Our purpose is to improve the lives of our customers, build a better society for the long term and create value for our shareholders. We know that the diversity of thinking needed to achieve this needs diverse talent. And nowhere is this more important than in data and analytics. Without it, it risks undermining the very insight that it produces. We’re committed to closing the diversity gap in data and analytics, and that’s why we have partnered with Women in Data.
There are three main areas that Legal & General see playing a role in the data landscape over the next 5 years:
Greater use of artificial intelligence (AI): As AI continues to evolve and advance, companies will increasingly rely on algorithms to performance manage their business with an increasing prevalence of applied analytics in every decision, interaction, and process. Machine learning (ML) will be used to identify patterns, trends, and insights that would be difficult for humans to detect given the scale and variety of data available.
Increased data fluency: Everyone will understand the role they play in collecting, storing and using high quality data. There will be even more opportunities for people to learn about data, develop new data skills and put these into practice.
Emerging risks and regulation: There will continue to be increased regulation around data collection, use, and storage and an increasing focus on data ethics and the use of AI. This could involve new laws, stricter enforcement of existing regulations, and greater fines for companies that fail to comply with data protection requirements. While these changes will result in new regulation to help mitigate data risks, there will also be new opportunities such as, implementing automated, algorithmic data quality controls to deliver enhanced customer, business and societal outcomes.
Legal & General is a UK-based financial services company that offers a wide range of products and services, including insurance, investments, and pension plans. The company was founded in 1836 and is now one of the largest financial services companies in the UK, with operations in a number of countries around the world. Legal & General is known for its focus on customer service and innovation, and has a strong track record of developing new products and services to meet the changing needs of its customers. In addition to its core business operations, the company is also involved in a number of charitable and community initiatives, including initiatives focused on education, health, and social inclusion.
I always had this preconception that apprenticeships are for engineering, manufacturing, or other labour type careers. It was only after I finished my Bachelor of Law degree in 2020 that I considered it as an option; since the pandemic pretty much put a hold on companies hiring graduates, I thought to try my luck with an alternative route. My faith motivated me to persevere when I kept receiving ‘over-qualified’ rejections left, right and centre when job-hunting.
There were a lot of apprenticeships that I applied to and a lot of them would come back to tell me I’m too qualified due to my degree. I then stumbled upon the LGIM data apprenticeship scheme and the job description just said if I don’t have a degree in a data background, I’d be eligible.
My interest and passion for data began when I joined a 10-week course called Code First Girls in my final year of university. At first, my mindset was just that it would be good for my CV, but I ended up loving it. Though it was a commitment being 5pm until 7pm in the evening after lectures and seminars, I thoroughly enjoyed the analytical side of solving problems and the attention to detail involved in nit-picking everything. At the end of the course, there was a competition to see who could make the best functioning website. My team’s website ended up winning, so I thought if I could learn to build something that good in 10 weeks, I’m sure I could pursue it as career in the future.
My first role at LGIM was within the investment stewardship team which focuses on client outcomes and broader societal and environmental impacts in its engagements with companies and policymakers. They are also responsible for overseeing the allocation of capital on behalf of the LGIM’s clients ensuring that this generates a sustainable benefit for the economy, the environment and society. My role within the team was project-based. For example, I did a lot of work for the Climate Impact Pledge and the voting and engagement, quarterly and yearly reporting.
Fortunately, working in Investment Stewardship they focused a lot on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) which allows me to use my knowledge in law to understand the policies, regulations and current issues that still needs to be tackled. In one of my very first projects, I had the chance to look at the data in diversity, specifically gender diversity. As an Asian woman, data on diversity is important as it can promote accountability in companies. Going into 2023, I think it’s important that companies in all sectors drive diversity.
I then had a role within the Data Management Office focusing around setting up instruments, data cleaning and data validation.
Currently, I am seconded to the Transition Plan Taskforce (TPT) for 6 months which was launched by the HM Treasury in April 2022 to develop a gold standard for private sector’s climate transition plans which Michelle Scrimgeour sits on the Steering Group and Toby Mackean on the Delivery Group. My work heavily focuses on sectoral work, researching and drafting summaries and guidance on transition plans.
I am very grateful to be working at LGIM because there is this perception that the finance industry is a very tricky and ‘cut-throat’ place, however having started my career journey here elevated my expectations on how company cultures should be, especially in some companies you have to be a certain way, look a certain way or even know someone high up to even have the opportunity to get your foot in the door. LGIM isn’t like any other finance companies. I’m thankful for the enormous exposure to opportunities I’ve had whilst working here and the positive impact I have contributed to the industry.
