Looking to gain more effective control and management of the group’s fund data to support its vision for the business over the next decade, this mid-sized asset management company selected FE fundinfo Data Dissemination to deliver the single, ‘golden’ source needed to ensure accuracy, consistency and timeliness in the data being published about its funds, across all channels - and in the information provided directly to customers and independent financial advisers.
Data: An industry-wide challenge
Increasing regulation, a demand by larger clients for ‘more detail - more quickly’ and growing ‘self-selection’ by investors has forced many asset and investment management companies into onerous and largely manual data-gathering and distribution exercises. A lack of control over this process in many organisations has led to data of variable quality being delivered through different channels at different times - with a potential cost for compliance and reputational risk that has been widely acknowledged by regulators and the market.
You can add to this the largely unquantified ‘opportunity cost’ that comes from not being able to implement an effective personalised marketing strategy for customers; from not knowing how many sales opportunities are being lost because inaccurate data is placing your fund outside a potential client’s parameters; and the very real cost of using valuable sales resources to manually compile reports and check data on an instance by instance basis.
Data problems are widespread across the industry. Companies want customised client reporting. Everyone wants data cut a different way, to suit specific requirements. The sheer volume of reports that have to be produced is overwhelming – and they are usually produced by the sales teams whose skills are not best suited to this task and who then have less time to get on with job they have been hired to do. Margins are falling, costs are being squeezed – everyone is trying to find a way to do more with less; to work in a more efficient way and with fewer ‘heads’; to get rid of the inefficiency.
The ultimate goal: growth
This particular business had hitherto grown organically and largely by referral. More recently, buying in new teams had proved to be a very effective strategy – particularly for the charities and ethical investments sector. Now facing ambitious growth targets, new ways of generating business were needed – particularly in regard to retail distribution, where the company offers a range of model portfolios and discretionary managed services through UK-regulated financial advisers (RFAs) and other intermediaries.
Here, the ability to deliver more engaging propositions, alongside personalised marketing and lead generation campaigns is critical. It requires automated processes and the use of digital technology. And above all, it requires control over the collection and distribution of accurate, consistent data to support legal requirements, published fund prices, the production of KIIDs - and to populate other marketing and promotional tools.
The company’s system landscape was complex, with multiple tools duplicating effort and adding unnecessary cost. Data was being manually transposed between systems, making it not only difficult to extract to feed web tools, but prone to errors too. Fund fact sheets were produced via a third-party tool.
The role of FE fundinfo Data Dissemination
Data Dissemination manages the collection, validation, dissemination and checking of fund and product data, so fund management companies can control the publication of their data wherever and whenever it is needed, and can provide it in the appropriate format – accurately, consistently, on-time and with transparency. The Data Dissemination team also carry out manual post-publication data checks to ensure that the information fund groups provide is actually what is being seen by investors across the different media.
Mindful of the maxim ‘put rubbish in, get rubbish out’, the starting point for this project was a thorough data cleansing exercise - Data Dissemination is geared around getting the fundamentals of data correct before it is disseminated. With this achieved, the data could be extracted and put to use.
The company also subscribed to FE fundinfo's Digital to build factsheets via FE Analytics FinXL, with data derived from Data Dissemination, as part of an automated process. FinXL uses Excel’s in-built web queries technology to automatically extract data into the familiar spreadsheet environment, where it can be readily integrated with in-house data, analysed and interrogated and used to populate reporting formats - including the production of fact sheets.
The next stage will be for FE fundinfo to start post-publication data checking and validation activities for the company.
Moving forward, Data Dissemination will be integrated with third-party digital marketing and client reporting web tools to reflect the company’s strong commitment to offering interactive and engaging collateral for clients across all devices.
Data Dissemination will provide a single, validated source for data, which can be used with confidence to populate all delivery channels and formats and to achieve the transparency required by regulators, intermediaries and clients. It will also underpin the delivery of the company’s personalised customer service and marketing campaigns.
And while it’s early days, benefits are already being seen.
A more efficient use of resources
By removing duplicated effort and manual processes, the company is already seeing a more efficient use of resources, which will translate into cost savings. It has saved the equivalent of ‘half a person’ in marketing in phase one. And individuals across the business are also seeing time savings. The real benefits will come in the next phase, however, when client reporting is automated .The equivalent of one ‘headcount’ is involved in sending reports out to clients and responding to their enquiries – and this is normally done by the sales staff. Automation will also lower the risks incurred by manual involvement and the ad hoc presentation of figures.
And further benefits will follow.
Underpinning scaled-up marketing activities to support growth
While the company has been running short-burst email campaigns to gain engagement, these have not been very connected to date. The aim is to have more technical data available to use in these campaigns – especially for discretionary fund services; to be able to embed this information digitally for outbound marketing campaigns to generate interaction with the website or spark direct enquiries.
Previously, it would have been very difficult to extract this data to feed the web tools - and prone to errors too. With a need for this data to be accurate and consistent, until now, the internal effort needed to do this checking has always outweighed the perceived benefits.
Data Dissemination will underpin these enhanced marketing and sales activities by providing the golden data source and the foundation from which to ‘scale up’ in the production of fact sheets and reports for different channels, since these all require different permutations of the data, delivered in different ways, at different times.
The fact that FE fundinfo will be doing the data health checking is an important outcome for the company as previously post-publication data-checking was a heavy manual load that didn’t always get done.
Data Dissemination will also be helping from a compliance and regulation perspective - for example, with PRA provision SYSC 4.1.1, which requires a firm to have “robust governance arrangements in place” - specifically “internal control mechanisms, including sound administrative and accounting procedures and effective control and safeguard arrangements for information processing systems.”
By dispensing with duplicated data collection, removing expedient solutions to data requests and ensuring consistent and timely publication of accurate fund data – and in particular by carrying out post-publication validation checks - Data Dissemination will enable the company to demonstrate that “control and safeguard arrangements” are in place for their data.
The transparency and quality of its reporting has always been very important to the company; and the data control provided by Data Dissemination will take transparency to new levels. The group is very aware of its regulatory obligation to make clients aware of the levels of risk they may be incurring and is keen to extend transparency at more granular levels throughout their portfolios.
With every aspect of investment management under close scrutiny, firms can no longer afford to take an ad hoc approach to managing and delivering the data that is the very lifeblood of their business. With FE fundinfo's Data Dissemination, this company has regained control over its data, mitigating potential business, reputational and compliance risk – and has gained a firm underpinning for the ‘joined up’, personalised marketing and sales campaigns needed to achieve projected business growth and realise the group’s vision.