The financial services industry’s most widely faced challenge today can be boiled down to one simple mandate: to stay relevant to their customers. Increased competition from traditional and non-traditional players (consider the UK example: the most well-known supermarkets can now compete on home insurance premiums and credit card rates and offer loyalty points into the bargain) drives home the need for banking and insurance providers to offer customers a truly individualized proposition that’s right for them, at the right time.

To do that—and to be relevant to a new, more demanding generation of insurance and banking consumers—it’s clear that providers must understand, in greater detail than ever before, who their customers are and what they need, right now. And you can’t do that without data, plus the means to analyze, extrapolate and act.

As Big Data comes of age, at Capgemini we have recognized that, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, industries need data and analytics solutions that solve challenges specific to their sector. That’s why we have spent time re-thinking big data in the financial services context to develop new Big Data solutions; solutions that help providers to exploit opportunities for managing data and using it differently, in a way that suits their business needs and customer expectations.

Smart Analytics for Financial Services, powered by leading Big Data and analytics technology from IBM® and leveraging the flexibility of Big Data-as-a-Service (BDaaS), allows insurance and banking providers to merge data from internal sources with data from external resources (such as industry indices), in order to develop relevant products and to target them accordingly to the right customer profiles. By combining third party data with internally held data, providers benefit from a 360-degree view of the customer, within the wider industry context. This is key to being able to offer individualized products and services and spur consumers to act on them.

From our experience of working with Big Data and analytics across a number of industries, we know that one size does not fit all. The IT landscape, company data culture, attitudes to cloud and perceived risk, cost and internal Big Data and analytics capability will all impact how an enterprise approaches the way they store, collect, analyze and extrapolate data.  As Bernard Marr summarized perfectly in Forbes recently, as BDaaS gains ground, there are a number of ways in which enterprises can leverage it.

Aided by tools such as IBM BigInsights, hosted on BlueMix, Smart Analytics for Financial Services offers banking and insurance providers the opportunity to leverage powerful insights from their data (and third party data) and benefit from significant cost savings. Cloud-based BDaaS does away with the need for costly software ownership and licensing that may stymy enterprises in the first place, and offers enterprises full control over where their data is stored—100% in the cloud, in-house or a hybrid. We see more and more enterprises moving their data to the cloud, but we know that choice is important. Whichever storage route they choose, being able to access powerful platforms and tools as-a-service enables providers to be more nimble in the all-important race for relevance.

This is especially good news for more established providers, who can now act quicker. With always-on access to deep customer and industry insights—and the means to analyze them—time to market can be accelerated. This is important if they are to compete with new market entrants who will leverage cloud from the get-go and pass on savings to consumers.

Those new entrants are fleet of foot, powered by data and have the potential to be hugely disruptive. From the payments revolution—with crypocurrencies like Bitcoin at play, not to mention a new breed of free-to-use payment apps like Venmo—to giants like Google getting in on the highly competitive auto insurance act with Google Compare, the financial services industry must show up at the playing field and play hard.

To do that, data will be essential. To take a cue from these disruptive new players, it is clearly no longer enough to compete on price. In an age of personalization and hyper-convenience, it’s all about relevance, ease, accessibility—ubiquity, even. To serve a new breed of savvy customer, banking and insurance providers must get to know every single one—and that means digging deep when it comes to data.