Visa Europe has built a data governance function with C-suite leadership, in a bid to improve information management and insight.

The company, which processes around 12 billion debit and credit card payments annually and has spent over £400 million on its processing technology, said the function evolved out of a business intelligence project that began three years ago.

Paul Fulton, VP of data governance at Visa Europe, told delegates at the Gartner Master Data Management Summit in London today that the company had placed senior leadership on the board of the new function, known as the Enterprise Data Committee.

This was important because of the strategic importance of managing well the vast amounts of information the company processes, he said.

"Our committee is led by Visa Europe's chief risk officer, and has a board level mandate," Fulton explained. "The other members are at VP level."

The management of data is then checked at a more granular level by specific data stewards.

The committee began by setting Visa's data governance policy and compliance measures, and then appointing the data stewards across functions such as marketing, IT architecture, sales, human resources, and security.

Visa Europe operates two data centres in different locations as part of its business continuity and resilience efforts.

The next step for the committee, Fulton said, was "setting the data definitions - the core dimensions, metrics and hierarchies - and creating a re-usable library."

Visa then set data security measures and quality checks, as well as proactive and reactive workflow management processes.

"We learnt that you really have to engage the business early on - it's about having the right soft skills and telling people about how the function fits within our operations," he said. "It's also a constantly evolving process."

Fulton advised firms that are interested in doing the same against using 'MDM' (master data management) in the title of the function.

"That terminology would be more likely to switch the business managers off," he said. "It's more productive to speak the language of the business, and if that means data protection, value from data or better management."