Rob Casper, CDO of JP Morgan, made it his mission to shrink the company’s 390 million petabytes of data in storage.

Together with Jeff Macmillan, now CDO of Morgan Stanley, Casper established a data governance framework that replaced the old taxonomic system with easily understood descriptors that could be used more effectively with AI and machine learning processes.

How did he get buy-in (and the necessary budget) from JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon so quickly? It came down to one presentation.

First, Dakin Campbell tells us more about Casper’s approach in Business Insider:

“Everybody loves artificial intelligence and machine learning, but without good data governance the benefits are likely compromised,” Casper said, referencing the Wall Street buzz around AI and the promise of using it to predict client trades or future deals. “You need to make sure you have the best data for your machine-learning efforts to be successful.”

One downside of shrinking the number of databases is that it makes those that remain more important, and increases the risk if one of the key databases goes down, Casper said.

More broadly, he’s established a governance framework that involves 51 taxonomies for the bank’s data. Employees are now applying those taxonomies and English words to databases, replacing what may seem like random numbers and letters with easily understood descriptors. They’re also examining hundreds of applications across the bank to ensure that the data they’re using matches up with the reference data.


The approach proved so groundbreaking that Casper and Jeff McMillan, now Morgan Stanley’s chief analytics and data officer, received a patent for their work, called “system and method for managing financial account information.”

The model allows banks to more accurately measure their exposure to trading counterparties, as in the LTCM example. It also makes it easier to share information about an entity with various business units, removing some of the friction from the on-boarding process. And it makes complying with regulations easier since some authorities demand an ability to trace data from a specific cell in an Excel model back to its original source, while others expect lenders to monitor their international clients for anti-money-laundering controls.

“It was anything but rocket science; it was literally just having a very disciplined data model around legal entities and their relationship to each other,” Casper said. The approach has “truly stood the test of time.”

But a project of this scope requires buy-in from the CEO. How did he get it? The article explains:

In April 2018, Casper presented a video to JPMorgan’s management team to explain his work. The video shows the passage of time, starting with a cloud that looks like a solar system. As the video plays, lines begin to form between some of the stars, which grow in size and brightness. As the stars with the most links get larger, the solar system disappears into the background, leaving a network of connected stars linked by brightly colored lines.

The stars are databases and his video serves as a representation of how they communicate. CEO Jamie Dimon and copresident Daniel Pinto immediately got it, Casper said.

That’s given him the budget and mandate to pursue what might otherwise seem rather mundane.