Episode One: Anthony Jabbour, CEO Dun & Bradstreet and Black Knight

Innovation, Integration and Identity

In this inaugural episode Anthony Jabbour, CEO of Dun & Bradstreet and Black Knight, discusses how analytics is key to making sense of the tremendous amount of data available in our modern world. Anthony shares his views on how innovation, integration and identity can drive business success, and the importance of leadership and talent development. Tune in to hear about Anthony’s personal experience of transformation and the opportunities he sees for the future of data & analytics.

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The Power of Data Podcast

Episode 1: Innovation, Integration and Identity: The Future is Data & Analytics

Guest: Anthony Jabbour, CEO Dun & Bradstreet and Black Knight
Interviewer: Sam Tidswell-Norrish, International CMO Dun & Bradstreet

Sam 00:00
Hi there, and welcome to the first episode of Dun & Bradstreet’s Power of data podcast. I have the enormous privilege of being joined today by Anthony Jabbour, the CEO of Dun & Bradstreet and Black Knight Financial Services. Welcome.

Anthony 00:15
Thank you, Sam. I wouldn't say it's an enormous privilege until the podcast is over first!

Sam 00:19
You can probably tell I'm smiling because we've only got Anthony in town for three days for the P20 conference, and client meetings. So I'm super privileged to have him here. And he's going to talk to us a little bit about the power of data, I hope, his career and some of our plans with Dun & Bradstreet as well. Let's start and demystify you a bit and let our listeners know a little bit about you. You've had a diverse career leading some of the world's most renowned and largest financial technology firms. And you're currently the CEO of two of the world's leading data and analytics businesses. I would be biased given my role at D&B, but I think we're in the most exciting space on the planet. Business intelligence is booming. And it's really coming of age. Can you tell us a little bit about your role and the key priorities you see for the industry as it is today?

Anthony 01:08
Sure. And it's a pleasure to be here, Sam, thank you for having me. At Black Knight, we were part of the process led by our chairman, Bill Foley, to look at Dun & Bradstreet. So we got visibility into the company. And at Black Knight, we got very excited about it, in particular, because of the data and analytical capability and just really where the world is heading. And we chose to co-invest and be a part of it, hence my dual role. We got great teams on both sides, great leaders, you know, Steve's a very strong President and Joe at Black Knight is a very strong President there as well, with a great leadership team. It's a lot of fun. And from a priority perspective, you know, what I'm saying is really, analytics is key. IDC came out with a study in 2014. And they predicted there would be 50 times more data at the end of the year than there was at the beginning of the year from 2015 to 2020. And I don't think any of us think that is going to fall off in 2021. Right. So it's pretty powerful. You think of this just tremendous amount of data. How do you make sense of it all? How do you leverage it all? Its analytics, and being very deliberate in terms of where we're heading with both companies. Our last acquisitions were both analytics companies. At Black Knight, we just acquired Compass Analytics a few weeks ago, and earlier in the summer, Dun & Bradstreet acquired Lattice Engines, and so analytics is very important part of the ecosystem for us. We're very focused on it. The second part is really the importance of integration and connectivity. All of our clients are exceptionally busy right now, removing friction and bringing capability faster than ever is critically important to our success, because it's important to our client success. And really, that's what I want for us. I want both companies to be the business partner of choice. So if I asked you, Sam, if you wanted to update your professional network, how would you do it?

Sam 03:02
There's only one way I'd go on LinkedIn and update it.

Anthony 03:05
You're absolutely right and you go straight to LinkedIn. That's what I want for both companies. When clients have needs that Black Knight can fulfill or D&B can fulfill. I don't want them thinking anywhere but us and coming straight to us. And so to do that we need to deliver best in class, innovative technology, leveraging the latest capabilities such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the new technologies that evolve over time to totally stay relevant for them.

Sam 03:30
The business intelligence world that we operate in and data and analytics serves every industry. Every company can make better decisions, can generate more revenues, can reduce costs, reduce risk, but one of the industries we serve most is financial services. And financial services is an area that you are exceptionally experienced in. You were leading the banking and payments division at FIS for over a decade and through some pretty incredible times. Incredible, for both reasons but through 2008 as well. Can you perhaps tell us a little bit about that perfect storm that we're in now and how we got there through evolving business models, economic underperformance of banks, evolving technologies of customer and consumer empowerment? What have you seen? And what are the some of the biggest transformations underway?

