How to identify and manage data versus content
Martha Fee, Chief Operating Officer, Northern Trust, and David Bender, Associate Director of Digital, Fiera Real Estate, offer tips and insights on how to best manage data.
Fund Operator Editor POSTED ON 6/22/2023 8:00:00 AM
The line between what counts as data versus content – and what this distinction means for operations teams – is not always crystal clear.
Using, sorting, and monitoring data, as opposed to content, is also an issue that many organisations still struggle with, said Martha Fee, Chief Operating Officer, Northern Trust, and David Bender, Associate Director of Digital, Fiera Real Estate.
Their comments were featured in a recent Clear Path Analysis report, “Evolving client reporting to drive growth”, written in collaboration with Instinct Digital. Fee and Bender were part of a roundtable debate that included several industry leaders in the digital and data sphere of operations for fund operators discussing the challenges and solutions around creating optimal client reporting structures.
The panellists were each asked about their respective digitisation journeys – and how they would recommend differentiating between ‘data’ and ‘content’ whilst ensuring both were utilised in beneficial ways.
The consensus seemed to be that ‘content’ was more narrative than ‘data’. However, Bender disagreed, saying that, in his view, “it’s all data”. He added that, “any information you can structure in a digital format that can be stored is data.”
This view means that anything that can be analysed in some capacity and packaged for consumption – whether it’s a project narrative, report presentation, internal communication, marketing materials, or images – can be considered ‘data’.
However, Bender said that operations leaders need to ask themselves if their organisations can actually leverage unstructured text data in a way that adds value. If they don’t yet have the capacity to do so, it’s important they recognise their limitations. “Usually the answer is ‘no’, because the focus is on structured data sets,” he said.
“The focus is on structured data sets. [Unstructured data sets are] something we could analyse to drive decision making – but we just aren’t there yet.”
Bender added that he was still seeing a lot of instances in which data sets were unstructured and without clearly digestible text. “Sometimes, unstructured data might mean data that we are getting from one of our partners which is a structure that is completely different from another partner, and we need to be able to map them together in order to make use of them,” he said when asked about specific difficulties.
“It’s something we could analyse to drive decision making – but we just aren’t there yet,” he noted.
Fee’s definition of data hinged more on the specific context and product in question. Wrangling data, she said, is always a challenge – and one that should be dealt with differently depending on the situation.
For example, “if you are looking at Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) information and you are trying to produce your European ESG Templates (EET), you will have information where you are going to have numbers, percentages and other factors that have to go into these reports,” she said.
This means you have to keep pace with change when feeding documents in to EET, she added – which is not an easy task.
Where are solutions?
Fee and Bender said that when it came to finding concrete solutions, strategy was more than just company culture; it also critically included partnership and resource allocation.
“Having a warehouse or partnering with vendors who have dashboards that can track that information is key.”
“Having a warehouse or partnering with vendors who have dashboards that can track that information is key,” said Fee. “You need to ensure you are tracking changes as you will then have to speak with different stakeholders, from lawyers to the reporting team, to the product team.”
This process, Fee said, would typically require a dashboard of some kind, where teams could see when information was last edited, by who, and what changes were made.
One driving factor for these changes, she added, was the regulatory landscape. “Being able to track this through with technology is key, which we are seeing with the tsunami of regulations,” she said.
“Translating all of this disclosure right through to your website is a challenge.”
However, there were still downsides and pain points. The pair agreed that sorting through, translating, and interpreting all of this information was a massive headache.
“It’s not just about the data that you historically might house in your investment book of records but the information you might later have in your product documents and perspectives. Translating all of this disclosure right through to your website is a challenge,” Fee said.
To see more from this conversation, and read the report in full, please click here.
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