Improving client satisfaction relies on transforming client reporting
Asset Management companies are putting more and more efforts towards improving their client reporting as part of their search for differentiators.
Indeed, the asset management industry is looking for differentiating elements to attract/keep clients beyond the traditional ones linked to strategy and performance, as it is harder today to stand out only on these with few portfolio managers able to outperform indexes.
Client experience has become one of the most important areas to separate from competition. Communication & reporting (standard fund reports, institutional client reports, prospect pitches, client review presentations…) being the main point of contact with clients, it is key to use it as the spearhead of client satisfaction improvement.
What do clients expect?
– In short, clients expect to get what they want, when they want it, in any format they want it.
– Through the Asset Manager’s lense, it becomes: Provide clients with the right information, at the right time, through the right channel, in a flexible, personalized and interactive format.
Offering this “holy grail” of service still implies, first and foremost, getting the basics right. Thus, Clients primarily look for 4 attributes in the reporting provided to them: data quality, availability timeliness, consistency and easy-to-use data.
The scope of reports encompassed is very wide and covers the standard simple ones with high volume/frequency (fund reporting, Factsheet, KIID…) as well as the more complex ones for institutional clients (including sales pitch-books and client review presentations).
1. High-level of data quality
It does not come as a surprise that getting accurate data, following clear calculation rules, is the top priority for clients; neither does the fact that it is the hardest part of improving reporting.
Moreover, more and more clients require ESG data to be included in existing or dedicated reports. Providing this data can often be a challenge as well, knowing that market data is hard to get and a common definition of data/calculation methodology does not really exist.
2. Availability timeliness
Time is always of the essence in terms of reporting. This encompasses the production timeliness as well as providing a high-level of reactivity to create new reporting (new reports or products to cover) or fix issues.
3. Consistency in terms of data, look & feel and product coverage
Asset Managers’ reporting usually overlooks providing overall consistency. This implies displaying the same data over all reports (using the same rules); using a common framework for each kind of report adapted to different asset classes; using the same look & feel; and covering all products (in all languages and distribution countries) with the same level of quality and frequency.
4. Easy-to-use data
Last but not least, in addition to getting digestible reports with relevant messages, clients want raw data with all details in their preferred format in order for them to perform their own analysis and aggregate with other data (e.g. from other Asset Managers). This is far from being a market-wide standard offering.
How to address client expectations?
In our experience, the following points are key success factors for building a best-in-class reporting setup.
1. Streamline production processes / systems and create a unique global reporting factory
Reports production is usually performed in silos, i.e. one process per report. External providers can be entrusted with the production of some reports, while others are created internally. They are usually produced through different systems, when not done manually. All of this, obviously, leads to a lack of consistency on all levels.
An efficient set-up would rely on a unique global reporting engine with a principle of componentization/template library, which would improve data quality as well as consistency.
This kind of platform’s scalability would also lead to a minimal additional cost (and reduced implementation time) to include new reports and make changes to existing ones.
2. Internalize production as much as possible
Having full control over the production process and not relying on an asset servicer, but rather just on a best-in-class tool provider, definitely increases production/correction/evolution timeliness.
It also allows for an easier, more seamless integration into the overall digital strategy (e.g. providing reports and data through different channels).
Moreover, by avoiding relying on a one-size-fits-all application, client reporting remains a strategic differentiator.
3. Implement a clear governance
Having a clear, tight governance with one dedicated operational team in charge of the production, data quality control and maintenance will increase reactivity and, therefore, the timeliness of the production/correction/evolution cycles.
4. Define a standard offer of reports
It is key to define a standard offer (with an appealing look & feel) by tiers, client type and strategy well-adapted to each specificity, as well as to ensure its regular review thanks to client feedback and analytics measurement.
All client-facing teams should have thorough knowledge of the standard offer in order to always know what can be offered to which client, and to avoid requests for which addressing would require extra customization.
5. Provide insight instead of just data
“Less can be more”: dumping as much data as possible into client reports is definitely not the way to create a great client experience; clients will be appreciative if the Asset Manager takes them by the hand to walk down data lane.
