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June 30, 2022

Lloyds Banking Group is hiring its first dedicated data ethics chief

UK bank's chief data officer tells Tech Monitor why it has created its first leadership role for data ethics.

By Pete Swabey

Lloyds Banking Group is recruiting its first-ever group head of data ethics. The role will be responsible for leading discussions around the ethics of new data uses and embedding data ethics checks across the group, the UK bank’s chief data and analytics officer, Ranil Boteju, told Tech Monitor.

A branch at Lloyds Banking Group
The new group head of data ethics will help Lloyds Banking Group offer more personalised offerings to customers without compromising ethics. (Photo by Lubo Ivanko / iStock)

Lloyds’ new group head of data ethics role will be “responsible for crafting and aligning our data ethics strategy, standards and priorities, ensuring ‘ethics by design’ and ‘data used for good’ is embedded across the group,” the bank says in its job description.

Duties include educating business and ‘platform’ teams on the importance of data ethics, and driving adoption of “data ethics methodology, tooling, checks and monitoring”.

“Our group head of data ethics will be a dedicated role for someone who can play a leading role in bringing together teams and people with a variety of viewpoints,” explained Boteju. “They’ll also bring insight of emerging technology trends and embedding best practice in using data as a force for good.”

Data ethics roles are increasingly common, especially in financial services. According to job analytics data from GlobalData, there were 96 active data ethics jobs available in the banking and payments sector last month, more than half of the total data ethics positions available.

To date, data ethics professionals in the finance sector have often come from a model risk background, Boteju said, "people with experience in assessing credit risk models from a model risk perspective".

But Lloyds will consider candidates from a range of backgrounds, Boteju said. "We are equally open to those with different experience – such as those with a background in ethics and philosophy – who could bridge the gap between technical and non-technical." Ethics discussions can be highly subjective, Boteju explained, so the ability to communicate and lead constructive discussions will be essential.

The creation of the new role is part of a group-wide investment in data capabilities, announced as part of Lloyds' group strategy earlier this year. Through these investments, the bank aims "to personalise and deepen our relationships [with customers] while ensuring we face the ethical considerations posed by new data uses," Boteju said.

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Why are companies hiring data ethics advisors?

The capabilities of data and artificial intelligence are evolving quickly, and regulation is struggling to keep pace. Businesses often employ data ethicists to help ensure that new and emerging applications of data will not harm their consumers - or expose them to future legal liabilities - when regulation does not provide sufficient guidance.

In a report on data ethics published earlier this year, scientists at German technology giant Merck explained that an ethics-based approach allows companies to reduce the risk of harm when regulation has yet to catch up with technology. “Moreover, many ethical ‘should’ questions go beyond the scope usually provided in legal regulations, which provide practitioners mainly with answers to ‘could’ questions," they wrote.

This may explain why companies based in the US, which does not have a national privacy law, are hiring data ethicists at a faster rate than those in other countries, according to GlobalData's figures.

UK employers with senior roles responsible for data ethics include BT, the Welsh government, and the UK Statistics Authority.

Read more: AI ethics in action: How Merck created its own code of digital ethics

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