Anthony 04:22
There was certainly a lot that I saw. And I was at FIS for 14 years at a great time, I learned a lot. Probably the most learning, like always, comes from the most trying times, and that was during the recession and seeing how our clients were struggling. And as you step back and really look at it, it's pretty obvious when I joined FIS clients would buy one-off products from us. And towards the end, they would buy the whole suite of solutions. I talked earlier about the power of integration. Our clients were always looking for a very integrated suite because more and more capability was coming into banking. Digitalization was coming in and consumer preferences were changing. The call center channel never went away. But a mobile channel got added, and a new payment type got added. And that's really what happened throughout all my time at FIS. So constantly having the ability to create new capabilities and products and integrating them to create a frictionless total lower cost of operation was critical in us being successful. You know, the integration brought additional functionality for our clients employees, it brought additional functionality for our clients' customers. And it like I said, help really lower the total cost of ownership for our clients. So that really jumped out. The other major trend that jumped out was we never called it a cloud in 2004. But it was really something being hosted for our clients. So basically them not having to run it themselves. And as I look back, and when I first started, one of every two systems, one license was run in our cloud. And towards the end of my time there, virtually everything was in the cloud. So two obvious trends were integrating a full suite of solutions. And secondly, it was moving to the cloud and enabling our clients to focus on what they do best.

Sam 06:15
I love talking to people that were in interesting positions through the crisis. And it always seems like there was a bit of a forcing function for innovation. These banks had just done what they did. They hadn't thought about the consumer enough. They hadn't thought about the services they were delivering to society and how critical they were in the global economy. 2008 happens and it's a total shift and I think ultimately the consumers getting better services with a financial technology providers, the picks and shovels to the gold rush, being able to sell integrated services to deliver that innovation and evolution that needed to happen. I suppose it was a cool place to be at that time.

Anthony 06:55
It really was and we went through a lot of fun change on the front lines. Just great memories with my colleagues.

Sam 07:02
Awesome. I know FIS a little bit. And I know some of your former colleagues there, particularly Bruce Lowthers, who's here today doing a great job as the P20 Conference Chairman. You and I have spoken a little bit over the last few days about talent. In fact, on Tuesday it was the 100 year anniversary of the UK business of Dun & Bradstreet, which in itself is an amazing, amazing achievement. But at that town hall you talked about the importance of talent, the importance of nurturing people from the top levels all the way down to the youngest in the team. And it's something that you talk about very passionately, in terms of your leadership style and surrounding yourself with good people. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about your view on talent?

Anthony 07:43
Well, I think talent is critically important. We are people businesses, right? There's no assembly line here. There's no machines doing the work. It's us, right. It's us and our colleagues. And it's critically important. You know, going back to our previous discussion about working through the recession when I was at FIS and you know, seeing how that all came about. There was a question yesterday in our town hall around Brexit, and what that means and my answer was and continues to be as it was during the recession, when there's chaos, and you've got great athletes on the field, they're going to solve it. And they're going to find opportunity within the chaos. And I've always believed talent isn't something that just happens and pops up, you've got to grow it, you gotta nurture it, have to have mentors in place and open, honest, real conversations with people. When they're doing well encouraging them to continue and when they're not being clear on what it is and how you can help them. Everyone really needs to be committed to helping our colleagues. I constantly look for feedback myself. Just because I'm the CEO it doesn't mean I can't continue to learn. I get great insights from my colleagues all the time on how I can be better and what can I do and it's not a roll of shame that I'm getting constructive criticism, I always appreciate that takes a lot of courage for someone to share their thoughts and give you feedback when it's not always positive. And that's great. And it's fantastic to have a culture that encourages and enables that, because we're all going to come out the other side stronger and together. And that's important.

Sam 09:11
I wasn't going to mention this part. But I think it ties nicely into what you just said, on our walk over here. Earlier today, we were talking about different benchmarks for success. And I think when you're talking about talent and an organization, it's a critical topic to cover. And you said something that really stuck with me. And you said, it's not just what you do and what you achieve, but how you do it and how you achieve it. And I think that is in itself an incredible leadership quality because there's many people out there, and I think the financial services industry of old was probably guilty of people not asking the second part of that question appropriately. But the world is changing, and people are looking internally much, much more, as you've said. Is that something that any particular mentor role model brought to you or is that your own philosophy?

Anthony 09:54
I had the fortune of growing up in a very loving family and nine sisters and brothers. You can imagine, but I had the bully live next door to me and the schoolyard was across the street where if the oestrogen got too high, I always had an outlet with my friends. Look, I'm certainly not perfect. But I've always aspired and had ambitions to focus on two things, you know what I could create? But equally, how would I do it? And at the end of the day, would I feel good about what I achieved? And that's what I think is really important to share with my children, that's what I share with my colleagues, is that, you know, I could have taken shortcuts in life, I could have gotten this job at two years sooner or made a bit more money or who knows what, but I think being well rounded and having a view on how you do things is just as important as what you do. So it's been one of my philosophies. The other one I've always lived by is, you know, is really trying to be an owner versus a victim and whatever the situation is, owning it, being accountable for it. And again, it's one that I share it with you I share it with my children, it's one that I think it's a simple example but it's a very important one in life personally and professionally.

