Raymond James provides a range of investment services through a network of more than 5,000 financial advisors operating in 2,200 locations around the world. To help these advisors continue to make fast, accurate, and cost-effective decisions, Raymond James created a suite of business intelligence (BI) tools that advisors use to analyze vast stores of product, client, and market data. The company’s BI platform is based on Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 data management software and SQL Server 2008 Integration Services, Analysis Services, and Reporting Services. Today, 6,600 people use the Raymond James Reports Center to help make cost-effective decisions. By using software that Raymond James already owns, the firm will save U.S.$500,000 every three years in licensing efficiencies and will also eliminate additional training costs.
Founded in 1962 and a public company since 1983, Raymond James is a diversified financial services holding company based in St. Petersburg, Florida, with subsidiaries engaged in investment and financial planning, investment banking, and asset management. More than 5,000 Raymond James financial advisors serve approximately 1.9 million accounts in 2,200 locations throughout the United States, Canada, and overseas. Total client assets are approximately U.S.$164 billion, of which $25 billion are managed by the firm’s asset management subsidiaries.
||Business intelligence is critical in both uncovering new revenue streams and maintaining the level of service that clients expect…. Providing the best tools … makes [our advisors] more successful.
Senior Manager, Business Intelligence Group, Raymond James
Increased regulatory pressures, unparalleled mergers-and-acquisitions activity, a mounting consumer credit crisis, and a contracting economy continue to inflict challenges on the financial services sector. Therefore, it is imperative that Raymond James’s 5,000 financial advisors continue to discern which investment programs are working, how clients’ portfolios are performing, and generally how their business is operating.
However, the time and effort it took to maintain these insights in an integrated fashion presented a significant challenge. “The company has been growing at a rate of up to 20 percent a year, and our applications have been expanding, but not all were integrated,” explains Bill Gross, Senior Manager in the Business Intelligence Group at Raymond James. “Our financial advisors spent valuable time jumping between various financial and customer applications to get the kind of insights they need to make informed decisions.”
While staying productive and making decisions at their desks, financial advisors also have to find ways to spend time with clients and prospect for new business. To strengthen their client relationships and increase business, Raymond James advisors need to know their clients well. This, too, requires an in-depth, up-to-date understanding of client needs and the structure and performance of their portfolio.
To help financial advisors gain these fast, accurate business insights, Raymond James initiated a data warehouse group in 2003. Team members used Microsoft® SQL Server® 2000 data management software to create the warehouse and SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services to create a custom business intelligence (BI) tool called Business Analyzer. The firm used Analysis Services to create online analytical processing (OLAP) cubes, which are multidimensional data structures used to analyze large amounts of information.
Consistently improving Business Analyzer was critical to the firm, not only as a business enabler but as part of the overall technology platform used to attract and retain advisor talent. Because Raymond James has always been focused on providing its advisors with the highest-quality products and services, it was determined to offer equally attractive technology and support that was unavailable elsewhere.
When Gross formalized the BI team at Raymond James in 2007, he obtained funding to overhaul the firm’s data warehouse and reporting tools. The BI team was happy with the underlying Microsoft technology but knew that it needed to continually update and expand the software. After consulting with Microsoft, the team opted to migrate to SQL Server 2008 and related technologies to make BI tools more broadly and easily available to Raymond James associates.
In addition, Raymond James wanted to use Excel® Services in Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server 2007 to provide access to real-time, interactive Microsoft Office Excel 2007 spreadsheets from a Web browser. Because Excel Services dynamically renders an Office Excel 2007 spreadsheet as HTML, users can access spreadsheets that are stored on SharePoint Server 2007 from any browser.
In January 2009, Raymond James deployed Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Enterprise—including SQL Server 2008 Integration Services, Analysis Services, and Reporting Services—running on the Windows Server® 2003 Enterprise operating system. The BI team used SQL Server Integration Services to load transactional data from more than a dozen databases, running under SQL Server, HP NonStop SQL, and Oracle database software on a variety of hardware platforms, into a single relational data warehouse. From the data warehouse, team members created a new Analysis Services cube containing half a terabyte of financial data.
||Our financial advisors spent valuable time jumping between various financial and customer applications to get the kind of insights they need to make informed decisions.
Senior Manager, Business Intelligence Group, Raymond James
“The fact that the new BI framework was embedded in products that we already owned made deployment and adoption easier, because it minimized training time,” says Todd Daniell, Manager of the Business Intelligence Group at Raymond James.
The team used the SQL Server Business Intelligence Development Studio, a visual development environment for creating BI reports and analysis cubes, to convert dozens of Microsoft ASP.NET reports into Reporting Services reports. The team is continuing to convert more than 1,700 additional reports created with the Crystal Reports application (from SAP). “Report development using the SQL Server Business Intelligence Development Studio took hours, compared to the weeks required using ASP.NET,” Daniell says.
Fast Answers from Reports Center
Using the new incarnation of Business Analyzer, renamed Reports Center, Raymond James financial advisors are now able to perform rapid BI analysis on more transactional data than before. They can quickly find out how strong client relationships are, how products are distributed across industry asset allocation models, and answers to other queries.
“The reports produced using Analysis Services and Reporting Services are far richer graphically than the reports that advisors produced before,” Daniell says. “In the future, we will be able to integrate our data warehouse with our customer relationship management system and other business applications to enable advisors, or management, to analyze a deeper reservoir of business data to find whatever they need to know. We’ve been able to provide our advisors with the majority of the information that they’ve needed with Reporting Services reports, and we will continue to enhance and expand our BI offerings.”
