happening in artificial intelligence. She warns against becoming part of what she calls the "AI congregation".

– I have an ambivalent relationship with AI because there is so much hype that just disappears into the clouds. In that way, ordinary people and traditional businesses may have too high expectations of what AI can solve. AI is not a magical button that fixes all your problems and desires.

At the same time, Oftedahl is clear that the development is progressing so fast that AI will be decisive in everything we do in the future. She believes in a balance between healthy pessimism, willingness to learn, and curiosity.

– It can be difficult to distinguish hype from good business cases. I believe in boring AI. Start by crawling before you run. Then you need people who understand AI but who don't join the AI congregation. AI is a maturation process. Although I'm not a technologist at heart, I'm at a level where I know enough to know when someone is talking bullshit.