Securities America Delivers Rich Analytics With WebFOCUS

Customizable BI Portal Gives Agents Greater Autonomy in Their Quest to Better Serve Clients

Securities America is one of the largest and most successful independent general securities brokers/dealers in the U.S., with 2,100 employees and annual revenue of $500 million. The Omaha, Nebraska-based company offers education, advice, retirement planning, and wealth management services nationwide through a network of registered investment advisors. Along with a wide variety of insurance, annuity, and ancillary products available via strategic brokerage relationships, Securities America’s products and services help independent advisors provide their clients with quality financial advice for life.

Financial institutions such as Securities America rely on their advisors to grow, but it is difficult for advisors to service clients quickly and effectively when the data they need is spread across multiple tools and databases. To overcome this obstacle, Securities America worked with Information Builders to create Dashboard 2.0, a customized business intelligence (BI) and analytics Portal that centralizes client, branch, and advisor information from multiple systems into an easy-to-read, dynamically updated format for agent reporting and analysis.

“Our goal was to create a customized analytical tool that could be both flexible and easily accessible by a variety of users,” says Randy R. Reed, vice president of enterprise architecture and application development at Securities America. “We wanted to improve the overall experience for financial advisors, branch managers, and office assistants, and in so doing, allow them to provide better service to their clients – even as they obtain a deeper understanding of their business.”

Reed and his colleagues fulfilled these requirements with Information Builders’ WebFOCUS, a complete BI and analytics platform that simplifies front-end development of portals, dashboards, and reports while also streamlining back-end integration with a wide range of applications and databases. Information Builders also offers robust tools for data governance, data integrity, dynamic report distribution, mobile intelligence, predictive analytics, and other BI functions.

Selecting the Right Solution

In the highly competitive Independent Broker/Dealer (IBD) arena, one of the most critical elements of success is retaining and growing an advisor network. In order to remain a leader in this space, Securities America recognized the need to provide an enhanced Dashboard/Portal to its advisor network. They wanted to include user personalization and widgets, interactive charting, and mobile BI capabilities. They believed these enhancements would enable Securities America to recruit and retain top-tier advisors, leverage new types of information technology, and improve data quality to mitigate financial risk.

In addition to providing new analytic capabilities, Securities America wanted to institute enterprise-wide data governance procedures to build confidence in the analytic data and its basis in day-to-day decision-making. Reed and his team conducted a thorough review of BI vendors in their quest to find a tightly integrated solution for intelligence and integration. “Data governance is the primary thrust for broker dealers and we knew that a complete BI environment would give us the discipline to move to the next level,” he explains. “We have the capacity to uptake transaction data and present it back to the IBD network in a useful form, but in order for such an environment to be useful, users need complete confidence in the information.”

After a careful review of market-leading BI solutions, Securities America selected WebFOCUS because it uniquely fulfilled these technical requirements. In addition, Information Builders’ licensing model for external-facing BI applications was more cost-effective than the terms offered by other BI vendors. Perhaps most importantly, Information Builders displayed an unwavering commitment to Securities America’s information management needs.

“Information Builders software ranked high in our review of BI solutions, but our decision to move forward was equally weighted on their genuine interest in working with us to ensure our project would be successful,” recalls Doreen Griffith, executive vice president and chief information officer at Securities America. “Information Builders has been with us during every step of the project.”

“At the end of the day it came down to the relationship,” Reed adds. “It was clear that Information Builders was a trusted partner that would stay the course with us. Working with Information Builders has been a key part of our success.”

Building Dashboard 2.0

Figure 1. An external-facing dashboard for yearbook customers.

Using WebFOCUS, Securities America developed an externally-facing BI portal – Dashboard 2.0 – that integrates investor profile, portfolio, and performance assets into a seamless environment with a simplified workflow. This self-service solution allows financial advisors to quickly access and visually explore client and portfolio information, secured and customized by role.

Securities America replaced a previous BI dashboard that had been constructed with open source technology and in doing so, leveraged WebFOCUS BI Portal in the creation of Dashboard 2.0. The BI Portal gives deployments the necessary flexibility to easily add pages, rearrange content, and quickly swap in and swap out widgets and controls.

“The new dashboard solution gives our advisors and assistants one central location to quickly retrieve information stored in different locations,” confirms Roxanne Wieland, director of field technology at Securities America. “Information that previously took minutes or longer to locate is now available on one screen in a matter of seconds. Quick access to client information enables our advisors to provide the highest level of customer service and easily track the progress of their business throughout the year.”

The BI solution empowers financial advisors, branch managers, and their assistants with quick access to customized information about their accounts, clients, and offices, either by drilling down to these levels or by summarizing the data into one consolidated view. Each advisor can select the data he or she needs from moment to moment. For example, a branch manager might want to see his or her production mix, assets under administration, and branch asset trends, while individual advisors focus on client portfolio values and asset allocations.

“The Office and Branch areas of Dashboard 2.0 aggregate information to enable advisors and branch managers to discover risks, identify opportunities, and visually analyze trends that may impact their businesses,” Reed explains. “It is fully customizable. Every client has different needs, and they can choose to include only those features and reports that help them accomplish their goals.”

Individual advisors can use the WebFOCUS Portal to create personalized dashboards and custom analytic workspaces, complete with dynamic menus and animations. They can easily drag and drop widgets, save dashboard and widget preferences, and change color themes to suit their requirements. Interactive charts display daily market valuations with custom date ranges.

“We dealt with siloed data, unstructured data, and big data as we created materialized views of information for fast and accurate reporting,” Reed adds. “The solution has been well received. We finished under budget and completed a successful skills-transfer from Information Builders Professional Services to our internal resources.”

A Top Technology Innovator

Since the implementation of Dashboard 2.0, Securities America has increased report-generation speed, created more efficient internal reporting solutions with customizable delivery options, and achieved company-wide adoption, thanks to the user-friendly portal interface. InformationWeek identified Securities America as one of the top technology innovators in the U.S. for Dashboard 2.0, placing the firm on its coveted “InformationWeek 500” list.

In the future, Securities America plans to add more widgets to the Dashboard 2.0 environment, some of which will trigger interactive PDF reports based on WebFOCUS Active Technologies. The company also plans to use WebFOCUS to replace existing reports that were created with Microsoft and Crystal reporting tools. It is investigating the use of WebFOCUS InfoAssist for ad hoc reporting, and exploring WebFOCUS Mobile and WebFOCUS predictive analytics.

“We want to give users more opportunities to drill down into the data,” concludes Reed. “They have requested more widgets at the branch level and aggregate views of the data so they can analyze pay models, compensation output models, and other metrics. We expect hardcore reuse since we can leverage the work we have already completed with WebFOCUS.”