My Analytics Leadership Style

Eric Sandosham, Ph.D.
5 min readJun 2, 2024


A moment of reflection.

Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash


“What kind of an (Analytics) leader were you?” a friend asked me recently. Hmm … good question. I didn’t really think too deeply about that before. During my tenure as the Analytics head for Citibank Singapore and then Citibank Asia Pacific (the function had the more sophisticated name of Decision Management), we had arguably one of the most recognised and envied data analytics capabilities in any bank across the region. And I’m not shy to say that I had a direct hand in creating and shaping that capability.

It so happens that the 1st of June also represents the day I became a corporate citizen. Some 3 decades ago, in fact. So I thought I would shake things up this week and dedicate my 41st weekly article to my analytics leadership style.

(I write a weekly series of articles where I call out bad thinking and bad practices in data analytics / data science which you can find here.)

The Reluctant Leader

I started my corporate career with Citibank’s management associate programme. It was perceived as a prestigious gig. By all accounts, the bank would typically hire 1 to 3 persons from a pool of over 500 candidates. Excellent academic grades were just the entry eligibility criteria; they were looking for some ‘X’ factor that to this day remains somewhat of a trade secret. The senior layers of all the banks across Asia Pacific are populated by former Citibank management associates, a testimony to the enduring success of the programme. Citibank was then known as the school of banking.

I’m a reluctant leader. Managing a big team is not my cup of tea. I’m happy to be a follower, and yet I constantly find myself in leadership positions in many of the things that I pursue. On reflection, I guess it’s because I have no tolerance for incompetent leadership, and will step up to challenge and correct it. I am known for speaking out against the status quo, often going against the grain by taking a contrarian view. I don’t do it for the sake of being controversial, but I often have a perspective based on chasing certain ground truths and assumptions to their logical ends.

I guess I’m the asshole in the room. And I suspect talented people like to work for leaders who speak out.

The Assembler

If I had to describe my leadership philosophy, I would say that I’m a talent assembler . What this means is that I seek out and hire the right talent, and give them room to grow into their full potential; I don’t micro-manage and I’m not interested in their individual whims. I make sure I have the right types and diversity of talent, and I leave them to perform and discover their own career paths. I’m not nurturing. I’m not unkind. But I’m unapologetic in my expectations and feedback.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the appropriate mix of talent and competencies. I’m a big believer that if you assemble the right team, give them room to express themselves, they will naturally perform. I expect everyone to behave as adults, and if they bring toxicity to work, they get fired; no one is indispensable in my view.

My preference on talent mix is informed by my guiding mantra that cognition trumps data, and data trumps algorithm. Translated, this means that I put a lot of weight on the ability to problem-frame and solution-design, i.e. cognitive competencies. Nothing beat clear, logical and connected thinking. Next, I look for people who have an appreciation for the quality of data, and sensitive to the kinds of information signals that it carries. I don’t put too much weight on finding exceptional modellers. The ability to think through a problem and its data requirements is 80% of the solution; modelling is just the last mile.

The Architect

I love designing stuff. This is typical of INTJ’s, which is my MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) personality type. For example, I delight in creating problem-solving frameworks. I enjoy creating organisational design principles for data analytics functions (which honestly didn’t exist before). I spent a lot of time thinking about what makes for an efficient and effective analytics function; what are we solving for in terms of analytics as a competitive capability. For example, every bank had to produce business reports (known as MIS, short for management information system in those days), every bank had to run sales and marketing campaigns. How should these processes be re-thought to create opportunities for competitive advantage?

I was among the pioneers who re-imagined analytics as a business function rather than a support function. I sought out and embraced business revenue and efficiency targets. I was a strong adversary against off-shoring and out-sourcing as these were back-office concepts built on the principles of standardisation-through-centralisation-to-achieve-scale, and not useful for business-centric capabilities. Time has proven me right on many of these ‘design’ principles.

The Seer

I like working through the what-if’s. During my time in Citibank, I took my leadership responsibility to mean that I had an obligation to make sure that everyone in my team was value-adding to the organisation. Every headcount mattered. If it didn’t, then I was not being efficient or effective. Citibank can be a ruthless place, as is typical in the financial services industry. During my leadership tenure, I never once had to retrench anyone. Fired? Yes. Laid off? No. I prided myself on being able to anticipate the ‘winds of change’ and navigate the function to safety. I had to be the captain of my ship to decide who remains and who leaves, and not be subjected to the whims of the ‘higher-ups’ to re-structure and re-organise in their often deeply flawed conceptualisation of organisation efficiency.


For the longest time, I always thought that Citibank selected me into their elite management associate programme because I was also a semi-professional musician then, and hence an interesting and creative oddity. But all management associates, barring a few exceptions, rise to senior leadership in their careers, be it in the financial services industry or outside it. So maybe Citibank saw some of my ‘X’ factors which I was not self-aware at the time.



Eric Sandosham, Ph.D.

Founder & Partner of Red & White Consulting Partners LLP. A passionate and seasoned veteran of business analytics. Former CAO of Citibank APAC.