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Accelerating data modernisation: Northern Trust’s journey to empowering clients and employees

Data & AI

Financial Services

8 min read

Northern Trust is one of the world’s leading providers of wealth management, asset management, and asset servicing. Northern Trust is headquartered in Chicago and has 23 global locations across North America, Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.

To remain competitive, innovation is crucial, and that is why Northern Trust puts data and analytics at the heart of its strategy.

Northern Trust is on a next-generation data modernisation journey and aims to build a data-driven culture to empower its employees and clients. This effort orients around a data mesh framework which acts as the data delivery backbone for a variety of uses, including an intuitive self-service data marketplace. The marketplace and framework are business-driven and IT-enabled, built on principles of data-as-a-product, embedded governance and security.

In early 2022, Northern Trust engaged esynergy as its technology partner for data modernization with the main objective of accelerating the development of the data mesh framework.

Complex data challenges

A state-of-the-art data mesh pattern would reinforce business ownership and IT enablement, allowing Northern Trust to take a product approach to solving complex data challenges.

The collaborative effort resulted in a federated data ecosystem with best-of-breed software engineering practices executed on public cloud, including:

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Establishing a multi-platform infrastructure plane in the Mesh pattern with embedded security / access control

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Streamlining and automating data governance and management processes, enabling data ownership by the business

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Implementing Dev-SecOps tools

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Automating CI/CD pipelines

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Identifying opportunities to enable advanced analytics to generate business values

multi plane architecture

Multi-plane architecture

1. Data product developer experience plane

2. Data infrastructure plane

3. Mesh supervision plane

"Northern Trust had a diverse set of stakeholders that were keen to engage in the data product strategy. By partnering with an initial three business areas spanning both Wealth Management and Asset Servicing we were able to build a second-generation data mesh that met their specific needs for autonomy, isolation, and speedy time to market. This has led to data products rapidly going into production with an expanding pipeline of new data products being onboarded into the data mesh ecosystem."

Sunny Jaisinghani, Head of Private Sector, esynergy

Today, Northern Trust can leverage its data-as-a-product platform to expand the usage of different data assets, both internal and external, to democratise data and empower analytics capabilities. In a traditional approach, just locating the right data can take up to 80% of a total analytics project time, with extract, transform, and load (ETL) adding weeks or months. With the deployment of the new data mesh pattern, Northern Trust can now perform these projects in days or even hours with less data risk. For example, the first data product use case applied analytics to improve efficiency of a Fund Accounting operations team, building machine learning models to enhance the accuracy of exceptions sent for manual validation. This led to fewer total exceptions, faster validation of results, improvement of SLAs, and reduced risk of error from manual interventions.

data mesh pattern

Simplify initial use cases

Building the data mesh

Focus on use cases that deliver business value, rather than those that prove out intricacies of the data mesh pattern.

“Data mesh is an evolutionary leap forward – utilising cloud-based tools and modern technology to liberate data for use by our clients and internal partners.”

Kelley Conway, Global Head of Corporate and Digital Strategy, Northern Trust

Additionally, the data mesh pattern has been used to populate a cloud-based Analytics Workbench, driven by Databricks and enabling large scale rapid development and testing of models; a team of data scientists has used this solution to accelerate business-driven advanced analytics and drive results to improve client experiences, increase cross-sell opportunities, and reduce operational expenses.

But the benefit doesn’t stop there. In addition to early analytics wins, Northern Trust is building a consumer data marketplace to better enable scale. Starting first internally, think ‘Google-like’ search, where employees can locate data products with all the pertinent information, and also provide feedback to data product owners to continuously improve. After a minimum viable product (MVP) in Q1 2023, additional functionality will be added, including analytics and model re-use to further accelerate innovation. In parallel Northern Trust will look to take the marketplace external, providing clients with the same functionality to drive their own innovation.

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