Smart Data Foundry appoints inaugural board

Edinburgh’s Smart Data Foundry, a not-for-profit organisation that delivers data projects in collaboration with financial institutions, has unveiled its inaugural board.

Dame Julia Unwin
Dame Julia Unwin
Dame Julia Unwin

It said this move comes as it accelerates its mission to unlock the power of financial data to drive innovation and solve big societal issues, such as the impact of Covid-19 and the effect of the cost-of-living crisis on the over-50s.

Smart Data Foundry said that joining its chair Dame Julia Unwin and chief executive officer Frank Gauld, the heavy-weight board is drawn from government, industry and academia. It is designed to bring expertise across data and financial services.

Joining the board are:

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Zachery Anderson, chief data officer, NatWest Group Professor Kim Graham, Provost, University of Edinburgh Stephen Ingledew OBE, chair, FinTech Scotland Fiona Duncan, independent strategic advisor, the Promise Professor Chris Speed, director, Edinburgh Futures Institute

Smart Data Foundry, formerly the Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence, was founded in September 2020 with initial funding of £23 million from the UK Government through the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) flagship Strength in Places Fund.

Dame Julia Unwin commented: “Our mission to unlock the power of data has struck a chord with leading figures in academia and Financial Services so much so they have been motivated to join us and bring about change. We have demonstrated that we can work collaboratively to create clarity through data which can inform policies and decision-making. We want to inspire financial innovation and with this team, I am confident this ambition can be realised.”

Zachery Anderson, chief data Officer at NatWest Group, said: “NatWest Group was the first UK bank to partner with Smart Data Foundry and safely share data.

“Data helps us make better decisions and power research into areas that complement the wider NatWest purpose to champion potential, helping people, families and businesses to thrive.”

Stephen Ingledew OBE, chair, FinTech Scotland added: “Scotland has one of the fastest growing Fintech clusters in the UK, if not the world. Essential to financial innovation is the ability to access and share data, and the groundbreaking work that Smart Data Foundry is leading to create synthetic data unlocks the huge opportunities to inspire financial innovation that will benefit so many consumers and businesses.”

Smart Data Foundry said its new board balances commercial experience with academic experience through Professor Kim Graham and Professor Chris Speed. It explained that helping to improve people’s lives is core to its purpose and chimes with Scottish Government strategic advisor Fiona Duncan’s 20 years of experience working in the voluntary sector in Scotland and overseas.

Board members will work with Smart Data Foundry CEO Frank Gauld, who joined the organisation in 2022. He said: “This marks an important milestone in our history. As a young and growing business, to have the ability to attract such a talented board tells me we’re on the right track. 2022 was a year characterised by delivery for Smart Data Foundry.”