4 Questions with M Science's Head of Data Acquisition, Sunaina Swaminathan

May 5, 2020

This is the first in a series of interviews we have planned with individuals who leverage data in their everyday work. The goal of this series is to share knowledge about what can be done with data, and to spark ideas for data usage in our community. We’re stoked to kick off the series with none other than Sunaina Swaminathan, Head of Data Acquisition at M Science

 

Statice: Hi Sunaina, thanks for joining us! Do you want to kick off by telling us a bit more about who you are and what you do?

I’m Sunaina Swaminathan – Head of Data Acquisition for M Science LLC. I source and manage all our data partner relations for the firm. Pioneering the use of alternative data over 15 years ago, M Science (portfolio company of Jefferies Financial Group Inc. (NYSE: JEF)) is a data-driven research and analytics firm that is transforming its clients’ businesses.

One pillar of the company's strategy is acquiring disparate data sources to provide alpha-generating insights to the world's premier investment firms and corporations. Each year, this involves vetting several hundred untapped data sources across the globe. 

 

Statice: Sounds exciting! So how exactly do you use data in your job?

M Science has been around since 2002, and we pioneered the usage of anonymized consumer transaction data more than a decade ago. Over the years, we have leveraged our inhouse industry domain expertise in handling all kinds of datasets, thus elevating our research by providing rich in-depth insights and tapping new segments. At present, we have several dozen data providers from whom we license anonymized data that help us predict top line revenue and various KPI metrics. Our clients gain insights in the form of syndicated research notes, as well as other data-driven products.



Statice: That must be (and have been) an interesting challenge, especially given how fast the data landscape is changing. What kinds of challenges do you run into with the data you’re evaluating or working with?

-    Not geographically and economically representative, for example: Too many biases in the dataset or the data being skewed to a certain type of population

-    Not enough history to successfully run our predictive models

-    Data provenance and due diligence on the data vendor side

 If you could use any data set that you can't currently use, what would it be and why?

Any dataset that can give us more insights into companies under the consumer, technology, media, telecom, industrials or healthcare sector is extremely exciting for us. We are looking for revenue trends and purchase behavior trends, among other KPIs. Some of the top dataset we’re hunting are as follows:

-    Anonymized consumer transaction data from various geographies: US, UK, EU, APAC

-    Anonymized receipt level information across various merchants

-    Amazon purchase data

-    B2B purchase insights

-    In-app purchases across various merchants

How do you see data usage developing for M Science in particular, and in your industry in general? What is driving this?

Businesses, corporations and investors are currently faced with navigating the unprecedented shock to consumer spending caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Alternative data is going to continue to answer more questions faster, provide more in-depth insights across industries and sectors and help firms make strategic decisions. It is here to stay. The dependence on data-derived insights is now more important than ever. We've seen demand for data solutions in general skyrocket in recent times and especially since the lockdowns we've seen a big increase in inbound requests, which makes sense, given the current economic climate - everyone is looking for more data to shore up their decision processes in these uncertain times.

We strongly believe that our research and data solutions give investors and companies visibility into affected areas and industries as they come back online and as consumer demand continues to dynamically evolve. We have worked tirelessly over 15 years gaining our clients’ trust by continuously improving and delivering competitive insights, and will continue to do so. For example, we're using our research and data to create near real-time dashboards that are tracking economic impact of the pandemic, and are making it available to governmental entities and policy makers.

Additionally, almost every app or service coming to market has an adjacent data monetization strategy, and it is firms like ours that can effectively partner with these companies to monetize their data in a compliant manner. What sets us apart and drives our success is largely our data acquisition strategy. We have invested and grown our data partnerships and we continue to implement a highly effective and thorough due diligence process which adds a great layer of reliability for our clients.

That sounds like a super interesting place to be in as a business, especially given the current situation! Thanks for taking the time to chat to us, and we look forward to following the progress of M Science and your usage of data in the future. 

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