A voracious reader who majored in math before finding his way to the credit union industry, Richard Hayden brings an insatiable curiosity to his role as data scientist.
Ask him a question and you might wait for an answer. That’s because Hayden listens carefully, scans his memory, and weighs his words before speaking. Meticulous and thoughtful, Hayden will sometimes return to that question long after the conversation has moved on if he subsequently finds a more precise way to express himself.
This passion for precision serves him well in his role of data scientist at Virginia Credit Union (VACU) in Richmond, Va. The first to hold the position, Hayden mines vast data sets to discover patterns and insights that he uses to develop models that chart the course for the $3.4 billion asset credit union’s future. He sees himself more as explorer than mathematician, journeying far into the numbers to untangle riddles and piece together puzzles.
“Data scientist…it’s an interesting title,” Hayden says. “Foundationally, I analyze data, extract information and use it to solve problems and tell a story.”
He gives an example in a current project. It’s a model that predicts the product or service a member is most likely to open next. Paired with the prediction is a tailored statement about why the product or service might benefit this particular member. Hayden believes this customized pairing of prediction and benefit will lead to better member service and engagement.
Hayden didn’t begin his career as a data scientist. He started in VACU’s contact center and later was a database analyst and a digital marketing analyst in the marketing department. He followed that with a stop in the business process office as a business analyst. Then the credit union—recognizing the power of harnessing data to better serve members—created the role of data scientist.
Glenn Birch, VACU director of public and media relations, notes that Hayden is insatiably curious, relentlessly questioning, and always challenging in an effort to identify the best solution for every member in every situation.