Artwork by Naeva Okasian
Scott Brown is the President of Consumer Information Services at Experian, the world’s leading global information services company. As an expert in the data field as well as an inspirational leader to his team, Scott shares his insight into what it takes to be a leader in a world guided by data usage.
- How has working for data-driven organizations informed your leadership approach?
My leadership approach begins with seeking a deep understanding of our clients and customers. When you work for a data-driven organization, especially when you’re new, it can be challenging to understand how the data is used. Some may initially focus on the back end, or how the sausage is made, but this isn’t always the best approach. You’ll get there eventually. Having a customer-centric view allows you to first understand how data is used and what business purposes it enables. Then, with a clear view of how data is driving meaningful impact, you can work backward from there.
- How do you lead and inspire your team?
My approach is to lead with ambition and a relentless dissatisfaction of the status quo and to attract, retain, and grow people who have similar ambitions, but to do so with empathy at the forefront. The “golden rule” of treating people how you want to be treated is central to how I show up as a leader.
At the same time, I believe in setting the bar very high. I set hard and potentially unachievable business goals. Even if the goal isn’t met, setting the bar high can lead to better outcomes than you may have realized if you started with a more achievable goal.
Leading with empathy while also pushing for impactful business results are not mutually exclusive. Inspiring teams requires striking the right balance between both objectives.
- How do you leverage data to drive strategic decisions with your team and customers? Can you share several examples?
At Experian, we have the opportunity to directly influence lives for the better, and data is central to this. We take this very seriously and put consumers at the center of everything we do. This is our purpose, and it drives our data and innovation strategy.
There are several ways we leverage data to create meaningful outcomes for consumers and our clients, but some of our most interesting work happens at the intersection of our business-to-business businesses and our direct relationship with millions of consumers through our direct-to-consumer business. We are uniquely positioned to leverage the data we have to onboard more people into the mainstream financial ecosystem and help bring financial power to all.
Experian Boost is one way we’re making this happen. This first-of-its-kind feature allows consumers to self-report their utility, cell phone, rent, video streaming service payments, and more directly to their Experian credit report for the opportunity to instantly increase their credit scores. This is helping our clients gain a deeper understanding of a consumer’s financial situation while giving consumers greater control in the process. In 2021 we also launched Experian Go – a groundbreaking program that allows credit invisible consumers to establish an Experian credit report and a credit history within minutes. These products are creating a meaningful impact in bringing more consumers into the mainstream credit ecosystem.
At the same time, we help our clients overcome the complexities associated with leveraging the latest advancements in data and technology to expand access to credit. While leveraging these new forms of data and advanced analytical tools poses immense benefits, it presents some challenges.
For example, our research shows it takes 15 months on average to build and deploy a model for credit decisions and 55% of lenders have built models that have not made it to production. To overcome this, we recently launched Ascend Ops – a new model deployment capability that leverages A.I. and machine learning and empowers lenders to deploy new features and models in days or weeks instead of months. The solution eliminates the need to recode models, allowing businesses to code once in any language they choose, and then reuse across the customer lifecycle. This is just one example of the many ways we’re helping our clients harness the latest insights to create real impact for consumers.
As we look ahead, we will continue to leverage our expertise in data and technology to transform the financial services ecosystem and drive financial inclusion for more consumers.
- What are the top three lessons that you have learned as a leader? How have they impacted how you lead?
- Be a learn-it-all, not a know-it-all. You can try to be the smartest person in the room, or you can ask questions to learn more. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions that aren’t being asked and lead with ambivalence to embarrassment.
- You can’t ask your team to work harder than you do. An effective leader leads by example but is also willing to roll up their sleeves to get the job done. Be the example of what you expect from your team. Lead from the front while also taking care of your team.
- Be authentic. An entry-level engineer and the CEO will get the same version of me, and that’s important. I want my team to know they can come to me, and I want them to know what to expect when they do.
- Lastly, what is one thing that you wish you had known early in your career that you know now?
If I could talk to a younger version of me, I’d tell myself to be patient and to get comfortable with the unknown. We don’t always know what the next step in our career will be, and we don’t have to. If you’re doing something you’re interested in and you’re growing, take things in stride. Many of my career highlights happened organically and they weren’t part of my original “plan.”
In fact, I think asking someone about their five-year plan is unrealistic. Even three years ago, if someone had asked me where I’d be, I couldn’t have predicted I’d be where I am today, but I am thankful. The steps you take in your career can lead you to where you ultimately want to go.