A “Data Problem” Grew This Advisor’s AUM by $1.5M

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Certain “data problems” are actually growing advisory businesses.

A typical Thursday morning.

new york city viewIt’s a typical Thursday morning in New York City as one experienced financial advisor begins his day. Logging into his new portfolio monitoring dashboard, the advisor notices one of his clients’ accounts is reporting a doubled value. Sigh… a data problem.

He sends a quick email to the software company, “Double-counting of account today… Can you look into it?” He’s left hoping they fix their numbers before the client notices the mistake in his online portal.

But the double value wasn’t ever fixed. And that’s the best part.

The bigger issue.

Let’s address the bigger issue at hand here: Financial advisors have been conditioned to mistrust surprising data. “Notable increase in my AUM? Argh, this data’s messed up.”

An environment in which an uptick in AUM triggers a “what’s wrong” email instead of a celebratory dinner feels twisted to me.

Unfortunately, data wariness is still justified. The frequency with which inaccurate numbers fly across your desk is still too high. Plus, some level of data error is inevitable, so it’s always wise to apply human logic.

But have we grown too complacent with routinely messy data? Isn’t all this data cleaning slowing down your business? Don’t we deserve to trust the numbers in front of us? THIS is the bigger issue of the story.

Here’s what happened.

For now, let’s go back to NYC. Turns out, the doubled account wasn’t fixed because it wasn’t wrong. It was an increase in AUM. The doubling of his client’s assets was simply assumed to be a “data problem” because this kind of AUM growth is still a new concept to most advisors today.

How can unexpected growth in AUM happen? 5 words: Account aggregation plus client portal. Here’s what happened. The client logged into his Blueleaf portal and added an additional $1.5 million to the platform. He did it without instruction and without being asked. The advisor played no role. The client wanted to see a more complete picture of his finances, so he added more accounts to his portal. And now for the first time the advisor can see it all, too.

The moral of the story is to pause and enjoy good data. There may be times when an assumed “data problem” is actually just your business growing in new, organic ways.

Two quick pieces of advice:

  • Self-service means unexpected increases in AUM may be correct

If you encounter an unexpected increase in AUM, don’t immediately assume the data’s wrong. Pause to consider how changes in your business or client-facing technology may have led to a true spike in your AUM. Self-service platforms may mean that the change is “too good, but true”.

  • Getting a complete financial picture is much easier

When you know Mr. Client has an additional $1.5million in assets elsewhere, you’ll be less surprised to see it pop up in his client portal on “a typical Thursday morning.” Encourage your clients to add all their assets and liabilities so you can get the complete picture and be a true financial partner.

Carolyn is Blueleaf’s in-house marketing guru. She writes on The Blueleaf Blog to make advisors’ lives easier, offering practice management and client engagement tips where and when they’re useful. Outside of the Blueleaf offices, she can be found running a 10k or cooking her famous chili. Chat LIVE with Carolyn on Twitter @BlueleafAdvisor!