Data & Technology approaches in a fast-paced Investment Management environment

Having correct and up-to-date data and strong teams are paramount to being successful in the investment management industry. Not all teams in Marketing are large and budgets are usually tight, so navigating all these obstacles can be tricky. Data and how we receive it is constantly changing and staying abreast of these changes and making use of automated tools to overcome those challenges can give you a real advantage.  

Ahead of the TSAM East coast conference Patrick McKenna from Kurtosys and Ryan Glister from Transamerica discussed why it is worth investing in data skills in an investment management marketing team and what typical obstacles one must consider in this environment.  

Who is who

Amy Malkani, Senior Conference Producer at Foxon Media facilitated the introduction of the participants: Patrick McKenna, Chief Product Officer and Chief Revenue Officer at Kurtosys and Ryan Glister, the Senior Director of Marketing Technology and Operations at Transamerica. Ryan is responsible for a variety of technologies within the Distribution team. Ryan works in the individual solutions area, ie mutual funds, annuities and insurance. His responsibilities include but are not limited to, the publication of marketing content such as content management on the web, Salesforce, Marketing cloud emails and the distribution of those as well as Salesforce enablement tools.  

With the support of Kurtosys, he is responsible for the publication of performance data on a daily, monthly, and quarterly basis for annuities, mutual funds, and money market businesses.  

You can watch the full video below (19min): 

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It is all about data and people 

Ryan mentioned that while his team is quite small, they deal with some rather complex sourcing and disseminating of data and have managed to successfully implement both marketing and client reporting projects. It’s worth noting that a lot of data comes from external managers. Ryan unpacked some of his insights and the challenges of how they built their infrastructure, lessons learnt and improvements that can be made.  

One of the biggest challenges of implementing a solution like this is to build a new solution while maintaining data integrity at all times.  

You need to have people embedded within your marketing team that have those skills and capabilities who understand data and be able to do those cleanliness checks and extract, transform, load type tasks.
Ryan Glister
Ryan Glister
Senior Director of Marketing Technology and Operations Transamerica

You are always going to have some data that lacks good format and precision. Without some strong data capabilities inside the team you’ll have to turn to outside sources. This in turn will most likely cause you to have a tough time managing it in a timely fashion. Pat mentioned that a lot of companies, especially in the US still work off flat files without automation in place. For the annuities side especially, the data itself is related to the product and death benefit and therefore drives the return on those accounts. The proliferation of results give us about thirty-thousand different possible combinations on the backend. You will never get to your result just using flat files,” according to Ryan.  

A culture shift

“It is a really progressive cultural model to have that technology skill embedded in a marketing team. Was it culturally challenging to put in place?” asked Pat. 

Ryan responded “It was not there before but I could apply my knowledge from a previous situation here. I had previously worked at Western Union in Global Operations and here I kicked off their integration of data around their agent locations and multiple products. The various products had historically been disjointed and they ran as their own business. They did not view a singular location as one location.  

I then worked with someone to bring that data together as a larger initiative. The mindset of having someone who can bring the data and transform it is fundamentally what you are looking for with your mutual fund data. Because you might get your contributors and detractors from Morningstar which is what we do, and some daily performance from State Street Bank and get data from our sub advisors. It ties into the methodology of needing some way of identifying that each of those data elements by means of a global key, be able to transform them so they are consistent, and be able to load them on the backend on Kurtosys so you can unify your publication.” 

Pace of adopting innovative technology

Patrick comments on how other industries look at our industry and we are often seen as “forward looking” in terms of data and technology. But there are some instances where firms have been slower to adopt that technological skill set in Marketing. For that reason we bring in people who have that data literacy here at Kurtosys. Because we understand that there are so many touch points out there that we need to bring together. It’s now more commonly seen that marketing teams are adopting something like Snowflake to bring together all of their analytical data. Adopting more of those hybrid skill sets with people coming in who can speak the language of api’s and connecting things together and being able to demonstrate that ROI is becoming more important as well.  

ROI is the end game 

Ryan mentions Altrx and Datastage as some tools he deems a necessity in this day and age to bring together disparate data sources. Patrick asks Ryan for some insights aimed at those watching and listening who are perhaps in a similar position. Those who run marketing teams in US investment firms perhaps running SMA strategies and mutual fund strategies, often with minimal budgets. How do you demonstrate the ROI to build out an investment data capability into a team like his, and how does he build out that roadmap? Ryan responded that while the suite of content being produced increased about five times, the team now manages reporting and web requirements without any IT support, and the turnaround time is about 2 weeks faster every quarter. Ultimately giving the sales team about 8 extra weeks of selling time every year.  It does take time to build this up, for people to learn the tools, understand the workflows and do the ETL. You must have a great team behind you and Ryan feels very fortunate to have that.  

Varying outcomes for different regions

Patrick mentions how ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) is one of the biggest trends now. Interestingly and perhaps surprisingly, Ryan said that the adoption of technologies in ESG is slower in the States than you would expect. They have not really seen that much in the US compared to Europe. But he does see more frequent requests to publish updates on things like commentary and broader stroke overviews.  

He mentions topics like inflation, the war on Ukraine, Covid that are driving the need for these updates – factors that drive the type of funds that people want to buy and the risk tolerance to those events. So, there is a need to publish more updates more frequently the marketing team is looking how to support the business in that regard. This ties back to the earlier mention of avoiding being in a sales meeting with incorrect or outdated information, especially compared to your competitors.  

Kurtosys is always thinking about how new technology is going to be changing within marketing. The emergence of Snowflake is something that is going to change the game for lots of firms in how they disseminate data.
Patrick McKenna
Patrick McKenna
Chief Revenue Officer & Chief Product Officer at Kurtosys

The good news is with the tool set that they have, they have the capability to do it provided they have the data and enough tech capacity. Having this tool is great to roll out but keeping in mind you still have QA and compliance before you can publish. So, there is a bit of work to do even when you have all the automation set up. The secondary part of that discussion is “Are we fit and able to maintain a cadence if it now monthly vs it used to be quarterly”? 

In summary, according to Patrick, having the fundamentals in place to be able to deal with the variety of data and incorporating those into reports and then distributing them efficiently is key.  

Where were we? 

Patrick McKenna, CPO and CRO here at Kurtosys, attended TSAM (The Summit for Asset Management) East Coast along with our CEO Lee Godfrey and Claire de Kock, Senior Business Success Consultant. Patrick also participated as a speaker, discussing topics such as “How can an integrated marketing platform address inconsistencies and enable sales efficiency?” and “Leveraging automation to improve investor communications.” during the fireside chat right after. 

The Kurtosys team were proud to once again be sponsoring the TSAM (The Summit for Asset Management) on the East Coast on Thursday 6 October, the day was packed with networking, collaboration, and interesting discussions with leading investment management firms and the teams behind them.  

If you would like to learn more about Kurtosys and the events that we are a part of or just want to get in touch to find out more about what we do, you canget in touchtoday.