Data in, data out
We're helping one of our Members plan ahead for retirement. On a personal level, I almost cannot get my head around the concept of 'retiring': we are always so busy, and there is always so much more left to do, that the idea of stopping that 'doing' seems almost unnatural. However, circumstances change and we change, so it pays to be flexible about what the future may look like.
In the meantime, as we seek to help our Member with his own plans, it has been interesting to explore the useful reporting functionality at the heart of Clarity, our network-wide practice-management system. It is true to say that, as more (accurate) data goes onto the system, and as we call become more fluent with the embedded reporting functionality, there is more and more valuable information to be extracted.
The Funds Under Management report is helpful, providing users have taken the time to ensure that client valuations are updated. It may come as something of a surprise to see just how much we have responsibility for, in terms of client investments. By the way, ValidPath Members, in aggregate, are responsible for something in excess of £712m of client assets. Of course, running the report also indicates where those assets are being held, which is a useful exercise in highlighting legacy investments which are no longer relevant or suitable for the client, perhaps where cumulative M&A activity over a number of years has effectively derailed your clients' own objectives and wealth-building needs. Sometimes, running this kind of report is needed in order to shock us out of complacency, and realise that serious work is required to rescue clients from dead-end funds that are parked somewhere in the sidings, no longer in a position to go anywhere meaningful.
But there's more...
The RMAR report provides the kind of snapshot of data which would be helpful if you were preparing a Gabriel return. Of course, ValidPathers don't have to worry about that kind of nihilistic, mind-numbing activity, but it is actually quite useful to have summarised analysis of, say, clawback data - or a breakdown of turnover across the various categories of financial instrument.
The Commission Received Summary report provides a useful breakdown of historic revenues. It is easily-customisable to help you analyse the spread across product-types, but it also tells you about the different kinds of revenue stream that your firm receives. Sometimes, there are useful surprises to be discovered here - such as the realisation that one's business may be more dependent upon recurring revenues than one had previously anticipated.
As with all such things, the quality of what you get out is directly proportional to the quality of what goes in! A minimalistic approach to data entry is as unhelpful for the IFA, seeking to understand his or her own business, as it is for that same IFA when he or she seeks to deliver financial planning advice to clients. It is perhaps no surprise that weaknesses in this area degrade the Adviser's own Management Information, as much as they degrade the delivery of good financial outcomes to our customers.