However you want to say it, it appears to be true and evident across many areas of our lives as a result of the global pandemic.
Some examples of innovation include, where distilleries switch to manufacture hand sanitiser rather than gin, we see companies and individuals manufacturing face coverings to meet global demand. We see innovation in how restaurants and bars can re-open during the pandemic and accommodate the social distancing rules to ensure safety of their patrons. This is all the “new normal” and businesses have to adapt to the new way of working else they will cease to exist.
In financial services we see innovation too, we see investment firms continuing to operate, but rather than the workforce being in the office, the people are working from home. Many firms struggled with this in the first few weeks of lock-down, but the initial issues have been largely overcome and “business as usual” began to take shape again.
However, for some investment firms it’s still not “business as usual”; the operations and processes just don’t work so well with a distributed team. In many cases the processes probably didn’t actually work particularly well prior to the lock-down and the pandemic has simply highlighted and exacerbated the situation. For these firms, they need to innovate and improve, for many other investment firms they have used this time to reflect and simply want to improve their efficiency and productivity.
Many operational areas are strong candidates for improvements in efficiency and productivity. But perhaps none more so than investment reporting – the production of client reports and fund factsheets. After all, these reports are often the main form of communication a firm has with clients and their investors – and given these unpredictable and volatile times, client communication has never been more important.
Whether the reports are required on a monthly or quarterly basis, or on an ad-hoc basis for investor meetings, or to support a sales pitch, the principles are the same – the reports should be complete, accurate, timely and tailored to suit each client.
Investment firms need to be able to produce, check and distribute reports in a short time period. The reporting system needs to operate efficiently whether the team members and content contributors are at home, in the office or split between the two.
3 areas that we see as critical to facilitating innovation in investment reporting are as follows;
- The cloud
- Automated workflow
- User access and control
Taking each in turn;
The cloud provides secure, accessible and scalable processing power and storage. It is managed and supported by a team of domain experts and is typically significantly cheaper than an equivalent in-house solution. The scalability is (probably) infinite and certainly provides sufficient processing power and capacity to produce reports to your schedule and timeframe. When huge processing scale isn’t required, the capacity can be reduced, along with the costs too, until the next time the scale is required.
Automated workflow – this is key to producing complete, accurate reports, at scale, tailored for each client or fund. The automated workflow allows the reporting team to collaborate and contribute to ensure all the reporting elements are gathered and the final reports are produced on time every time. Automated workflow means the system does the hard work not the reporting team, it also allows for a full audit trail to be produced for each report. This also brings clarity to the process, such that each step in the reporting process is clearly documented and evidenced. It also allows for proper management and oversight of the reporting process, such that the entire report production process and each individual report within that process can be tracked against its schedule, with any exceptions being automatically highlighted to management.
User access; this sounds obvious, but all users of the reporting process should have access to the system. Having the system hosted in the cloud means that system access is simple and via a standard browser, and is easily accessed from the home office, or from the work building. I highlighted the words “all users” in the earlier sentence, because we find that some firms don’t have a system that all the users can log in to and contribute. If you’re passing hard copy papers and reports around the reporting team members or swapping emails – you need to take action sooner rather than later – you are running a significant risk of missing or losing a report or sending one out wrong.
They say that “necessity is the mother of invention”, and thus many reporting systems will require significant enhancements to deliver the core innovations now required by the industry. Do not underestimate the scale of the job – some are fundamental design points, and “patching up” an old system simply won’t work.
However, you don’t need to wait, the invention already exists and is available now. Reporting as a Service® customers have been enjoying these benefits, and more, for the last 6 years.
Reporting as a Service is a cloud-based system that provides investment firms with a complete end to end client and fund reporting solution, that is flexible, scalable and future-proof. The solution allows users to manage and control the entire process and produce reports of the highest quality for their clients and investors.