September 27, 2016 | Jon Anderson, SVP, Solutions
Is Reporting Inertia Holding You Back?
Fast Company may have put it best: “A body at rest tends to stay at rest. A business at rest tends to die.” In the face of dramatic shifts in the business landscape – changing consumer demand, increased competitive pressure, new regulation – many investment management firms believe they’re doing their best to keep their firms thriving. But, while they may evolve outwardly – offering new products and services, expanding into new channels – inward inertia persists. One area where inertia plagues investment managers is reporting.
When it comes to reporting, what was good enough even a few years ago won’t pass muster today. The problem is that many investment management firms improve their reporting processes piece-by-piece, only changing what they have to when they have to. Reporting becomes a process of cobbling pieces together. If left unchecked, this process becomes routine and once established, it’s very difficult to break out of. This is reporting inertia, and it’s evidenced in three crucial areas.
1. External Reporting
While these reports satisfy a regulatory need for transparency, they are also important as marketing tools for investment management firms. External reports allow a firm to promote its performance to clients and shareholders while strengthening its brand.
The Problem: The concept is simple, but the execution is complex – it is perhaps the most painful reporting process for investment managers. There are hundreds of data points that need to be compiled, analyzed and assembled under tight deadlines. And that doesn’t include charts and data illustrations. Perhaps you can understand why firms are reluctant to experiment on reporting once they find a solution that can produce the volume of reports necessary.
The Solution: New technology solutions help accommodate volume and refined design so that firms can create better reports without using more resources. In fact, these solutions use fewer resources and create flexibility, allowing investment management firms to choose what they want to highlight and how they want the report to look.
2. Internal Reporting
Within a firm, individuals need to have data that is easily accessible, shareable and readable. Internal reports – spreadsheets, in some cases – are the presentation of that data, allowing individuals to view, analyze, and share as needed.
The Problem: The fallacy with internal reporting is that in order for it to be useful, it must first be manipulated by the end user. Inefficiencies are part of the process: If the system only exports text files, they have to be converted into a spreadsheet. If the user can’t save a report, they must remember how to rebuild it every time it needs to be run. Here again, the processes required to create useful reports become routine over time; “it’s just how it’s done.” These may sound like they only add minutes to the process, but over time it adds up to too much time for a report that is critical in the decision-making process.
The Solution: By upgrading legacy systems, investment management firms can better integrate their technology so reports can be saved by individual users and customized based on intended use. Reports become repeatable tools so that firms don’t have to waste time programming the same parameters for frequently used reports. And pre-formatted output is delivered to be used immediately with no converting necessary, and no checking for stray commas.
3. Onscreen Reporting
Meant to be immediate and momentary, onscreen reporting is a view of data that allows individuals at the firm to quickly see information they may need.
The Problem: The first problem in this area is that onscreen reporting is not only largely ignored as a potential problem, it is often not even considered a report. Though it might be the most momentary of reporting, it is still an important part of viewing and understanding data. Yet onscreen reporting is often not dynamic or customizable, and the ability to share is nearly nonexistent. Users are often stuck with the status quo because of how closely it’s tied to legacy systems. There’s no clear path to change what is reported onscreen.
The Solution: Improved systems allow investment management firms to implement a customized view using a more intuitive interface. This creates a dynamic presentation of data and allows firms to drill down into the details, turning an onscreen view into an analytical tool.
Investment management firms often treat reporting as nothing more than a necessity, writing off its complexity or inefficiency as the cost of doing business. In the long run, this reporting inertia creates frustration and costs firms more in resources, time and energy. Investment managers need to examine their reporting processes and evaluate whether legacy systems are truly positioning the firm for maximum efficiency, nimbleness and growth. Breaking free of inertia, in both physics and in business, is a necessary step towards acceleration.
Jon Anderson, Marketing and Solutions, joined the company in 2007. As an experienced executive with 25+ years in the financial services and managed accounts industry, Jon works with the Technology, and Client Experience teams to help identify and deploy new features on Archer’s fully integrated platform.
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