Raymond James is planning to migrate Reports Center to a portal created with Office SharePoint Server 2007, where all BI tools and reports will reside. The firm will use Excel Services to publish Office Excel workbooks to a server where they can easily be viewed. “We’ll be able to define the data that each user can view and show what they can do with it,” Daniell says. “The data will stay current at all times because the worksheets are connected to live business systems. There’s no requirement to have Office Excel 2007 on the desktop because users will access the data from the SharePoint site.”
Raymond James uses BI primarily for sales and sales management functions but will gradually expand these tools to operational staff so that managers can also use BI to help manage the business.
With a reinvigorated business intelligence platform, Raymond James financial advisors have another tool to help them make better, faster, more cost-effective decisions that benefit clients and their own bottom line. Managers will soon use the same BI tools to monitor key business metrics so that they can better steer the business and optimize profits. Because Raymond James built its BI application on software that it already owned and knew, it was able to implement a cost-effective solution and make it available to thousands of users with no additional training required.
Faster, Richer Queries that Return More Data
With Reports Center, Raymond James financial advisors are able to run queries about their sources of revenue and clients’ holdings. In the future, they will also be able to query portfolio performance. “The more information you have on which to base your decisions, the better those decisions will be,” Daniell says. “Through Reports Center, advisors can access the [greatest amount of] information possible and can track their assets and revenue by product type, account type, and client demographic, to name a few categories. This allows them to focus all their attention on their clients.”
With SQL Server 2008 powering Reports Center, Raymond James has achieved processing times that are much faster than before, which enables advisors to run many more queries throughout the day, thus enhancing productivity. Dimension processing was reduced from five hours to one, and fact processing decreased from 10 hours to 40 minutes. (In SQL Server Analysis Services, dimensions are a fundamental component of cubes that organize data in relation to a user’s area of interest, such as customers, stores, or investments. Facts are the physical transactions.)
Enhanced Performance Management
Senior managers at Raymond James are able to use Reports Center to analyze the performance of the business from multiple perspectives. “With today’s economy, we have to look closely at which programs are working and which have not performed,” Gross says. “Senior management is able to slice and dice metrics however they want them, to better drive their business. They can output the data to Office Excel 2007 and manipulate it without needing to have any technical background.”
||We’re making the best use of investments that we’ve already made …. Aside from the up-front cost savings, we’re realizing maintenance savings of $500,000 over a three-year period.
Senior Manager, Business Intelligence Group, Raymond James
Soon, managers will be able to measure company performance against strategic goals. Branch managers will be able to track the performance of their branches against their own set of key performance indicators, such as total commissions, assets under management, client profitability, account growth, and total accounts opened or closed.
Ultimately, all this analysis helps Raymond James increase revenue while delivering the best solutions for individual clients. “Business intelligence is critical in both uncovering new revenue streams and maintaining the level of service that clients expect from our advisors,” Gross says. “Helping our advisors help their clients by providing the best tools for building and maintaining relationships makes them more successful, which in turn makes us more successful.”
Expanded Reach with BI Tools
Since deploying Reports Center, Raymond James has seen usage of BI tools increase by 40 percent in eight months, from 4,000 to 6,600 users. “We were able to greatly expand our business intelligence platform by using software that we already owned and knew,” Daniell says. “This minimized our costs and expanded our reach. When we start using Excel Services, we will significantly increase the amount of information that people can analyze and further increase the number of users able to access BI reports.”
Lower IT Costs
Using Microsoft BI software as its foundation, Raymond James was able to quickly roll out a vastly improved BI platform that provides the foundation to migrate thousands of existing reports to Reports Center and integrate Reports Center with many other applications. “We now have the scalability and integration flexibility to accommodate much more data and many more users,” Gross says. “The flexibility and cost effectiveness of Microsoft software enables us to deliver meaningful information to more users, faster than ever before. We can deploy reports in hours versus weeks and continue building out our enterprise BI solution in any direction that the business demands.”
As an example of using Microsoft software to trim costs, Raymond James used the SQL Server 2008 data compression feature to compress—by 80 percent—a massive database table that contained 15 billion records. “With efficiencies like this, we were able to reduce the size of our previous data warehouse from just under 2 terabytes of data to nearly 600 gigabytes,” Daniell says. “Database efficiencies have a direct impact on performance and also on storage costs.”
Raymond James also attributes significant savings to its ability to create a new BI platform by extending existing software investments—in SQL Server, Microsoft Office Professional 2007, and Office SharePoint Server 2007. “We’re making the best use of investments that we’ve already made without adding new solutions to our software set,” Gross says. “Aside from the up-front cost savings, we’re realizing maintenance savings of $500,000 over a three-year period by utilizing commodity hardware and licensing much of our BI software through our Microsoft Enterprise Client Access License.”
The savings extends to user training. Raymond James was able to deploy BI solutions based on software that staff already knew. “Not having to retrain 5,000 financial advisors saves a lot of money,” Daniell says. “We can unleash new capabilities in Office Excel 2007, which our analysts and advisors already know.”
Enhanced Recruiting and Retention
Reports Center not only gives current financial advisors the time to be more productive, but it is part of an important recruiting tool for Raymond James. “Company culture is still the most significant criterion in selecting an employer in our industry, but technology is also very important,” Gross says. “Advisors look for companies that have a good, solid technology platform because it directly affects their bottom line.”
Microsoft Business Intelligence
Microsoft provides a comprehensive set of business intelligence technologies that make it possible for enterprises to maximize the value of their business data through timely analysis, reporting, and sharing of knowledge. These technologies extend from Microsoft Office system personal productivity tools to comprehensive Microsoft SQL Server data integration, reporting, and analysis tools. The entire portfolio is extensible with the Microsoft Visual Studio® development system to seamlessly integrate line-of-business applications and workflows into enterprise BI workflows.
For more information about Microsoft BI tools, go to:
For More Information
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