Is the Asset Management Industry ‘Data Driven’ Yet?

When it comes to data and analytics, Lyndsay Noble, Head of Advance Analytics Practice, SS&C, said asset managers should know where to channel their efforts.

“When people think about data-driven companies, they often consider what is known as FAANG: Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google,” Noble said during a breakout session at NICSA’s recent Strategic Leadership Forum.“We can’t be them, so why try? Instead, let’s talk about data-driven companies that are experts in their spaces — the companies that drive change in their verticals, in their industries, through the use of data.”

Noble moderated the session, in which experts from Atom Analytics, BNY Mellon, and T. Rowe Price explored the potential of data-driven decision making within the industry — and addressed whether the industry has reached that potential.

“People are spending more money than ever on data because, frankly, the FAANG companies have shown that there’s a tremendous amount of value in data acquisition,” said Tim Kresl, Founding Partner at Atom Analytics, a Broadridge Company. “We just haven’t figured out how to use that data effectively; certain firms in certain pockets are starting to answer interesting questions with data, but there’s still a long way to go in terms of driving a data-distribution culture.”

Scott Anderson, Vice President, Research, BNY Mellon said broker-dealers and asset managers are investing more in data because it has improved in quality. “There’s always a ‘but,’ though,” he said. “Because each dataset has unique characteristics, we’ve seen in our interactions with our asset management clients that data teams are spending more and more time cleaning the data.”

Data-Driven Distribution

Considering thatdistribution has always been a relationship-driven business, Nobel asked the panelists how they plan to integrate data into their distribution strategy. Shonyel Lyons, Vice President, Distribution Intelligence and Data Management, T. Rowe Price, said data should be used to enrich relationships.

“We should be using data effectively to understand our clients’ needs, get answers to business questions, and provide our sales and marketing teams with the information they need to deliver the right message to the right people at the right time,” she said. “There’s lots of data on the market, but pulling it together in a way that it makes sense for our sales associates and marketing teams is critical for our firm.”

Kresl said the key is saving time for salespeople to focus on what they’re paid the big bucks to do — build strong client relationships.

“If we can stop them from digging through Excel spreadsheets to figure out where they should be going and instead give them the answer, that’s going to free up their time to take care of that higher task that only they can accomplish — and therefore save costs in the long run.”

A Data Framework

Lyons said there are growing efforts around data cleanliness at her firm. “There are specific areas within the firm where it’s a must for us to focus on data, and we have an enterprise data governance policy in place,” she said. “The expectations are set around data ownership, data stewardship, and the roles associates should play in ensuring quality.”

Anderson pointed out that data should be both high-quality and relevant.

“The sales environment is so dynamic that the needs of wholesalers and sales management change on a constant basis — and therefore the needs of the data team are constantly changing,” he said. “And so we’re kind of seeing a circle where by the time the data warehouse creates something, things have already changed.”

Lyons said her data team is embedded within the distribution space at T. Rowe Price, ensuring a collaborative and integrated effort.

“We sit within the distribution space as a team of analysts working on understanding business questions, understanding sales and marketing questions, and getting both teams the information that they need,” she said.

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