RBS subsidiary Natwest is setting up a £1m ‘Data Academy’ to train its staff in data skills – including its own Chief Executive.

Ross McEwan, CEO of RBS, will be among 1,000 staff in the first year to take advantage of a new programme to equip them with a broad range of data skills, as the bank seeks to keep pace with the emerging fintech market.

The scheme will be managed by staff at the bank’s Gogaburn HQ in Edinburgh, but 70,000 employees will be able to participate in a wide range of training, courses and qualifications that will cover ‘all levels of proficiency’, wherever they may be located.

With data now considered the fuel for innovation, the move is central to both the bank’s digital transformation and realising the full potential of a wide range of cutting edge technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Importantly, the Academy will give staff the tools and training to serve customers better by offering more tailored, personalised products and services that best fit people’s financial needs. 

The bank’s senior executive team which includes CEO Ross McEwan and CFO Katie Murray will all enrol in the academy and receive specialist data training.

Those enrolling in the academy will gain experience points and badges to chart their progress, whilst more advanced courses will be professionally accredited. Specific courses will cover Data Fundamentals, Data Science, Data Architecture & Data Engineering, Decision Science and Data Governance & Ethics as well as Performance Insight.

The academy compliments the data innovation research unit opened in November at the Bayes Centre in Edinburgh University that aims to stimulate ideas that will improve customer experience at the bank; and help establish a data driven culture of innovation at NatWest. The Bayes Centre, which specialises in data science and Artificial Intelligence, was opened last year as one of five data-driven innovation hubs being created as part of the recently announced Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

It comes just days after the bank announced that it will launch a new digital first service, Bó, which aims to compete in the emerging fintech market. It’s part of moves to “up the game” of the bank in the innovation space, which is very much viewed as a ‘traditional lender’, and to make sure its products and services pivot towards the modern consumer – and also to ensure staff are skilled in the growing data market.

Frank Meere, Director of Data at NatWest said: “I’m thrilled that we are opening the NatWest Data Academy – a first for a UK bank. This is another important step towards building a bank that gives our staff the tools to innovate and create services and products that our customers really value.”

Helen Cook, Chief HR Officer at NatWest said: “Establishing a Data Academy is a core part of our wider commitment to build and invest in colleague capability. As the bank’s digital transformation continues, it’s important we give colleagues the technical and behavioural skills they need to grow their careers, and better serve our customers”.