Over the last 20 years Eleanor has worked across every digital touchpoint from strategy through to execution. She has a background in Cyberpsychology and an in-depth understanding of people’s use of emerging technologies.
Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
HSBC

Eleanor currently works as a Portfolio Director in Digital and Data for HSBC Securities Services (HSS). In this role she partners with product and client teams to design and deliver digital solutions for clients using disruptive and new ways of working. She actively champions the Innovation agenda at HSS, is passionate about user centred design, problem solving through diverse thinking and applying interactive, creative methodologies to drive transformational change and future proof HSBC.

Before joining HSBC Securities Services Eleanor led Digital Transformation projects managing teams to execute major change for global brands. As a Consultant she developed Digital Strategies for international businesses. Eleanor has founded Insight & Analytics functions in global digital agencies and in 2009 acquired a ‘first of its kind’ MSc in Cyberpsychology. She has blogged for the Telegraph on technology and behaviour, lectured on Digital at Cranfield University and provides expert comment in the media.

Eleanor has been shortlisted for the 2019 Tech Star Award.

How does it feel to be nominated for our Tech Star Award?

It feels great! I was initially surprised then pleased to hear I had been shortlisted, now I feel honoured. It is very rewarding to be acknowledged; I feel passionate about my work and want more than anything to make a difference however small so to be recognised in any way is very satisfying indeed. It also motivates me to keep striving for better, to keep challenging and to keep cross-pollinating new and different ways of seeing the world within the technology space. We need to view the challenges we face through different lenses and apply diverse thinking if we are to exploit all the opportunities afforded us by new digital technology.

Can you tell us about your career path leading to your current role?

I won’t bore you with the very beginning but over 20 years ago I went to study Psychology at University. I was fascinated by people, us, why we do what we do, how we think, behave and communicate. Some of my favourite lectures were with the Cybernetics faculty and although I’d always been interested in early computing, this really kick started my fascination with the relationship between humans and machines.

In the early 2000’s I started analysing patterns in web usage data to inform strategy. At that time, few were researching our use of the internet commercially so whilst working for digital agencies I founded early Research and Insight functions running innovative studies to explore consumer use of new technologies. In 2008 I wanted to learn more so I enrolled in a ‘first of its kind’ MSc in Cyberpsychology.

Post Masters, I craved input into the ‘bigger picture’ so worked on digital transformation initiatives for financial services organisations. Here I leveraged agile methodologies to affect wholesale organisational change. After ten years I decided to focus my efforts and apply all I’d seen and learnt in one place, so I chose to work at HSBC Securities Services to do precisely that!

You must have seen huge changes in technology in your career, what development has excited you the most?

That’s interesting to consider. Whilst on the one hand there have been huge changes on the other I’m often surprised at how little we seem to have moved on, for example what many people are calling AI in Financial Services is what we used to refer to as behavioural targeting in online retail 15 years ago!

That being said, the increasing use of smart technologies and the Internet of Things in particular excites me. The more machines are able to ‘work together’ the more we are relieved of the mundane and monotonous. This frees us up to explore and exploit the capabilities which differentiate us as humans i.e. creativity, empathy, communication.

Importantly, technology is a tool that facilitates human behaviour. My interest lies in finding the right balance between human and machine and using technologies to support behaviours. Technology should deliver positive change rather than dictating what we do or influencing us negatively. For a business this means having an understanding of and appreciation for how customers, clients and colleagues think, relate, communicate and behave. Then selecting the ‘right’ technologies and applying them in the ‘right’ way to support these behaviours. Machine ethics is a field I’m increasingly interested in.

You work in a typically male environment, has this had an impact on you and are things changing?

That’s a hard question to answer as I’ve always worked with majority male colleagues so know nothing else. In all honesty I don’t think about my gender when I’m at work, I’m a person doing my job to the best of my ability. There are occasions when I pause and notice that I’m the only woman in a room of 20 men which doesn’t faze me as long as I’m treated as my male colleagues are, which on the whole I’m happy to say that I am.

Being a minority might have meant that it took longer to have confidence in my own abilities. I believe that I have been underestimated because of my gender. If anything that’s made me more determined and committed to achieve success but on my terms and by being me; appreciating my strengths and my unique view of the world, this is a big part of the value I bring.

There is something very powerful about having a person to look up to and aspire to who’s ‘more like you’. Having inspirational female colleagues, mentors and sponsors is really important to me and something I’m starting to value and be grateful of more and more.

What is your favourite part of your job and why?

I have a few, firstly I love working with my team, feeling supported by them and knowing that we are ‘in it together’ solving problems jointly. Secondly, I feel a real sense of satisfaction when I believe I’ve made a difference, improved something, made people see a problem differently or unlocked an opportunity no one else saw. HSBC is a large organisation so affecting cultural change is quite an endeavour but it is possible. Thirdly, and lastly, I LOVE digital technologies so having the opportunity to work in an industry and in a role which exposes me to these daily is really exciting for me!

What are you looking forward to in the next few months, both professionally and personally?

I’m looking forward to kicking off a couple of big initiatives leveraging new technologies and data (e.g. AI, Machine Learning) as well completing a piece of research into Distributed Ledger Technology/Blockchain. Importantly we’ll continue to drive organisational innovation at HSS by applying new and progressive ways of working whilst at the same time reimagining the client experience. I’m also looking forward to further building out our digital capabilities and growing my team!

Personally, I’m looking forward to enjoying the summer with my friends and family, I train very hard outside work and have recently competed in an event which was tough, now I want to rest and relax and enjoy myself for a bit!