Reporting season is here – are you ‘data-ready’?
Can you hear it? It’s the sound of the reporting season.
You can easily recognise it by the frantically clicking keyboards of investment and operation teams manually feeding their Excel sheets.
This notion around reporting events, where asset owners and managers alike scramble to gather, consolidate, validate, process, and analyse data over a (too) long period of time, seems to prevail in the investment industry, but with the rise of data technology, more and more investment organisations are starting to enjoy a new “soundtrack” around their reporting season - the sound of satisfied stakeholders who are getting valuable insights rather than cold data reports.
Data solutions have proven to provide many business benefits across multiple business functions, but with increasing demands for investor transparency and regulatory compliance, reporting is probably the area in which we’ll see the sharpest needle movement.
We’ve taken a closer look at some of the common burning issues companies experience every year around their reporting season to reveal the true benefits investment data management has to offer.
A recent survey by Northern Trust indicates that a large number of funds are still working within fragmented data environments, where data is scattered across multiple sources which naturally increases the risk of inaccurate reporting. Pair that with the load of manual work being done on multiple spreadsheets and you’ve got almost certainty of reporting inaccuracies / mistakes.
The issue only magnitudes given the fact that multiple teams and people are using the same numbers for different types of reports: board reports, annual reports, regulatory reports, etc. with no formal process in place to ensure data consistency and good governance. Your sales and marketing team, compliance team, investment operations team and the investment team are all using that data, but how can you guarantee they are all using the same, final, approved numbers? And how can you make sure these are not being changed when added to their reports?
You guessed it right; a single source of validated and 'locked' data can help alleviate any risk of data inaccuracy and inconsistency . Teams across the organisation can easily access, extract, make decisions and deliver reports based on the same consistent set of data. This leads us to the next in order (but not in priority) benefit of digital data management.
Think about the time and valuable resources being spent on pulling data together from disparate sources and then feeding it manually into excel spreadsheets to create your quarterly reports.
What if you could not only save these resources, but also allocate these towards value-add tasks or project activities for your members and investors?
Shoreline Asset and Wealth Management Consulting have found that,
"Improvements to investment data management releases valuable capacity within the investment team – Our analysis has shown that a disturbing proportion of time is often spent by the investment team to source, clean and arrange data required to input into an investment decision. In some cases, up to 30% of time is spent by the team on managing data. Delivering consistent, clean, reliable, and meaningful investment data to investment teams allows the team to focus on analysis and decision making."
A data management platform is not only a safe path to achieving operational alpha but also a strategic tool that supports better investment management and reporting through smoother data operations.
Many companies choose to outsource their data management to avoid the operational burden and (hopefully) speed up the data gathering work that is required to generate reports, but while they can outsource this technical capability, they cannot outsource their liability .
As discussed earlier in this article, ‘reporting accuracy’ starts with ‘data accuracy’, and it’s up to you to ensure your investment teams are not just using the same agreed and validated numbers, but also have a process in place to ensure these numbers are reliable.
At the end of the day, it is you who will have to face the client (and potentially a regulator) if they’re wrong – not the data providers. Again, having the rights tool to ensure that validity and reliability significantly puts you in a stronger position.
Enhanced Stakeholder Experience
Bottom line – this is what it’s all about. Reporting, of any kind, shouldn’t focus on back-end functions of data aggregation/consolidation/validation but rather on extracting valuable insights from that data and delivering them to your stakeholders in a well formed and easy to consume format.
It’s about transparency, and transparency is not delivered through pure data but through concrete, valuable insights.
Reporting is about giving your investors the opportunity to get an up-to-date overview of their investment portfolio and provide them with your forecast of future performance.
In other words, preparing portfolio look-through, fact sheets or regulatory reports should not be a month-long exercise in Excel data manipulation, but a straight through process supplying the stakeholders with accurate and trusted information.