Leaders’ Insights: Sheamus Causer, Deutsche Bank

21 Sep 2016

Sheamus Causer is the chief country officer, Ireland, and head of analytics at Deutsche Bank.

Sheamus Causer has held this role at Deutsche Bank since 2014.

Prior to this role, Causer was director of enterprise risk services at Deloitte and, before that, director of technology risk at Protiviti in Brisbane, Australia.

Describe your role and what you do.

My role at Deutsche Bank is split between two ‘hats’.

The first sees me leading the Bank’s Analytics Centre for Innovation – ‘The Hive’ – which provides data science, analytics and visualisation support to business and infrastructure areas spread across the organisation, to enable them to identify how analytics can be used to increase revenue, reduce cost and better manage risk.

In 2015, I took on the additional role of chief country officer, responsible for overseeing all of Deutsche Bank’s operations in Ireland, which bring together approximately 750 staff performing a range of business, technology and operational activities.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

One of the best (and simplest) techniques I’ve found to help strike that balance between important and urgent priorities is reserving a recurring set of ‘meeting free’ slots in my diary each week. These are blocked out specifically to provide time to focus on strategic topics so they don’t get lost in the noise of day-to-day activities.

What are the biggest challenges facing your business and how are you tackling them?

The organisation is undergoing a significant amount of transformation as part of its Strategy 2020, aimed at making the bank simpler, more efficient, less risky and better capitalised, and run with more disciplined execution.

To support these objectives, a range of initiatives are being undertaken in the technology space, including the establishment of The Hive, which has brought advanced data science and analytics skills in-house, enabling the organisation to both reduce the cost of delivering analytics activities and speed up its ability to respond to emerging demands.

What are the key industry opportunities you’re capitalising on?

Within the analytics space, building upon our relationships with universities, and academic and industry incubators, to accelerate the evaluation and adoption of new tools and techniques.

What set you on the road to where you are in the technology industry?

My interest in technology was sparked at a time when Usenet and green screens reigned supreme.

I was first introduced to coding at high school and quickly became hooked by the combination of problem solving and creativity involved. I even saved up to purchase an Apple IIc. Now I am really showing my age.

Following high school, I studied computer science at Queensland University of Technology, before going on to take up my first industry role as a programmer with the Australian Department of Defence, which would set me on my path to a variety of technology management and data science roles in the consulting, telecommunications and finance sectors.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

One of the key lessons I learned earlier in my career was the importance of tackling potentially awkward or confrontational issues head on, and not letting them linger, as time and lack of communication can often turn what was a molehill into a mountain.

How do you get the best out of your team?

I think the secret to building a high-performing team is ensuring that you invest time each day into building upon the fabric of your team, providing frequent and informal feedback, mentoring, identifying and encouraging collaboration opportunities, and simply ‘walking the floor’. Don’t slip into the trap of letting this fall by the wayside, particularly when you’re time poor.

STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity. What are your thoughts on this and what’s needed to effect change?

Over the past two years, I think there has been a very noticeable, and important, escalation in the level of attention the issue of gender diversity is receiving across a range of STEM sectors.

In order to attract and retain the best talent, organisations need to move beyond just looking at their hiring policies. They need to also start tackling those barriers which limit the participation and career progression of experienced practitioners, particularly those returning to work after an extended absence, or who are looking for more flexible working arrangements to meet changing lifestyle needs.

Who is your business hero and why?

The biggest influence on my work style and values has to be my father, Stuart, who is a qualified chef and ran a catering company that specialised in public and fine dining at sporting stadiums, tournaments and other large public events.

Growing up, my brother and I often spent time behind the scenes at these events, witnessing all of the planning, logistics (and chaos!) associated with feeding tens of thousands of sports-mad fans in a very short period of time. It was during this time that I learned the importance of attention to detail – even the smallest items can leave a lasting impression – and the impact leaders have in shaping workplace values and culture.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

Although it has been in print for a number of years, Freakonomics by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner is still one of my favourite books, for its humour and for giving me a very different perspective on how the world of data pervades everyday life.

Sheamus Causer is a judge at Ireland’s inaugural DatSci Awards, which take place in Dublin on 22 September. Visit www.datsciawards.ie or follow @DatSciwards for more information.