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Episode 53: Solution Spotlight with Jim Surless – Centralizing Data for Effective and Seamless Communications

In this third episode of our multi-part Solution Spotlight Series, Matt Swain is joined by Jim Surless, Head of Digital Operations and Service Delivery within Broadridge Customer Communications, to discuss how a holistic and intentional approach to capturing, managing and distributing data can create seamless omni-channel communications and more meaningful customer journeys.

Matt: I'm Matt Swain, and you're listening to the "Reimagining Communications" podcast. This is the third edition of a multi-part "Spotlight Series" that will run through the end of 2021, where I'll be speaking with key leaders within our Broadridge Customer Communications Digital team, about the current market dynamics and how the modular approach of the Broadridge Communications Cloud is helping our clients modernize their communications ecosystems, and ultimately improve customer experiences. Today, I'm joined by Jim Surless, head of digital operations and service delivery within Broadridge customer communications. Jim, thanks so much for joining today.

Jim: Thanks very much, Matt. Pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

Matt: Certainly, Jim, thank you so much for being here. You're one of those valuable people that is often behind the curtain but has so much invaluable expertise and insights. I'd love to hear a little bit about your background, your role, and responsibilities within Broadridge.

Jim: Great, thanks, Matt. Sure. My background is in technology, computer science discipline, started out in IT consulting. I spent a number of years there before joining Broadridge and joined the team when it was ADP Brokerage Services, certainly spent a lot of time in the financial services space, building out what was the foundation of our digital solutions and what we know today, spent close to 21 years now here at Broadridge. And during that time, spent time in product operations and helping build out our service delivery capabilities, specifically within our information management space, how we store, retain, manage, and repurpose data on our clients' behalf.

Matt: Excellent. And given those interactions that you have, talk to me a little bit about what you're hearing from clients today. How have their priorities evolved in recent years?

Jim: Certainly, Matt, with the evolution of digital and mobile, folks want to be able to service their clients in the most seamless, non-intrusive way. And when we talk about information management, the content we store, the content we serve, how do we distribute that data, both from a regulatory perspective and from a client service perspective, to make those client contacts meaningful, personal, and easy to touch, easy to use. In the information management space that we serve, we first and foremost store that data from a regulatory perspective. We retain it. We archive it. We make sure that the data is available for our clients' internal use, as well as our client external users, their customers, and their account holders. But once it's out there, how do we distribute that? How do we make that data accessible? How do we make it easy to get to, secure?

Matt: Often clients don't recognize the importance of the centralization of that data to execute on the experiences they're trying to create and the accessibility of that data as well across the organization.

Jim: Without a doubt, Matt. You hit on an important point. A lot of times this information is disparate. It's in different repositories. It's accessible through different web portals. Some of the data is mobile accessible. Some is not. And the challenge that most of our clients face today in a digital world is how do we consolidate that into one digital strategy? We need to communicate effectively. We need to push that data down to our internal staff down to our external client account holders. And how do we do that in a seamless way that, again, is not clunky is not a spread across multiple systems? And that's really where Broadridge can help. And we've seen tremendous opportunity, both for our clients and for Broadridge as well.

Matt: Jim, we've talked a little bit about the Broadridge Communications Cloud in the previous episodes of the "Spotlight Series." Talk to me a little bit about how what you've just said, fits into the Communications Cloud modular approach.

Jim: Absolutely. We're excited about the Communications Cloud. Our clients are excited. We've made significant investment in this space. And when we think about the Communications Cloud, yes, it's about communicating, helping our clients communicate with their clients. However, it starts with data, it starts with a module approach, as you mentioned, information management, taking in that digital data, those digital assets of the firm, storing that retaining that and then repurposing that and distributing that through different delivery preference channels.

Right now, let's say we host a regulatory month-end or quarter-end statement on behalf of one of our clients, well, we certainly need to store that from a regulatory perspective, make that available for audit for compliance purposes. But now how do we distribute that out on our clients' behalf to their customers, to their advisors, to their client service reps, their call centers? And what we're able to do through the communications cloud, starting with that foundational component, that is information management, we now interact and integrate that with a preference management tool, which allows us, on a client-by-client basis, allow the end consumer to determine how they wish to receive that data. We look at that preference management. We then have the delivery channels through a delivery management tool that allows us to take those preferences, take that data and now distribute it through different channels, whether that be email, mobile cloud, SMS, web delivery, print, all distribution channels, and more to come, right?

And the ability for us to manage all those preferences on top of the data that we host and deliver it to the channels when and where it needs to be is a tremendous opportunity for our clients and taking a modular approach as a communication cloud builds these components around information management, delivery management, preference management, all tie into this overall solution and digital strategy that we're super excited to roll out to our clients.

Matt: Jim, so the comments you made around the investments in technology and the technologies that are supporting the Communications Cloud. They tie back to some of the insights that we gathered in our modernizing communications ecosystem webinar.

Jim: Absolutely.

Matt: So, like I've done in some of the other Solution "Spotlight Series" episodes. I'd like to reference a few of those quotes and get your thoughts.

Jim: Sure.

Matt: The first one here is from John Wilcox. He is an insurance industry executive and veteran. And he had some interesting things to say about how technology is changing the insurance value chain. Let's listen in.

