Last month, Communitech cut the ribbon on a new Data Hub in uptown Waterloo, a 19,000+ square foot facility housed in a former police station devoted to accelerating data commercialization for Canadian companies.

Communitech launched the venture with three founding partners: the City of Waterloo, Quantum Valley Investments and CIBC. On Monday, CIBC brought partners to the Communitech Data Hub and introduced them to the new CIBC Data Studio to get the ball rolling on a fresh approach to big data.

“The purpose of this space is to give our teams the ability to work where all the data action really is, which is in Kitchener-Waterloo,” said Jose Ribau, Senior Vice President and Chief Data Officer at CIBC. For Ribau, setting up shop at the Communitech Data Hub is about “being closer to the talent and to technology solutions that might be available to us,” because CIBC is “sitting on a lot of data, and looking for more advanced ways to tackle business problems using data.”

For Ribau, the possibilities for how these insights can help customers are nearly limitless. He gave the example of a traveller who has booked a trip to Portugal with a CIBC credit card. If they’ve booked this way in the past, CIBC will have valuable data about how they prefer to travel, and can proactively give them the option of having €100 converted and ready for them at the airport. The bank can offer solutions to ensure payments are made on time while they’re away, and make sure money is moved to the correct accounts to cover travel expenses.

“We can be more proactive with our clients in tailoring our advice. That comes down to how we package data, and help the client understand their financial affairs,” said Ribau.

While it’s still too soon to say exactly what the studio will produce, Ribau isn’t ruling anything out. New ways of communicating and alerting customers, help with financial literacy for customers who need it, special tools and apps for students… for now, CIBC is keeping it all on the table. Rather than coming to build one particular solution, CIBC is in Waterloo Region for the talent.

“What excited us about this new Communitech Data Hub was its proximity to local schools, other institutions and technology companies. Access to talent is something that all companies struggle with, and we decided that being a founding partner of the Communitech Data Hub gave us a unique opportunity to help shape what the data landscape looks like in Waterloo.”

That landscape is growing, as Communitech CEO Iain Klugman pointed out at the grand opening of the Data Hub. “There’s this notion data is the new gold, and more and more we’ve seen a rise in local tech companies specializing in open data, artificial intelligence, connected vehicles, cyber security and smart cities,” said Klugman. “In true Communitech style, the new data hub supports and connects these companies in the region while also welcoming new partners in the space.”

It’s a partnership Ribau is excited to grow.

“This (CIBC Data Studio) gives us a platform to partner with other firms outside of CIBC, to be able to test some of these technologies,” said Ribau. “The next best idea might not come from CIBC. It might come from a technology company that’s already established in Waterloo and all they’re really looking for is a receptive audience to do some of the testing and learning. The closer we are, the better we’ll be, because we’ll be able to ideate faster, iterate and collaborate with local teams.”

About The Author

Phil Froklage
Digital Journalist/Multimedia Producer

Phil Froklage is a writer, filmmaker and journalist in Waterloo Region obsessed with the future. Passionate about science and technology — and how it shapes our world — Phil likes nothing more than being surprised by the amazing things human beings can do.