3 ½ Ways to Make More Time for Research

Less Organizing, More Research: In Search of Analyst Productivity

Knowledge workers spend a disproportionate amount of time searching for information, rather than using, analyzing and creating it. In an industry where your main capital is knowledge, that can be a pretty costly oversight.

According to an IDC report, 36% of a typical knowledge worker’s day is spent looking for and consolidating information spread across a variety of systems. Few places is this more pronounced than in the Investment Management industry, where research analysts can spend hours searching-out fund data, trawling through notes across disparate systems and organizing ideas.

When it comes to pre-trade activities, outdated Research Management Systems (RMS), siloed data repositories and complex processes deprive research analysts of the tools they need to get on with the job at hand, which is generate investment ideas that make the fund money.

So it should come as no surprise that analysts are proactively seeking out connected and easy to use software that will give them the freedom they need to get stuff done.

It’s why the day-to-day consumer software they rely on in their personal lives – such as Dropbox and Evernote – has crept in to the workplace. It’s why they refuse to use proprietary RMS, or are frustrated – and often vocal – when they’re forced to. It’s one of the reasons compliance officers have a hard time keeping a handle on fragmented data management processes for record-keeping.

It’s also why finding new ways to integrate people, process and technology to harness the institutional value of research now tops the list of priorities for many hedge fund CTOs.

Research analysts could be your ultimate technology consumer, but to make sure they’re using the secure and compliant technology you provide them with, and not that which they’ve dug out of their personal App Stores, funds need to provide a user experience that fits with their professional workflow and meets their productivity needs.

Here are three (and a half) of the most common factors we’ve found make a big difference to boosting our client’s research analyst productivity:

1. Breakdown silos

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Removing data silos and enabling collaboration is the first step to accelerating investment research tasks.

Whether you’re using a locally installed content management suite, custom-built RMS or more informal “hacks” (combining spreadsheets and consumer-oriented tools), it’s nearly impossible to avoid data fragmentation, disorganization and inconsistencies.

One of the biggest productivity breakthroughs with our clients, stems from when the mind-set shifts from using a set of systems to upload and store individual research information, to creating a unified research environment that analysts can work within, integrate their workflows with, and collaborate from.

2. Automate tedious tasks

It’s often the small tasks that can be the most time consuming.

By automating, or semi-automating, the admin-based tasks that frustrate and distract investment professionals day-to-day you create more time to focus on what counts – research. A solution that takes care of versioning automatically, for example, takes away one of the most tedious tasks for analysts, and when you build in easy roll-back and accessibility to that, you also eliminate the worry around accidental data loss associated with it.

Other automated techniques such as providing templates to create reusable note structures (like an outline for an earnings call), snippets for common content, and keyboard shortcuts for simple note and report formatting, means analysts can get their thoughts down quicker and with less hassle. And it’s just as important to quickly find research, which is where our clients tell us auto-tagging and auto-indexing via companies, countries, authors and other properties helps them spend less time organizing and searching and more time thinking and doing.

3. Make data accessible, everywhere

If your analysts are mobile, so must their research be.

There’s no point in having a data repository of any kind if analysts cannot easily access or create the information they need, when they need it, on whichever device they’re using. Whether note-taking in a meeting, reviewing thesis information on the plane or collaborating on an idea on the way to the office, enabling analysts to capture information at source, and share information and ideas when it matters, really matters. And it’s making it easy for them to do so that really counts.

To push productivity wherever your analysts need it, you need more than an iPad and a VPN or a selection of consumer tools. This is where integrated note-taking combined with a database and CRM that’s consistent and synced across all devices really comes into its own – providing the single, integrated experience that gives analysts the ability to get stuff down and focus on the task in hand, wherever and whenever.

3 ½Simplify compliance

We all know you cannot begin to build a research productivity environment until you’re confident in the compliance and security posture of the technology.

While it may not directly deal with analyst workflow (hence the half) avoiding research management tools that restrict the user experience for compliance is key.  Your analysts do care about maintaining the fund’s compliance and security integrity, but are reluctant to let that come at the expense of their own time, productivity and performance.

A unified research environment with versioning, logging and archiving automatically taken care of, takes away the pain and chore of compliance for analysts; they don’t have to worry about where and how they’re saving information, if it’s been recorded or about creating back ups for every change. For analyst productivity, this ‘out of the box’ compliance approach means they can be confident they’re going about their research in a way that doesn’t put the fund at risk, without having to change the way they deal with data or adding time-consuming processes along the way. It also means compliance and IT are not tracking their every move and breathing down their necks, which is a big relief for everyone involved.

In a knowledge critical, research intensive environment where labor costs run at their highest, it’s hard to believe that poor user experience and subpar productivity should ever be an option.

Research analysts just want to get on with their job and generate returns for the fund – and if there is one overriding objective for hedge fund technology at the front-end, it is to let them. When competition for attracting capital is fiercer than ever, it will be the technology that enables your analysts to perform at their best that wins out.

This article was first published on Bobsguide.