Here’s why the data chief of Morgan Stanley’s $17 billion wealth management division hopes his team will become obsolete — and what that says about the changing role of the CDO


  • Most managers would measure their success partially on how much their team has grown over the years. But for Morgan Stanley’s Jeff McMillan, the opposite is true. 
  • As chief analytics and data officer for Morgan Stanley’s $17 billion wealth-management division, he’s on a quest to empower the group’s 25,000 employees to harness data on their own in hopes that his team may eventually be obsolete. 
  • It’s an example of how the job of tech chiefs is changing across corporate America. Instead of just overseeing technology, they are now tasked with training employees on how to use data and artificial intelligence to do their jobs better. 
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It’s not often that you hear an executive openly hope that their department shrinks in size. But that’s the case for Morgan Stanley’s Jeff McMillan.

McMillan views his role as chief analytics and data officer for the Wall Street giant’s $17 billion wealth-management division as a decision-support function — or the team that enables the group’s 25,000 employees to harness the power of data analytics and visualization to do their jobs better and make more informed choices for clients.

That’s why it’s his goal that one day his team may be obsolete. “It’s really trying to create the tools, the infrastructure, and the culture to help people make better choices,” he told Business Insider. “We are support organizations. I don’t exist for any other purpose than to help people make better choices.”

The mission gets to the heart of a key aspect of the digital transformations occurring across corporate America. While most employees outside IT traditionally spent little time worrying about understanding big data and other advancements, companies are increasingly looking to empower workers to not only understand the technology but also use it in their day-to-day jobs.

It’s shifting the job description for leaders like McMillan, who are now tasked with managing their own staff of data scientists while also training other employees on tech including basic analytics, artificial intelligence, and blockchain.

The goal also hits another important issue: The data that companies love to tout as “the new oil” is useful only if someone knows how to use it. McMillan is on a quest to democratize stored information through his training by effectively making the data accessible to all and teaching employees how to best use it. 

Data chiefs have to be relevant, “and the way you become relevant is by helping people do their jobs better,” he said. “The 23-year-old who’s got energy and curiosity who is sitting in the municipal-bond desk is on some days more valuable than the decision scientist with 25 years of experience.”

So far, McMillan — who assumed his role in 2016 — has trained 450 people. His goal is to train a few hundred more in 2020. He offers an analytics and AI boot camp that teaches enrollees the basics of the technology and the building blocks of analytics.

The training spans many different teams. McMillan has helped the legal and compliance division use data to spot fraud better and taught financial advisers how to use the information to make more informed investment decisions.

While McMillan has a ways to go before he’s able to close shop, the push is another example of just how quickly companies like Morgan Stanley are trying to expand the use of technology outside traditional IT teams to gain a competitive advantage.

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