Author: Adi Bachar-Reske
It’s a tall order. To become the most wanted data and analytics firm across an entire continent, that is. But, Magnus Silfverberg, CEO of Bisnode talks about the vision with a humility and certainty that makes the aspirational seem so accessible. For some context, Bisnode is made up of 2,100 employees and over 150,000 customers. It traces its complex roots past more than 70 acquisitions to the 1800’s and, by some accounts, the beginning of credit data. Recently, Silfverberg’s path to the top of data mountain has traversed through an organization-wide effort, combining those many companies and technologies that historically comprised Bisnode into one standardized technology stack with a common platform and common data platforms. That’s the offering that’s on its way to the top in Bisnode’s market.
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We wanted to find out what drives a company like Bisnode to transform the way people use and interact with data, so we sat down with CEO Magnus Silfverberg to understand his approach:
Adi: Thank you, Magnus. To start, we all want to hear about the trends you see in financial services. Tell us how those are driving your vision at Bisnode.
Magnus: Well, there are three big trends we are seeing.
The first trend that we see is around digitalisation in general, which quite often leads to automatization. Many companies are digitizing the processes they have, which are quite manual today. With those, they can then apply things like decisioning tools. So, there’s a base case where it becomes more efficient to automate decisioning regarding cost. Then, of course, we have the real-time aspect of automation as well which simply makes it better than having to conduct a slow, manual process. So, digitalization and automation are very clear trends that we want to serve, and we are doing that by adding decisioning and more predictive analytics services on top of the data management services to digitalize their businesses.
Another trend we see is growth. Companies want to grow. From a risk and credit perspective, they can take on more business if we can help them be more accurate in their credit decisioning. So, it becomes apparently critical to have consistent credit decisioning and excellent tools and processes for this. Then, there’s the marketing perspective. We talk about the “holy grail,” which is found when we can add our structured data, combining that with the client’s transaction data and also web browsing or behavioral data. That’s something we do that very few others can provide, and it gives a very sharp profile of the end customer. Thereby, if it’s a consumer, our clients can target that person with very accurate and relevant information. We can help them with data to predict who wants to buy their services and target those specific customers, to become more relevant for those specific customers. So, all of these play into the growth trend that we see.
The third big trend that we see is compliance. Of course, you have KYC, AML, and those kinds of regulations. The banking and financial sector can become more compliant with our compliance solutions to, for instance, screen customers. Now, of course, we also have the GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] which will be enforced starting May 2018. Companies in Europe are transitioning from facing very minimal consequences if they do not comply with data privacy regulations to an environment where non-compliance has massive implications. Companies can be fined up to 4% of total global revenue, so it’s a big thing for business. To give an example of how that’s driving our vision: GDPR requires updated customer databases. So, you cannot have a person who is deceased, for instance, in your CRM system. With data management services, we can help our clients remain compliance. We can also help them prepare for and tackle these regulations by providing consulting services, etc.
A: What direction have you taken based on your evaluation of these trends?
The idea behind Bisnode from the beginning is that we collect data from public sources, and also private sources. We have around 500 different data sources that we have in our structured databases. And that’s information on companies, on individuals, on properties, and vehicles. Then we build different types of use cases on those data sets. Today, there are three main types of use cases or product areas. One offers credit information and credit decisioning, with risk management including compliance. The second focuses on data for marketing – helping clients target new companies and grow their existing customers. The third is a general business information use case where we have different portals where customers can look-up data on those types of data sets on an ad hoc basis.
Our mission is to help companies find and manage their customers. That means we are focused on using our data to help our clients throughout their customer lifecycle: Finding new business through targeting, onboarding their customers – so risk management and credit decisioning, etc. – and then upsell, cross-sell, and churn prevention.
Our vision from there is to become the most wanted partner for data and analytics in Europe. It’s the combination of these significant trends we discussed, and we can play a key role there. To increase our capabilities, we’ve moved from just providing a credit report into providing real time monitoring and automated decisioning support. We are already doing that to some degree in some markets – offering decisioning support – but the next step is to be more advanced and to configure the solutions for different clients’ needs. To make it available across the 18 markets we serve – The Nordics, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Eastern Europe from Poland down to the former Yugoslav Republics – we needed a leading tool to support this vision. There, we’re working with a company called Provenir which has been key for us to achieve our vision of moving up the ladder to help our clients with automated, targeted decisioning rather than just selling credit reports.
When it comes to data for marketing, we are providing analyzed data or smart data to help our clients with targeting or cross-sell and upsell. We are developing more solutions that use predictive analytics and big data analytics to accomplish that and to meet the growth trend of our clients.
A: Finally, we have to know what the CEO of Bisnode spends his time reading.
M: Ah, people are always sending good stuff to read – excerpts from reports and websites. Aside from those, and the Business News in Sweden, I’m hooked on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and reading quite a lot on that right now. I suppose it plays into Bisnode, but it’s also a personal interest.
A: Thank you, Magnus! Is there anything we’ve forgotten?
M: Hah. Probably! One more holistic perspective: Bisnode is going through a significant transformation. We are changing this company from the ground up, and Provenir plays a very crucial role in that transformation — let’s call it going from a basic data supplier to a company that delivers big data analytics and decisioning. That transformation is a big change, indeed.