Sam 11:03
Thank you. I think you've just shared with our listeners an Anthony that other people might not have known. Not only did you have nine sisters but you had a pension for street fighting with the bully next door. That's awesome. Let's talk a little bit about Dun & Bradstreet. It's a brand name that everyone knows there's a huge amount of heritage history, but fundamentally trust with the brand. But a lot of people don't know what Dun & Bradstreet does. Could you tell us a little bit about why you did the acquisition and what makes Dun & Bradstreet unique? And kind of again, demystify the brand a little bit.

Anthony 11:35
We were very interested in Dun & Bradstreet as there is such tremendous capabilities within the company and where do you start. 61% market share, 87% of the Fortune 500 use the D-U-N-S Number as an internal standard. Over 330 million records of businesses and the interdependencies between all them is very, very powerful. So as we looked at that, really thought about it in two ways, you know, from a Black Knight perspective, we thought, even though we're in different markets, the future is data and analytics. You know, if I asked you Sam, do you believe that the world will become more digital? Yes, of course. Right? See, I'm asking all these softball questions you find the time. Exactly. It is becoming more digital if you believe that you have to believe the increasing importance of data and analytics in that world. You know, when was the last time you walked into a bank?

Sam 12:24
Yeah, well by but you've already given me this sort of feeling. I don't know if you've seen the Ready Player One Spielberg movie, where everyone's wearing a VR headset. It's scaring me.

Anthony 12:32
It isn't scary. It's an exciting time. And what we're excited about with Dun & Bradstreet from Black Knight was we learn more about data and analytics and live more in that space, because it is the future and then also within our D&B capabilities. I see that there's a lot of opportunity there for us to help enable our clients to do what every business owner wants. It doesn't matter what business they're in, or what country they live in. Every business owner wants to grow their revenues, improve their margins and remain compliant so they can wake up the next morning and do it all over again. And so as we look at ways to leverage it, I think we're just scratching the surface. But I think with the brand that we have, we can come up with a verified by D&B tagline that we can put in place against vendors, you know, our clients need to verify the vendors that they're working with, they need to do diligence on them and all their suppliers. Can we have a stamp by Dun & Bradstreet and maybe have different levels of bronze silver and a gold level? And maybe our data is the bronze, the analytics we apply on top of it silver, and maybe the gold level requires some human intervention where we do maybe some interviews for example, here P 20. They're talking about a digital ID. Why is the D-U-N-S Number not the basis for a digital ID. And I think we can go a long way in terms of solving that for the business to business payment transactions where we've got such great marketing attrition of our D-U-N-S Number we can keep adding more important to and help our clients simplify something which is very difficult because the hardest thing at the end of the day with a digital ID is you need to trust the source. And if we had one source of it, and I'd say regulated, so that everyone could feel comfortable that one source is a trusted source, I think we can really move forward quickly in this space. So you know, long story short, I see lots of opportunities with what we can do with the tremendous amount of data that we have the type of data, the analytic capability that we have, the trusted brand that we have, the global footprint that we have, and really the talent that we have.

Sam 14:38
Thank you. I'm taking notes for when I have to speak to speak to people. One of the things I spoke recently to a colleague of ours, a chap called Peter, our Chief Strategy Officer, a man far smarter than me and I go to him whenever I have a question about something I don't understand. I always thought the one thing that made us unique as Dun & Bradstreet was the D-U-N-S number. That genius moment 50-60 years ago, when someone thought the referencing and the digital identity piece was going to be the most important part, helping us link everything together. And Peter taught to me not just about the age we live in today, but future technologies and future environments. You think about blockchain and all sorts of other technology capabilities that require that linkage. And that was exactly what he said. And we have incredible patents out there. We have incredible immovable objects that create high barriers to entry that allow us to be special that allow us to perform unique capabilities for clients. And I think when Peter said, we're the best at linking data, that for me was a penny drop moment. And that's one of the reasons why I'm so excited today about the opportunity we have.

Anthony 15:44
Yeah, I think we have 50 patents just on linking data.

Sam 15:47
Yeah,

Anthony 15:47
it's incredibly powerful, right? You're absolutely right.

Sam 15:49
It's awesome. We could talk all day. We're not going to know that our listeners get on with their day. But thank you, thank you for being on the podcast. Thank you for launching the first one. Thank You for being inspirational and I'm looking forward to what we achieved together.

Anthony 16:03
Thank you, Sam. And I'd like to give a thanks to my colleagues out there as well. Appreciate the time today was fun.

Sam 16:08
Thank you