How can financial firms use big data to get ahead of the competition?

Of all the sectors that stand to benefit from the digital revolution that is taking place in many businesses at the moment, one area set to enjoy particular advantages is the financial services industry.

This has always been an especially data-heavy sector, and with more powerful – and more affordable – technologies now available to collate, store and analyse this information more effective, it promises to open up a new world of insight for finance and insurance professionals.

It was noted by Investment News that for advisers, the outcome of these big data analytics initiatives should be to improve financial planning processes for their clients and ensure their firm's profitability can be boosted through better business practices.

So far, discussions surrounding big data have tended to focus on its promise, rather than its reality. However, the next year or so will see many enterprises roll out capabilities that can make sense of their vast collections of data – and this is set to give advisers a leg up over peers who lack such insight.

Paul Rowady, director of data and analytics for TABB Group, told the publication: "Financial advisers should be using data to find patterns, give better advice and develop more specific profiles for clients. By harvesting more out of data, firms will be able to serve market segments that are currently beyond their reach."

For instance, LPL Financial is set to roll out a pilot project that will seek to improve its client management processes which, if successful, should be rolled out to all its advisers by the autumn.

Victor Fetter, chief information officer at the company, explained it will bring together all layers of client data from multiple accounts and aggregate it for the adviser, so they can better understand portfolio performance and improve client service.

A professional would, for example, be able to apply a filter that will automatically identify clients with remaining required distributions or those whose cash positions have exceeded 20 per cent – tasks that would previously have been very time-consuming.

He added the solution will deliver "hours of productivity gains" as well as improve client outcomes. "We're talking about using big data to help find better insights and make more appropriate and more informed decisions," Mr Fetter said. 

The next phase of the project is also expected to allow advisers to run Monte Carlo simulations and receive alerts when a portfolio drops out of that simulation, because some condition has changed.

It was even suggested by Investment News that big data could help financial advisers in other, more surprising ways. For example, it stated that with the advent of Internet of Things solutions and healthcare monitoring technology, clients could be offered a much more accurate long-term portfolio.

Joel Bruckenstein, a technology consultant to financial firms, said: "If you know both clients are likely to have a shorter life expectancy, their portfolio is going to look very different. It's planning for 20 years versus 40 years."