Business Intelligence – Having the Right Information, Making Good Decisions

Advisors understandably question what vendors mean when they advertise products as “Business Intelligence” tools. Search on-line for business intelligence and you get a process used by companies with a lot of buzzwords such as SQL, data analytics, and data mining for large volumes of data. Does the same process that large financial services organizations use apply to advisory firms? The answer is yes.

Business intelligence (BI) is a concept used to describe the applications that support the firm’s decision-making process. BI tools provide the necessary data (raw and processed) used to analyze and make business decisions.

The Power of Information

The most powerful characteristic of the BI process is having the right information to make good business decisions. Advisors need (accurate) information to analyze all areas of their business, including the success of the latest marketing strategy, problems with client services, and the firm’s strategic planning and budgeting process. 

Analyzing a business issue - using BI to improve client relationships

The best approach to understanding BI is with a simple business issue. Let’s say your firm wants to improve client services but is not sure where to begin.

Process

Begin with questions you have regarding your client services and determine the area(s) you want to evaluate. In this example, you decide to analyze client communications.

Information

Determine what information is needed to analyze client communications. In our example, you decide to analyze your firm’s response to client calls.  Information you may need include the following:

  • Number of times each client called

  • Which clients call on a recurring basis

  • Reasons for the calls by category (i.e. performance, retirement, economic issues, other)

  • How the firm responded to clients

Data and Technology

If you store client communications data, the data is probably in your CRM and is easy to retrieve. You can analyze your data in the CRM or Excel. 

Decisions

Having the above information enables you to better understand your clients’ behavior. You can develop a plan to provide the right services to each of your clients, resulting in enhanced client relationships. Solutions may include more timely communications with your clients and better information to alleviate concerns your clients have. 

The above illustrates a simplified example of BI where data is available and is stored in one system.   

BI challenge for advisors – “having the right information” is easier said than done

Unfortunately, many business issues are complex and require more sophisticated analysis.  Information may not be readily available to support the process due to problems with identify, storing and retrieving data. This includes the following:

  • Multiple data sourcesData is stored in several systems including the custodian, CRM, portfolio reporting system, and Excel     spreadsheets. 

  • Data availabilityData must be in the system(s) in order to retrieve it. Advisors may not have historical data or do not have the  time to enter the data. Further complicating this process is deciding the right system to store the data

  • Data accuracyData entered into the system must be consistent and accurate. This explains the importance of “scrubbing” the data to ensure its accuracy.  

  • Data from external sources: Advisors may want to include data from external databases to incorporate with in-house data.

Technology solutions are taking place which should alleviate some of these issues. For example, many advisors use account aggregation services to include clients external assets with managed assets, enabling advisors to make investment decisions based on the consolidated financial positions.

Software providers are working together to deliver integrated solutions, which will allow advisors to retrieve and process data from various systems. However, not all integrations are seamless and some are done with selected products.

BI is more than a technology concept

While technology plays a large role in the BI process, advisors provide the business issues that define the information and data needs. Successfully utilizing BI tools also require advisors to understand how all components of the decision-making process work together. 

Whether your firm is large or small, an effective BI process is the same. It requires accurate data, processed into the right information, provided by technology tools to analyze and make good decisions.

Susan Glover is President of Susan Glover & Associates, a consulting firm specializing in operating solutions for new and growing advisory firms. With over 30 years of experience in the financial services industry, she assists advisors in the areas of transition, operations & technology management, and business support. Visit her website at: www.susangloverassociates.com. You can email her at sue@susangloverassociates.com.

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