This means it is key to use storytelling to convey relevant information. Thus, instead of displaying raw numbers (even as table, graph…), process this basic data and display it in a logical, meaningful and helpful way relying on visual data, commentaries and explanations, to provide added value, i.e. messages.
Moreover, to make it relevant to each recipient, reports should be adapted to display the level of detail and complexity suitable to each audience.
6. Use Natural Language Generation to automate commentary
Helping Portfolio Managers in the resource-intensive commentary drafting process by using Natural Language Generation as much as possible can alleviate one key bottleneck in the production process.
7. Increase the distribution options
Clients have different needs when it comes to how they get their reports/data, but overall they expect all basic forms of delivery modes to be offered:
- “Push” modes: e-mail, FTP, excel files with raw data with all details, each in their own preferred format;
- “Pull” modes: self-service portal to access pre-produced reports.
Beyond these, the main areas emerging for the future of reporting through a portal are:
- Possibility for clients to build their own reports, generate them on-demand and download data (to manipulate on their end) or set up exactly what should be sent to whom and when
- Interactive features allowing drilling data up and down, and look-through
- Access to data analytics tools
- Personalization and customization
- Use AI capabilities to perform cognitive marketing: analyze and understand customer behavior and preferences to adapt content. Thus, use cognitive content personalization tools to enable customization of reports and commentary so as to make them more relevant to the client.
- Use Natural Language Generation technology to personalize reporting at scale.
- Provide some key data and information (e.g. performance, holdings, risk indicators, commentaries) in “real-time”
- Alerts and personalized advice can also be provided as a great way to engage with clients (when significant changes on client portfolio occur or relevant opportunities arise) – this could also be done outside of the portal
- From there, beyond strictly reporting, enabling direct interaction with their client account manager through the portal becomes very pertinent
The limitation to obtaining a wide usage acceptance of these sophisticated self-service portals is that institutional clients investing with several asset management companies might not be inclined to have to familiarize themselves with numerous different client portals, especially since they would still be missing the key element for further asset allocation decisions, i.e. a consolidated view of all their portfolios.
One way to engage these clients could be to integrate reporting in a much larger picture by including it in a client portal offering more services that are otherwise offered through many different channels. Such a one-stop shop for all services to clients would bring the client experience to a whole new level, one that is becoming the new standard since more and more professionals expect to receive this kind of service (as they are already getting it in their personal life with their retail banks).
Another way to solve this potential issue could be providing these advanced functionalities to the asset manager’s client service teams, so they can easily address clients’ requests, in addition to providing access to truly interested clients in order to reduce the need for internal resources for servicing clients who could self-serve.
Beyond client satisfaction, reshaping client reporting triggers cost efficiency
Beyond client satisfaction improvement, implementing these kinds of changes can trigger significant savings on production costs. Savings come from:
- Automating manual production
- Internalizing costly outsourced production
- Using a unique reporting platform
- Increasing efficiency, notably by enabling workload transfer from investment teams to operations allowing them to focus on their core value-added duties
– The cornerstone of all this is building a modular, scalable and efficient solution.
– Concretely, it means implementing a reporting engine that allows end-to-end production processes to be automated as much as possible, as well as being designed to industrialize the flexibility intended to be offered to clients.
End-to-end automation is key to becoming insensitive to reporting volumes and frequencies. It should encompass all steps from preparation, production to publication:
- Straight-through data collection and processing
- Automated data validation processes to highlight exceptions in the data
- Automated scheduling (to produce reports for any frequency)
- Integrated commentary management (automated collection and inclusion on the report)
- Dynamic report rendering that can dynamically adapt depending on rules on client, fund, data, language, region…
- Minimal manual involvement in the validation of generated reports thanks to a master/child logic (the validation of a representative sample automatically validates similar ones)
- Automated distribution and storage of the produced reports
How can we help?
We have led the reshaping of the client reporting framework for a major asset management firm, including standard fund reporting and institutional reporting. We would be more than happy to further explain our insights and our best practices to make a difference!