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BusinessDay: Marco Polo Advisory has been in the trenches

By Johan Steyn, 7 November 2022

In the gold rush that is the utilisation of insights gained from analysing data, business leaders are inundated by consulting firms promising magic. Perhaps because of the “fear of missing out”, executives sometimes hand over the keys to the kingdom to these firms, hoping they will gain the competitive edge as promised.

The challenge is that it is very difficult to understand the data complexities of a large corporate unless one has been an employee for a long time, working in the trenches. It is rare to find a consulting firm formed by professionals who have worked in the gruelling commercial and technological demands of a large business.

Thankfully there is such a firm, founded by three exceptionally experienced individuals, working in the local market. The birth of Marco Polo Advisory was from the realisation that things could be done better. Experienced in building and leading data analytics teams and in delivering large-scale privacy programmes in complex corporate environments over many years, the founders realised a gap for a niche, focused and outcome-driven consultancy in the market.

In addition to delivering top end analytics capabilities, they offer data governance and privacy solutions that will meet both local and international regulatory requirements, providing advice and guidance, as well as outsourced solutions and resources in both areas.

Having been in leadership roles for two decades in the financial services sector and more than a decade at a large investment bank, Deon Katz is highly experienced in building data capabilities in large businesses. “Our experience in leading cross-functional teams and a focus on practical data strategies have proven that we are able to assist our clients in achieving measurable outcomes.”

Siobhain O’Mahony’s experience includes banking, travel, investments and insurance, delivering actuarial and analytics solutions. She is a Fellow of the Actuarial Society and was recognised as one of the top 100 Innovators in Data & Analytics by Corinium Global Intelligence.

“In my view, our greatest strength is our ability to insert ourselves quickly into any business problem, adding the right value at the right time, and in a manner appropriate to the nature and size of the business. We take a commercial, tailored approach to delivering analytics and privacy solutions,” she said.

With almost two decades working in client information management and organisational data governance, Janine Kelly West was the data privacy officer at a large bank. She is a fellow of the International Association of Privacy Professionals, and a certified information privacy manager and her certifications include data governance in offshore markets such as the EU.

“We have extensive experience in dealing with local and global privacy regulations. We further ensure that the data work we do has the principles of data protection embedded in all stages of the process,” Kelly West said.

“We partner with businesses to uncover these questions and we use analytics to produce relevant, actionable insights and answers. We also work with our clients to find and build talent in this space.”

This is perhaps one of the key problems most local businesses find difficult to overcome.

It is comforting to know that there are such experienced professionals working in our market. Marco Polo Advisory is certainly a firm worth engaging with.

• Steyn is on the faculty at Woxsen University, a research fellow at Stellenbosch University and the founder of


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