Everyone talks about the power of Big Data. We are told these huge volumes of continuously
generated data, if appropriately analysed, have the potential to help address business problems that
it was not possible to tackle previously. Unsurprisingly such a possibility is exciting a lot of business
So, what about the, let’s call it “Small Data”, that already exists both in raw state and in information
form? Can we say, hand on heart, that we are making full use of that to drive our organisations
In the case of investors and asset owners the answer to this question is certainly yes. For many years
macroeconomic data allied to the numbers and information on the companies that make up our
investment universe have been the staple diet on which they have fed. As economies and markets
have increased in complexity, so we have witnessed huge growth in a myriad of suppliers to these
investors and asset owners focused on ensuring this data gets to the end user whilst providing the
added value of analysis and insight.
More recently, and especially in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, mathematicians and
physicists have taken centre stage. These risk management experts, or “brains-on-sticks” as I once
heard them uncharitably described, have made an enormous contribution to the way we think about
how asset owners and their suppliers make decisions that impact upon the well being of millions of
savers and pension fund members.
Which begs the question why our industry seems to apply so little of this scientific rigour to thinking
about how its customers are feeling? Thankfully we have moved on from the attitude that says, “I
know my customers so well that I’m totally in touch with how satisfied they feel”. Yet our industry
seems strangely reluctant to invest time and effort in the compilation of meaningful customer satisfaction data. For if it is possible to generate data that would help ascertain how our clients feel
about us, why would we not do that? Furthermore, if it were also possible for us to evaluate how
that satisfaction level compares to the general market trend, surely that would be a potential source
of invaluable competitive advantage that any organisation would want to obtain?
But equally, it is clear that such data and the information that flows from it, cannot of itself be
depended upon to deliver success. Rather the critical element to consider is what should be done
with it? To maximise its benefit, the truly successful organisations will want to gather all possible
insights concerning how customers feel about them, even when this may involve having to face
some uncomfortable home truths. The really switched on organisations will be those turning “Small
Data” into the biggest of all competitive advantages – strong customer loyalty resulting from the
implementation of successful retention strategies.