Jan 11, 2022

In my colorfully titled blog post a few weeks ago, Clients Want Custom Reports ─ You Don’t. What Can You Do?, I wrote about the ways your firm can reduce the number of custom reports it creates. In the post, I covered what client reporting leaders can do to be more efficient and effective without investing in a client reporting tool. Certainly, those best practices can help reduce the number of custom reports your firm needs to contend with. However, if you want to get serious about client reporting ─ improving both your client reporting function and your clients’ experience ─ you’re going to need to invest in a modern client reporting tool. In fact, based on our 2020 Client Reporting Benchmarking survey, most participating firms use a dedicated reporting tool.

Most Firms Surveyed Use a Dedicated Reporting Tool

For those firms without a dedicated reporting tool, or those considering changing vendors, I’ll review the main features provided by the major reporting tool vendors.

I’ll review the following features:

  • Data Collection
  • Components
  • Templates
  • Distribution
  • Management

Data Collection

Firms that don’t have a fully functioning reporting system can struggle with collecting structured data (i.e., numeric) and unstructured data (i.e., text and images) and often struggle to produce accurate reports. Firms without a vendor solution can struggle with the manual collection of data (e.g., performance, holdings, benchmark, characteristics) from various sources such as databases, spreadsheets, and internal systems. Manual collection incurs more risk and therefore firms must employ more exhaustive data validation and review processes.

How vendor tools help with data collection

Vendor solutions assist in data collection through defined interfaces, automation, and process oversight.

Common vendor data collection capabilities include the following:

  • Connects to, or imports structured data from, most industry systems, almost every data repository, and file formats commonly in use
  • Automates data collection through schedules and triggers (structured) and workflows (unstructured)
  • Provides data load error notifications and remediation methods


Components are the elements assembled to create a report. Examples include charts, tables, and text. Without a vendor tool, firms must manually construct all the components in reports. For standard reports, this is not terribly difficult. However, supporting custom reports manually is quite labor-intensive and error-prone. Clients, especially institutions, want their reports a certain way and require specific data elements and formats. Without a vendor tool, meeting client custom reporting requirements is time-intensive. Frankly, it’s a bit of a nightmare.

Vendor solutions have a feature called parameterization, which provides flexibility because the component can be preconfigured to render a component based on a client’s requirements. When properly designed, a single component can render in dozens of different ways ─ with different data elements and modified formats (text, column chart, bar chart, doughnut chart, etc.). It’s a bit like letting your clients order a pizza only with the toppings they like and none of the ones they don’t.

The practical reality is parameterization greatly reduces the number of custom reports a firm must create each cycle. This in turn helps you deliver reports to clients faster.

How vendor tools improve components

  • Components are preconfigured to provide options to meet the most common client requirements
  • Components greatly reduce the number of custom client reports
  • A single component can be used for multiple materials, including client reports, fact sheets, and any other materials generated using the tool
  • The tool tracks components to identify where they are used and makes it easy to change many reports by updating a single component. For example, a specific disclosure can be updated in the tool and automatically update all materials using that disclosure.


As depicted in the graphic below, templates pull together all of the report components into pages and sections. The sections are arranged into a defined order using data to tell your story to a client.

Without the use of a tool, firms often organize templates by asset class, client, or account. The challenge with this approach is that when a section, page, or component needs to be changed, it must be done so manually in each template. This manual overhead is one of the main reasons that firm reports are not regularly kept up to date. It’s just too much additional manual work. Further, firms that do not have a reporting tool, or are using a tool that no longer meets their needs, are mired in manual reporting processes, and just don’t have the energy to revisit and update their templates. As a result, the reports delivered to clients can start to feel out of date and lack the data they need.

How vendor tools improve templates

  • Greatly reduces the number of templates
  • Reduces the number of custom reports
  • Centralizes templates for easier management, such as updates
  • Provides business rule overlays for better compliance management


Report distribution simply refers to getting reports into the hands of clients. Firms that do not have a reporting tool often do not have a client portal either. In these cases, the client service representatives often send reports using unsecured email. Although email is easy for clients, firms need to assess the inherent risks of using email to send reports as attachments.

In addition to delivering reports to clients, the reports also must be stored somewhere within the firm. Popular locations include SharePoint, the CRM system, an intranet, or a network file system.

How vendor tools improve report distribution

  • Integration with internal systems such as CRM, SharePoint, or a network file share
  • Provides multiple output formats (e.g., PowerPoint, Excel)
  • Provides email with a link to the report in the client portal (more secure)
  • Enhances reporting capabilities, including dashboards for data visualization and interactive reporting, which allows clients, particularly analysts, to build their own reports


Last but not least is managing the entire report process. Without a client reporting tool, firms often must manage the reporting process manually via spreadsheets, emails, or similar. Anyone who has had to manage processes via spreadsheets knows what a headache that can be!

How vendor tools improve report management

  • Dashboard for client reporting function management
  • Report scheduling
  • Workflow – particularly with data collection and commentary collection

We have helped dozens of clients revamp their client reporting strategy and find the right client reporting tools they need. If you’d like to talk about how we can help you, contact us at [email protected] and let’s get started.