#54: American Express CDO and EVP Enterprise Digital & Data Solutions, Pascale Hutz on Managing Data as a Product and Rewarding Creative Destruction

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“I often get asked, ‘Well, when will we be done with this data migration?’ And I’m like, ‘We’re never really done… and we shouldn’t look at it as a failure or anything like that. It’s just an evolving system that will keep growing and changing and transforming.’”

What keeps a data pro at one company for almost thirty years? On this episode of The Data Chief, Pascale Hutz, the Chief Data Officer and EVP of Enterprise Digital & Data Solutions at American Express, shares how her career at American Express has transformed over the years and what she’s learned along the way. Tune in to hear more about her latest cloud migration journey, why she’s on a “mission to decommission,” and how she fights imposter syndrome even as a C-level executive in one of the largest, most impactful financial services firms in the world.

Key Insights

What does Pascale mean by considering data as alive? (11:58)

“… Data has to be a living, breathing kind of organism. And when you have that mindset, you don’t really think of data as done. Data’s never finished. Platforms are never POA. They’re never point of arrival because there’s always something else coming. And as long as you have that data mindset and… data as a product, we’re keeping pace with the evolving technology and making sure that we’re headed in that direction wherever that may go. Today, it’s cloud, but five years from now, I bet you it’s going to be something else and we just have to get ready — be ready for it.

Pascale brings up the notion of “managing data as a product.” She also explains that data has to be thought of as ever-evolving and, therefore, suggests that innovation is born from an ever-ready adaptive posture. Does your institution think of data as being alive? How can a culture be created that views data this way?

Why should leaders stay tranquil during business transformation? (16:25)

“In my career, I’ve always been at the forefront of large infrastructure changes. And to me… you just can’t be too wound up about it. Things will go wrong. It’s okay. So to me, it’s more healthy [and] more Zen to view it as a lazy river, even though sometimes it does feel like white water rafting.”

Transformation comes with imperfection, partly because everything created is imperfect despite best efforts. It seems that Pascale suggests that accepting this reality can give a leader a sense of calm. Does your organization allow for imperfection? Even more importantly, perhaps, do you?

Why is it important to let some old tech go? (21:21)

“We have to get into that mindset of — decommissioning the past makes way for the future. It makes room because… when you leave these legacy systems lying around, somebody’s maintaining them or worse yet somebody’s not maintaining them and then… bad things are happening.”

This concept of letting go of old things to make space for new ones works well philosophically and practically. By letting go of ideas or structures that have outlived their usefulness, we can come to different conclusions and foster new creations.

“Data Mesh: Delivering Data-Driven Value at Scale” (written by Zhamak Dehghani)
“Enterprise Data Platforms, American Express, VP: The Data Landscape is Evolving Continuously”
“Not Impossible” (written by Mick Ebeling)

About Pascale
Pascale Voldman Hutz is currently serving as Chief Data Officer at American Express and Executive Vice President (EVP) of the Enterprise Digital and Data Solutions (EDDS) group. Pascale and her team play a critical role in accelerating American Express’ digital engagement and revenue growth momentum by leveraging technology, design and data to develop digital products, platforms and personalization that allow our company to deliver the world’s best customer experience every day. EDDS’ remit cuts across the entire customer lifecycle, starting from digital acquisition and marketing through digital membership, and Pascale’s team owns the enterprise platforms on which these digital customer experiences are built. As Chief Data Officer of the Company, she also leads the team that is responsible for the products and platforms that create, manage, govern, and share our common data frameworks and data assets.

Prior to this role, Pascale held the position of EVP of the Global Strategy & Support, and led 3,600 global employees in operational strategy development, process design & engineering, capacity management, governance, analytics, training, and infrastructure enablement for the Global Services Group. In addition to her operations experience, Pascale has honed her skills in compliance and operational excellence management. Under Pascale’s remit she oversaw extensive monitoring across the Global Servicing Group to ensure all regulatory commitments are being upheld. She also had responsibility for the Enterprise Complaint Center of Excellence which is chartered with ensuring AmEx has a robust complaints management program.
Pascale joined American Express in 1995 in Risk & Information Management where she held various roles focused on collections risk mitigation as well as transaction authorizations policies. Pascale has a strong background in credit treatments, analytics and product implementation.

Pascale holds a master’s degree in statistics from Cornell University and graduated with honors from Binghamton University with bachelors’ degrees in economics and mathematics. She is fluent in English and French. She currently resides in Putnam County, NY, with her husband and three children.

Get even more insights from data and analytics leaders like Pascale on The Data Chief.


Episode 57