How data scientists help people manage their financial lives

Data scientists are changing the face of banking as we know it. They improve the experience of clients in many different ways by solving the problems and challenges encountered in the banking industry.


Capitec is the employer of choice for over 13 333 people and 85% of them are younger than 35 years old. The Capitec data science team has grown significantly in the past year, attracting data scientists with diverse expertise. 

Monika du Toit*, one of these young data scientists, explains in this article how using data science can improve clients’ lives.


How does your work help the clients of Capitec manage their money, and ultimately their lives, better?

Monika: The data science team plays a key role in achieving this by using data for personalisation, improving relevance and providing simple, transparent access to banking. Our team (or, as we call ourselves ‘data ninjas and wizards’) uses advanced analytical methodologies and thrives on building solutions that are innovative, creative and drive change. 


What’s important for you in this process? 

Monika: We follow a few key principles and values. One of the most important is that any data science work we do should have a real impact on people’s lives and help them to live better. We’re also big on collaboration, continuous learning and experimenting to find better solutions. 

To deliver high quality, scientific and reproducible work, we continuously review and analyse what we do and how we do it. Our focus is on turning masses of data into useful information by using predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and other tools.  

Communication with stakeholders is also critical. That’s why we regularly speak to them to clearly understand all their requirements. By merging their objectives with the client insights from Capitec’s data, we can deliver to clients the banking experience they will find the most relevant.  


What are your challenges?

Monika: Advanced analytics theory has been around for quite some time. Unfortunately, until fairly recently technical and data storage restraints have prevented businesses from establishing data science teams. In our way of work we need to be extremely agile and instantly ready to rethink our approach when needed – that can be challenging.

Finding a good balance between top-down (business understanding) and bottom-up (learning from data) problem-solving can also be tricky. Still, it’s crucial if you want to get the most accurate and valuable results. Sometimes we just don’t know whether a project will produce useful results.

It’s also important to understand the constraints of machine learning models: some are more useful than others, and none are perfect. Staying up to date with new technologies plus a significant number of new research initiatives is time-consuming and demanding.


What brings you the most joy in your work?

Monika: One of the most rewarding elements for me is being part of Capitec’s team. My colleagues are energised by knowing that their work can touch so many lives. It is highly rewarding to be part of a like-minded team that is motivated to produce excellent data solutions. Knowing that we help over 10 million people manage their money better by providing easy, simple and transparent access to banking, is satisfying.

It motivates me to meet co-workers who’ve been here for many years and who are still passionate about the work we do and who continue to grow professionally. We also have knowledgeable leaders who care about their teams. Continuous learning is strongly encouraged and proactively supported. 

Lastly, I am really glad to be working alongside great data scientists who are also great people.  

*Monika du Toit has a Master’s degree in Mathematical Statistics from Stellenbosch University. During her studies she received two Rector Awards for Excellent Achievement, one for her undergraduate studies and one as the best Master’s student in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences.

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