Aug 25, 2021

Institutional managers are being pushed to become more client-centric and provide client reporting data in a manner that clients prefer. The client report, as we know it, is dying.

We are living in a PDF world. Based on Cutter’s most recent Client Reporting Benchmarking survey, regardless of the delivery mechanism, PDFs (represented by pdf icons in the chart below) dominate client reporting formats. Whether the report is emailed, sent FTP, delivered by regular mail or in person, it arrives as a PDF file.

Adobe created the PDF nearly 30 years ago, and it’s the standard for finalized documents and certainly the standard for client reports. So, what could possibly knock the PDF off its perch?

Is Client Reporting Really Going to Die?

When I ask this provocative question, I’m really asking if client reporting, as we have come to know it, is ripe for innovation. Is the PDF fit for purpose? Does it do a good job at … doing its job?

Let’s take a step back and revisit the value of the client report (beyond the regulatory/mandated requirements). Client reports provide an opportunity for asset managers to tell their story through data. It’s a chance to reassure investors and remind them why they invested with you in the first place. Ideally, the client report is more than a perfunctory document; it is a chance to service investors and give them the information they need, while at the same time re-enforcing your firm’s brand message.

While still wildly popular with clients, the PDF has shortcomings:

  1. Old data – Client reports are typically delivered monthly or quarterly. For clients who require data more frequently, using a PDF or even Excel, is a cumbersome affair.
  2. Point in time – PDFs are a static document delivered on a schedule. Some users, such as consultants, need data more frequently.
  3. No drill-down capabilities – Ever try to click through a PDF to get more details? Of course not! They do not work that way.
  4. Limited personalization – While client reports can be personalized to meet client specifications, they cannot be personalized by the client. More modern client reporting delivery tools allow users to personalize the interface and receive personalized content and feeds.
  5. No self-service capabilities – Some users, such as consultants, need specific data with specific layouts. PDFs cannot support such use cases, and providing data to consultants becomes a burdensome task that often falls on client representatives.
  6. Limited digital capabilities – While PDFs can be viewed on any device, they do not render well on websites, smart phones, or tablets.

So, If Client Reporting Dies, What Will Fill the Gap?

The obvious question is, If PDFs are limited, what could replace them as the preferred format for client reporting? In a word, “client portals” ─ they excel in ways that PDFs fail. Portals are already well established with non-institutional clients. Many wealth managers, retail-focused firms, and those that support intermediaries are on their second or third generation of portals and are also supported by a native mobile application.

The future of investing is in your pocket. It’s not hidden in Outlook (where information goes to die). I believe institutional managers will be pushed to become more client-centric and provide client reporting data in a manner that clients prefer. The client report, as we know it, is dying.

Do you think I am wrong (or just plain crazy)? Share your feedback below. Cutter members can also join the discussion in the Cutter Community, accessible via your dashboard at