Data Analytics: The Value of Business Intelligence Reporting

Firms across the asset management industry are increasingly focused on transforming into customer-centric, data-driven organizations.

NICSA members discussed this movement and gained a deeper understanding of trends in business intelligence during a breakout session at the 2018 GMM. Lyndsay Noble, Lead, Analytics Consulting Practice, DST Systems, moderated the panel, which featured experts from BNY Mellon, Commonwealth, and ProFunds.

Noble kicked things off by asking the panelists to explore different places that a business intelligence or analytics group might fit within an organization.

“At ProShares, we want to make sure we’re developing and all working from a single source of truth,” said Heath Warner, ProShares | ProFunds. “When you have various data sets being leveraged in different departments and utilized to build decision-making frameworks, ultimately you can end up with different definitions of the same metric.”

ProShares’ goal is to ensure that doesn’t happen. “Also, we want to make sure that through centralization we’re taking into account all of the data elements that are given to us,” Warner added. “It’s really about creating a 360 degree view of the data.”

Bradley Moore, Director – Product Development, BNY Mellon, said as firms start to deploy analytics in a more centralized manner, it’s also important to realize that having some type of hybrid model is important. “More and more, I’m seeing firms that are having data analytics specialists and scientists embedded within various businesses teams,” he said.

Moore said it’s crucial to focus on how the team is structured but also have the key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the effectiveness of business intelligence deployments and track return on investment.

Wendy Kania, Vice President, Sponsor Relations, Commonwealth, said at her firm, it’s not necessarily about having one person with finance and data skills; it’s just having all necessary skills represented. “We’re more relationship folks, and we have another team within Commonwealth that pulls information together,” she said. “I drive what we provide, but someone else puts it together.”

Warner agreed. “We have folks who are highly skilled from a technical standpoint — writing SQL code, Python, etc. — and then folks who are better at visualization and telling the story of the data,” he said. “Making sure you have strengths in both sides of that equation is very important.”

In terms of KPIs, Noble said DST recommends a controlled testing method in which the target environment is split into a test and control group. “A lot of sales organizations don’t like that for the same reason that many people don’t like the idea of a placebo in a drug trial,” she said. “But it’s part of the change that has to be coming if we’re going to be evidentiary rather than experiential.”

Noble added that moving from gut-driven decision making to data-driven decision making is often a challenge. “There are naysayers, there are people who don’t buy in to the concept,” she said.

Kania, who provides data to asset management groups through Commonwealth, said her key contacts understand how to use data, but when it trickles down to various sales teams, there’s sometimes a disconnect. “The answer is a lot of training,” she said.

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