Financial services firms and money management executives face an emerging issue that represents both an opportunity and a potential threat: How to leverage extremely large data sets, now termed "big data," to proactively manage risk, improve the customer experience and identify market opportunities.

The implications of big data for financial organizations are wide-ranging.

Research by MGI and McKinsey & Company's Business Technology Office suggests that big data has the potential to unlock significant value for firms that find ways to capitalize on the massive amounts of stored transactional data as well as the exponential growth in data shared via social media and the Internet.

On the other hand, big data poses a significant risk for business leaders who ignore it, as it can also provide the competition with an unparalleled ability to identify trends, make better decisions, and improve product offerings and customer relationships.

Big Data And The Client Experience

Consider the implications of big data for the customer experience.

The amount of information captured and stored in financial firms about customers, including their transaction and customer service histories, preferred communication channels, financial data and more is staggering.

Add to that the information customers share themselves via survey feedback, social media and other online and offline sources and it soon becomes clear that the data is readily available to create highly individualized and accurate customer profiles that hold the potential to dramatically improve the customer experience.

However, addressing the complexities of big data for the benefit of your organization's customers will require careful consideration of data workflows.

Typically, information relevant to the customer experience is not universally shared within the organization.

Instead, financial firms are faced with a multitude of relevant but separated data sources, from sales and marketing to customer service, information technology and many other front and back office functions. These data sources are typically contained in numerous long-standing applications and systems.

In order to manage this information, solutions are needed that enable your organization to easily access all relevant data and aggregate these multiple, disparate data streams. Another important consideration is whether the solution can accept data in its raw state, avoiding the expensive and time-consuming process of preparing the data before any analytics or repurposing can be accomplished.

Benefits Of Big Data

Big data provides financial organizations with an unprecedented opportunity to improve customer experience through highly personalized and targeted communications. Designing a robust customer communication management program will help achieve number of important organizational objectives:

* Improving the customer experience with personalized information. Highly personalized communications have a proven track record when it comes to dramatically improving the customer experience. Mining existing data will allow your organization, for example, to use the white space on your statements to send a targeted message that will help customers better understand your available financial products as well as their bills, statements, and related correspondence.

You can choose to implement a customer communications management solution that also customizes data with regard to layout, graphical workflow, color management, and even content collaboration for easy-to-understand statements and correspondence. Such an approach will enable business users to access existing customer data, extract it, reformat it and recompose it with other targeted data to create highly personalized color communications with variable images, marketing messages, dynamic graphs and more. These communications can be produced for print or digital channels without the need to touch any of the backend systems and processes or enlist information technology support.

Implementing this kind of customer communication management program will reduce confusion and customer service calls, promote education and build loyalty. Production costs will also be reduced by eliminating the need to produce separate communications as well as decreasing the time required to get to market with new programs and services.

* Meeting delivery preferences. One important way to improve customer experience is to determine and follow individual communication preferences. Whether a customer prefers to communicate via paper (mail), electronic (e-mail, Internet, social media), mobile devices, or a combination of these channels, being able to meet these delivery preferences is quickly becoming an expectation rather than an option.

* Managing processes and content. Brand management and compliance with legal and regulatory standards are priorities that make the need for a secure, collaborative document creation environment essential. This environment should enable management of the processes, users and roles, interfaces, and updating methods for a variety of communications channels.

* Enhanced time-to-market with new offerings. With the right customer communications management program, your organization will be able to repurpose existing customer data and quickly tailor communications to take advantage of new market opportunities or introduce new product offerings.

Michael Watts is chief operating officer of GMC Software Technology, a provider of document services for customer communication.

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