I joined Legal and General in March 2020 as a Senior Data Scientist. I brought my technical skillsets and business acumen from my 6+ years of experience into the Company to help unlock the potential of our data landscape. Today, I am responsible for delivering strategic data science projects; ensuring that best practices are in place and solutions are fit for purpose.
As a Data Scientist, I’ve always been interested in the power of data and how it can help us make better decisions. In terms of my career background, I studied Maths at Durham University and over the summer I completed some internships at agencies in traditional banking roles. I then decided to do a Master’s degree in Applied Maths at the LSE which is when I first came across the Data Science discipline.
When I graduated in 2014, I naturally gravitated towards Data Science as it was a huge growth area at the time, I decided this was the career path for me. I really like the culture at Legal & General – it’s very inclusive and there is a very flexible management style. It’s all about quality of work and delivering the best solutions.
What I love about my role at Legal & General is the collaboration between the teams. It’s very varied as sometimes I am working with Group HR data, then working with the operational teams. I like the fact that data science is the glue between the different business units – because the data from the operational teams can provide really useful insights for HR and vice versa.
One of my highlights in my career as a Data Scientist was in 2016 when I presented at an industry-leading tech conference about a specific programming language. I found it quite nerve racking to present my work to such a large audience, but it was extremely rewarding, particularly as I was only 25, female and Asian, which was very different from the demographic of the audience!
Managers and role models at work are really important to me – I’ve been inspired by my managers as they are passionate about data science, inspiring and have encouraged me to read widely in order to increase the depth of knowledge about new emerging data science trends.
In the past two years, I have also played an active role in advancing our data science and analytics function, with a specific focus on early data talent development. My involvements include – Legal & General Data Apprenticeship as well as partnership with universities on Data Science Summer research programmes – recruiting diverse candidates in their early careers, managing them, and hopefully inspiring them to embark on data careers.
In 2022, I joined the Legal & General Future Talent Programme – an initiative designed to support the development and progression of employees at Legal & General, and have since had the honour of being mentored by our Group HR Director, Emma Hardaker-Jones! I am grateful to have crossed paths with so many inspirational leaders and colleagues under such an empowering work environment, allowing me thrive and make an impact.
One of the most important things we can do to encourage women to pursue data careers is to share our stories and experiences, because these stories have the power to transform our thinking and inspire us to make change.
My story started when my A-level results weren’t exactly where I hoped they would be, and meant I was going to pursue my original plan to be an accountant via a different route. Luckily, I was approached by Sheffield Hallam University, who offered me an applied statistics course which included a year in industry. This was fantastic, as it gave me lots of opportunities to put what I had learnt into practice as well as having the ability to gain experience from talented and diverse professionals within the financial industry.
After university, I spent my career in heavily regulated industries, specifically financial services. I feel very lucky to love what I do and a key part of this is the variety I have enjoyed throughout my career. Whether it was working in a small start-up of 50 or so staff (supplemented with 5 dogs running around the office!), or in a large corporate organisation looking to transform their data journey, I have always sought opportunities to learn and love the fact that there are new and differing challenges each and every day.
Regardless of the industry, the process for data doesn’t change and can be applied to an unlimited number of topics and questions to support an organisation’s strategic ambitions. At Legal & General specifically, there are some amazing data solutions that are linked to our purpose of creating a better society for our customers, communities, and shareholders. For example, we’ve developed the Rebuilding Britain Index and the Deadline to Breadline Report. This is where data truly comes into its own – enabling purpose-driven organisations to make a difference.
While I can see the impact individuals can have with a career in data, this is something that is not immediately obvious to children in our schools because we don’t prepare the next generation for the jobs of tomorrow. This is one of the reasons why I am such a huge advocate of Women in Data, because we need to do as much as possible to help women of ALL ages understand the opportunities available to them.
Data touches everything we do and opens doors to a broad range of industries. For example, if you are interested in social media, an understanding of algorithms could be the key to helping you go viral. Beauty companies rely heavily on data to create personalised marketing campaigns to clients. Within financial services organisations, understanding data can help support the financial wellbeing of the most vulnerable. The opportunities are endless.
The most important thing I would like people to know, is that a career in data does not require a STEM background. Data isn’t all maths. At its core, a career in data is about problem solving. I love puzzles, logical thinking and mapping out potential outcomes. At Legal & General, we have a Data Analyst Apprenticeship scheme where last year we brought on 17 people from different backgrounds to get an introduction to the field and ensure they get the right training. In fact, apprenticeships are a great way to start a career in data.
