Super funds and fund managers should be using data visualisation to improve their client communications, argues JP Morgan Investor Services head of eSolutions William Fraser.
Data visualisation is simply telling a story with data: an efficient way of conveying a business narrative to an audience.
In one form or another, data visualisation has been around for hundreds of years.
But what has changed in the last decade is that the total quantity of data available has grown hugely.
Data visualisation is about using data to capture, structure and present valuable insights.
A picture tells a thousand words when it, simply and powerfully, conveys information that is directly relevant to the reader.
Data visualisation works with both internal and external audiences, and goes hand in hand with efficient management of data.
It can help super funds and investment managers deal with a range of challenges that they face such as: rapid growth in asset bases; volatile markets; increasing regulation; downward pressure on fees; and, perhaps most crucially, disengaged members.
The bigger picture of data visualisation
A focus on data, specifically big data, has taken centre stage across the financial services sector over recent years.
As organisations contemplate the journey from data to analysis and then presentation, the power of these large pools of data is becoming more widely understood.
Speaking at a recent JP Morgan panel, Deloitte Digital director Nathan Birch noted that according to IBM 63 per cent of organisations realise that a competitive advantage comes from information and analytics.
Most organisations already have access to the data they need for analysis and presentation through data visualisation.
Presentation of insights, though, is perhaps not so well understood.
Too often, users of information – such as the members of super funds – complain of information overload.
They find that the information that is delivered to them is too cluttered, too complicated and not sufficiently intuitive.
Consumers want an experience that is simple and personal, involving insights that they really need to know.
Curiously, engagement is not necessarily the same as trust. For example, customers of some financial institutions engage with their providers continually, but do not necessarily trust them.
Nevertheless, retail financial brands are successfully using data visualisation to influence their customers' expectations.
On the flip side, super funds' members are more likely to trust their funds, but often do not actively engage with them.
“Data visualisation is using data to tell a story, and simply. It can provide a very strong narrative, whether to internal or external audiences,” Mr Birch said.
The practical issues of managing data
Most organisations, including super funds and investment managers, are structured in such a way that they draw data from multiple and disparate sources, using enterprise software that comes from various providers.
Small Multiple director Andrea Lau, who spoke alongside Mr Birch at the JP Morgan panel, said: "It's important to treat these data sources, along with content, in an efficient manner. Having a 'single point of truth' and the right tools to interpret the data is much more important than having big data."
The single 'source of truth' should be recognised as such by all key stakeholders within the organisation. They should understand that correlations between two disparate sets of data, if they exist, can be identified quite easily.
Looking forward, the single 'source of truth' provides one platform that facilitates data visualisation, and the presentation of insights in an attractive and useful way.
The single 'source of truth' needs to be technology agnostic. This means that once data has been analysed, the insights can be disseminated through any of a number of channels – for example, an app on a mobile device, a print document or website.
The objective is to create a data graphic once, but publish it everywhere.
It is also important to differentiate between analysis and communication. Analysis tends to focus on big data.
Data visualisation involves the analysts' identification of small data that is suitable for presentation either internally or externally.
Communication involves simplification and 'hand-holding' to ensure that the audience is not intimidated by the data.
Often data will need additional content to make it more readily digestible by the audience.
Something that just cannot be ignored
Data visualisation is something that Australian super funds and investment managers – like all businesses – cannot ignore.
Adoption of data visualisation may be driven by the chief marketing officer, if it is primarily focused on members or other people outside the organisation.
It may be driven by the chief financial officer, if it is primarily focused on people within the organisation.
However, it should become a part of the culture of the entire organisation.
William Fraser is head of eSolutions at JP Morgan Investor Services, Australia and New Zealand.
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