Looming data crisis as stress drives staff to quit

As data plays an ever greater part in the operations of financial services companies across the world new research has found that almost three in four senior global data leaders are on the verge of leaving their roles due to stress.

Data management firm Solidatus revealed its research has found 71% of senior global data leaders within financial services firms surveyed who experience stress in the workplace are ready to quit their job due to high levels of work-related stress with 87% saying it affects their mental health and well-being.

With 64% experiencing high levels of stress in the workplace, which causes more than two-thirds (61%) to suffer from between two and six nights of disrupted sleep per week, it appears that senior data leaders are in an intense state of anxiety and potentially heading for burnout.

Solidatus’ research, conducted in collaboration with market-research firm Censuswide, surveyed 300 senior data leaders across the UK and the US in the financial services sector.

Respondents cite the top three causes of data distress as:

  • too many disparate and siloed sources of data (33%).
  • having to establish the appropriate sources of data for a task in hand (31%); and
  • the risk of fines relating to data governance and regulatory compliance (31%).

Philip Dutton, CEO and founder of Solidatus, warned that each of these factors compounds the others and results in a fundamental breakdown in trust, which drives even higher levels of stress.

“Data has become the lifeblood of organizations, driving innovation and decision-making. However, the exponential growth of data, the atomization of data supply chains, the tsunami of regulation and the ever-increasing rate of change in business processes and systems have created almost unmanageable complexity,” he explained. “The resultant demands and pressures faced by data leaders have given rise to a mounting crisis: data distress. This is particularly acute in financial services, where our research found elevated levels of workplace data stress, which is having a significant impact on mental health. Left unchecked, this could have serious consequences across the organizations that rely on the expertise and leadership of these individuals.”

The research said data distress is taking its toll on the job satisfaction and performance of today’s financial services data leaders – 80% said the high level of stress at work impacts their ability to do their job properly, rising to 86% among 25- to 34-year-olds.

In all 79% of respondents who have been at their company for 1-4 years agree that this level of stress makes them want to leave their job, compared to 62% of those who have been in their job for 5+ years. This indicates that the less time you are in a job, the more stress you experience and the greater the urge you have to quit your job.

But despite 83% feeling confident about their company’s ability to collate and report the right data for regulatory requirements, it still takes too much time.

Almost a third (32%) of respondents say their team spends four to five hours per week managing data for financial regulations.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) believe that up to half their time in this pursuit is wasted through inefficiencies, such as poor systems and data.

As a result, just under half (47%) say ‘lack of data management tools’ is one reason why managing data for financial regulation takes as long as it does and is so stressful. Over a third (34%) state that it’s because ‘our data sets are all in siloed systems’ and 32% believe ‘we don’t have a good view of our full data estate’.

Dutton added: “Lack of data trust, decreasing efficiencies, increases risk and ultimately creates data distress. With such a seismic shift in organizations’ data, and regulatory and change environments, a totally new operating model needs to be deployed, supported by modern data management tools designed to cope with infinitely connected and complex environments within financial organizations. Urgent action is needed to deal with data distress and protect the mental health of the custodians of organizations’ most valuable asset – their data.

“Organizations’ data management foundations and supporting structures need to be replaced to enable simplicity, transparency, and understanding to promote implicit data trust. Only then will data leaders operate in a sustainable environment free from data distress.

“What’s more, if the pressure to go faster continues to induce data distress, with tactical firefighting and fine avoidance being the default, productivity and opportunity discovery will be stifled. With global banking estimated to be worth around $20 trillion per year, even as little as a 5% drop in strategic activity due to data distress represents a $1 trillion reduction in value.”

Independent business psychologist, Dannielle Haig said: “In today’s data-driven world, the abundance and chaos of information are having a severe impact on data leaders. The sheer volume, velocity, and variety of datasets available are overwhelming and taking a toll on their mental health and well-being.

“To navigate this data deluge, it is crucial for data leaders to prioritize self-care. By fostering a healthy work-life balance and seeking support with the right tools and techniques – which can increase their capacity to make better decisions that they’re more confident in and to de-risk – they can maintain their mental stability, manage their spiralling datasets and lead with optimism, clarity and resilience.”