Christian Walter ist Geschäftsführer und Redaktionsleiter von swiss made software. Bis Ende 2010 arbeitete er als Fachjournalist für das ICT-Magazin Netzwoche, publizierte zuletzt aber auch im Swiss IT Magazin, der Computerworld sowie inside-it.
Going to a meeting without any papers: with the right mobile strategy, this is now a possibility. However, a lack of expertise and resources within the company itself can often prevent a company from implementing a mobile solution.
Steve Jobs has many fans –but the ‘Guild of Field Service Agents’ must be among those most indebted to him. Indeed, anyone who regularly has to visit clients and keep them appraised of the latest events. Up until around 2010, there was no truly elegant solution that could cope with this scenario. But the invention of the iPad set wheels in motion.
One innovator in this field was the Partners Group, a global asset management company which worked together with mp technology to develop an iPad solution for its account managers. This solution is known as the Partners Group Bulletin and contains all the relevant information to keep both clients and account managers informed. These bulletins are now sent to clients without using a single gram of paper, presenting all the information in a modern format on the iPad. Screen mirroring also makes it possible to connect multiple iPads, allowing the client to follow a presentation in real time from their own device.
“The concept of the Partners Group Bulletin is of course not only applicable to the finance industry,” says Jakob Magun, Managing Partner at mp technology. “It can be used in other industries, too.”The Partners Group is global private markets management firm that manages 42 billion euros in assets. Its clients are predominantly institutional investors, such as pension funds, insurance companies, and banks. These invest in more than 200 of the Partners Group’s various funds. Each fund consists of up to 500 individual investments –there are several thousand in total –and around 20 new funds are launched every year. The amount of information available about the individual investments is therefore enormous. The account managers present the results generated by each product to their clients at regular intervals. “Our clients invest significant multi-million-dollar sums, usually for ten to twelve years at a time. This requires a close relationship,” says Raymond Schnidrig, CTO at Partners Group.
Personal interaction presents an excellent opportunity to introduce new products and discuss other potential investments. Good preparation and knowledge of the clients’ interests are both critical to success. Ultimately, no adviser can possibly carry a few hundred documents with him, just to answer any possible query from the client.
The introduction of the iPad in 2010 presented an opportunity to reconsider this known issue. Working in cooperation with mp technology, the Partners Group developed the Bulletin app. The app presents all the relevant product data in a clear format on the iPad. This includes information such as allocation charts, detailed information on investments, return figures, and quarterly reports in PDF format. The account manager is then able to provide detailed information on the performance of the fund and simultaneously has access to all the other products available –meaning the manager is perfectly prepared for any possible scenario. The response to the new solution has been very positive. This should come as no surprise, considering that the Partners Group was already producing from 2,000 to 3,000 reports per year.
This simultaneously resolved the issue of ensuring information provided is up-to-date. Previously there was always the risk of presenting outdated documents to the client. These days, new data is transferred from the Partners Group central storage backend to iPads across the world every night. This ensures the information is always current, right up to the day. Being able to work offline is vital, as account managers can spend up to 90 percent of their time on the road and do not always have a reliable connection. “Complaining to clients about the quality of their Wi-Fi is not very conducive to making a sale.”
2,000 to 3,000 reports
In the next phase, the investments, too, are broken down. Detailed information is now provided on every underlying investment in private equity, private real estate, private infrastructure, and private debt. There are thousands of investments in total, all of which can be accessed via this platform. Subsequently the depth of the data has been continually expanded.
Of course, all data on the iPad is protected by encryption. The adviser registers using their Windows credentials. This offers the advantage that the rights attached to the ID can be reflected on the iPad without any great effort. Some areas are only accessible to members of the executive board. “We have plenty more ideas and are already working on implementing additional features,” says Raymond Schnidrig.
The entire development is done in close cooperation with mp technology. The team consists of experts from both companies: the backend is taken care of by the Partners Group, while the mobile expertise comes from mp technology. “Mobile is just something you have to do nowadays, but it is not worthwhile for companies like ours to build up our own inhouse expertise,” Schnidrig explains.
The cooperation with specialists also makes it possible to integrate features that go beyond the current built-in functionality of iOS. The best example of this is the aforementioned screen mirroring. This allows the account manager to display the ongoing presentation on multiple additional tablets, enabling everyone present at a meeting to comfortably follow the presentation on their own device. This makes any presentation feel more personal.
The company has also recently started using the iPad for staff training and internal communications. Employees also have access to training videos, which can be streamed to the device through the same interface.
The app also records precise analytics on how it is being used. We can use these to determine which features are being used most and which videos are most popular. This in turn supports further optimization of the app. Last but not least, iPad presentations come across very well to our clients. “Many of our clients are still trapped in Excel sheets, so we are able to really inspire them with our user-friendly solutions. It also demonstrates that we are very much on-trend when it comes to technology, or even ahead of the trends. For a company that focuses very much on people, like ours, this is extremely important,” says Schnidrig.
The Bulletin was not only well received by clients –feedback from staff members was also positive, and the app even won the Best of Swiss App Awards 2013.
The Partners Group Bulletin has also stimulated internal discussion on user friendliness. Following the introduction of this iPad solution, additional steps were also taken to update the existing desktop solutions –these optimizations have also been well received by staff.