The one thing you do need for a career in data is a love of learning. My team, who are highly skilled and specialised, are still having to constantly adapt to new techniques, technology and the demands placed upon them. Another way we can support the next generation is helping them explore careers in data, and developing their curiosity and desire to ask questions.
This need for inquisitiveness is why diversity and inclusion are so critical when building data teams. Especially when it comes to women who are a population that have been largely underrepresented in data gathering processes in the past. For example, Caroline Criado Perez, highlighted that crash test dummies were originally built to be a similar height, weight and body shape to the average man so the differences for women, weren’t factored in when designing a lot of safety features in cars. This is something a lot of organisations are now changing to ensure there are no gaps in data so that products and services aren’t designed to exclude large customer segments.
A crucial part of making this inclusion a reality is having conversations and bringing to light our stories so others can see what is possible. In 2015 when I worked with the first Women in Data conference, I shared my story of being a working mum. I explained that I had two children who would not sleep through the night. This was a huge worry for me as at the time, I was the main earner in the family. So my husband and I sat down and reversed the perceived ‘traditional’ childcare responsibilities. I hope that this might encourage others to consider flipping the script on their own roles!
If I had to give one piece of advice to any women out there, it would be to simply “ask.” As women, we seem to have this perception that we need to wait to be asked, but I am a firm believer that we shouldn’t wait. People aren’t mind readers. So next time a job comes up, don’t wait to be asked to apply, just ask yourself, “what’s the worst that can happen?” Maybe you don’t have all the skills and maybe you do get rejected. But what if you don’t? What if you get an interview? What if you get the job? Wouldn’t it all be worth it? So I hope as women, we can use this as a motivator to come together and encourage each other to be just that little bit braver. Feel the fear and do it anyway!
If ever I’m asked what I value most about my role, my answer is always the same – the people. My biggest priority is to make sure they are happy and feel valued. I’ve worked in various teams across Legal & General, and now understand how important having a strong culture is to making people feel valued. It’s empowering as it makes you feel you belong, but also gives you a sense of autonomy. I firmly believe I would not be where I am today, if it weren’t for such a strong, empowering culture at Legal & General.
My route to my current role in data certainly wasn’t straightforward. I left school at 16 and worked in retail for a few years. But I realised that wasn’t for me. So, when I was 20, I applied for a job in data inputting at Legal & General. They took a chance on me, even though I had no experience of working in financial services. I was offered a role in mortgage completion and stayed there for the first year of my Legal & General career.
Then I tried my hand at finance, taking several positions in the Accounts team, and doing accountancy exams too. Although I valued that experience immensely, it never felt like I was going to do that for my whole career. But I gave it a good go and stayed for 10 years – during that time I became a mum. But I wanted a new challenge, so I applied for a secondment to a business support function in LGIM, our investment management division.
The secondment went well and, after nine months, I realised I didn’t want to go back to finance. So, I applied for a role in Legal & General Insurance’s Commercial team. My next step up the professional ladder was a result of being proactive: I reached out to someone from one of the Insight teams in our Kingswood site, just before it closed. The closure led to new opportunities to work in the teams that migrated our data services from Kingswood to Cardiff. We were able to recruit a whole new team as we moved our assets and processes to Wales.
That’s how, within just six years, I progressed from a support role to heading up a team of 40 people, of whom I’m very proud. We manage a large change budget and create Legal & General’s data strategy across the Group.
I’ve been exposed to many different parts of the business and that’s given me a broad insight across Legal & General. It has, without doubt, helped my effectiveness in my current role. I now appreciate more fully how our business divisions operate and have established a strong network across Legal & General that continues to be of enormous benefit – especially during the recent four-year period of transformation.
I’ll admit I originally joined Legal & General because I wanted the stability that comes with working for a large company with a great reputation. But now it’s more about having a future with prospects in a company that allows me to grow. We’re doing things in data that Legal & General has never done before, such as launching a platform that streams data in real time.
So now, after 22 years, I am part of a team that is at the forefront of cutting-edge developments within the business. We inform strategy, technology and our cloud choices. Our team is passionate about what we do, and we’re constantly challenging ourselves, making sure we keep up to date with best practice.
Although I am incredibly proud of what we’ve delivered, for me it’s all about the people. We’re trusted to manage our own workloads and we’re always encouraged to bring our best selves to work. I can’t wait until our new offices in Cardiff are open so we can continue to work together in an environment that will enable all sorts of creativity. Watch this space, as there are exciting things ahead!