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Royal Bank of Scotland uses Big Data to get personal, go retro

The Royal Bank of Scotland is going to use Big Data in a move towards what it calls “personology”, according to a report on Forbes. The re-privatising bank says it’s getting its inspiration from the 1970s.

The claim is that it’s going to take an overview of the whole person rather than a simple balance sheet. The example Forbes draws out is that the bank will check that you’re not paying for the same thing twice, so for example if your account covers mobile phone theft and you have another insurance to cover that, it’ll let you know. The gamble is that if you’re going to cancel one, you won’t cancel it from the body that drew it to your attention.

Some of us who are old enough to remember the 1970s might dispute that this is how it was at the time. Long queues, but branches actually open rather than closing down, many fewer charges and going into the premises to cash a cheque (any teenagers reading might have to ask their parents what a cheque was) were all present.

This is a positive move but 1970s? We think not. It may be better. It does raise the question of what Big Data actually is. “Having a look at someone’s accounts in the round” doesn’t do it for us, but it’s attracting that label.

Someone, sometime, is going to have to nail down a proper definition.