John: Technology is fundamentally beginning to change the insurance value chain and how business is done. I would say, insurance has been laggard. It's, traditionally, in a lot of respects, lagged the banking industry and others, and it's probably still a good 10 years behind banking. But you're really starting to see technologies begin to fundamentally change insurance. And a lot of different aspects of that from a cost standpoint, I think there are dramatic cost gains to be had that are beginning to be realized. From a pricing standpoint, that's changing fundamentally. Data capture, data management, and ultimately, I think you're beginning to see with telematics and other things, a shift in insurance from being an episodic customer interaction to one that's more continuous.

Matt: So, Jim, thoughts on what John just said there?

Jim: Thank you, Matt. I think John is spot on. You know, certainly, technology advancements are certainly able to help bring together how not only information's managed and captured, but in this space how that information is used to best serve the end client. Again, we're talking about very siloed communication systems, in some cases very print heavy. The use of digital technology from a data capture from having the customer in the insurance space be able to capture that data, repurpose it throughout the organization, and then ultimately create a better experience on how that information's communicated out, helps with timely processing of insurance claims, the accuracy of the data capture, and ultimately create a better experience for those that open those claims in the insurance space. Data capture to data management to data distribution, the entire life cycle is vastly improved with the increase in technology and investments we're making.

Matt: Katie Liebel also had comments about the siloed experience and let's share this where she's thinking more from the customer's perspective and then we can talk about the underpinning technology that helps support a future state.

Katie: I think the theme where you're shining is, how do you make that experience as seamless and as easy as possible? And so, in the banking world, right, that onboarding might be, you know, I've got, already, your credit decision because I have a broader relationship with another product and I know that you're qualified for a credit card, for example, because I can see your payments on the mortgage side. So, how do you have that instant credit decisioning, how do you have limited information required when you open a new account? I mean, so many organizations that are, maybe, not best in class, you know, maybe I've got a checking account, I want a savings account. I've got to enter all the information again. Like, "Wait a minute, you know me already, right, why I have to do all that again?"

Matt: So, Jim, I'd be interested in hearing, based on Katie's comments, how you've helped clients address breaking down these silos and help them better manage their data.

Jim: Katie's feedback, the frustration from an end client, an end consumer having to go to one place or another and can't understand how one of their providers doesn't have that information centrally located is such an important piece of feedback that we're hearing in the industry. We have a tool where we're integrating preference management, consumer identity, different attributes around the end consumer. We call it our Identity Preference Management module, IPM. And what that allows us to do is help our clients centrally store individuals’ attributes around their preferences, their identity, so that if they're working with a provider in one line of business and they're updating their delivery preferences in one place, that can transcend throughout different lines of businesses that provider may support them.

Matt: So, I have one more for you. And this one is John Wilcox, back to John. He's discussing the balance of achieving cost reduction goals, which is common theme in this podcast where we talked about the enterprise desire to reduce costs, but another common theme being the desire to improve experiences and how you balance cost reduction goals with investing in better experiences.

John: The challenge people face is, "Gee, we want to improve the customer experience because we know it's not good. We want better data capture so we can get more sophistication about pricing. We want to position ourselves for this evolving world where it's going from periodic to more continuous customer interaction. And yet, we also need to take out, you know, 20% of our costs, so how can we do that?" I think that is the big challenge. And I think there's obviously not easy answers on that. But to the point I think that Rob or Katie made, you know, part of it is thinking expansively about, "How do we communicate across channels so that we're not sending three notices when it could be one, or that the digital uptake is much higher so we're not sending any paper because we're giving a different experience?" So, I do think it requires thinking differently about how you solve the problem.

Jim: Yes, listening to John, his point is spot on. The balance between reducing costs, improving that customer experience, creating the value that he's seeking, interacting with his clients, certainly is a very valid point and a place that we within Broadridge can uniquely position ourselves to help our clients succeed. We've made significant investments throughout our Communications Cloud with the modular approach that we've talked about being able to capture that data make that data more meaningful, more personable as we distribute it down to their end consumers, without having our clients invest in the technology, the development, the infrastructure, the people to make that happen.

We have a scaled environment. Our environment grows as our client base grows. We're constantly monitoring our environment, scaling our capacity to support our clients' growth, and positioning ourselves to do that at costs that we ourselves take on but do not pass on to our clients. And moreover, as technology grows, we're uniquely positioned, Broadridge is, to continue to invest in our products to add to our feature roadmaps, our product roadmaps, our solution roadmaps.

Matt: Yeah, and I think that's part of the genius of the platform approach, and the modular approach is the ability to scale over time. It's not starting from scratch and rebuilding, it's how to adjust the module or add a module that supports today's business scene.

Jim: Absolutely. You know, as we think about new opportunities, Matt, it's a constant evolution, right? We were never once going to be satisfied and complacent in how we service our clients or the services that we provide. It's truly evergreen as we continue to evolve. Our product roadmaps, our strategy, we are, again, well-positioned, servicing our clients across industries, and working with their data, working with their delivery preferences from their end consumers, and really matching up the data in which we are set to deliver to the end consumers' delivery preferences.

By taking a user community and marrying up to the data for which we need to deliver, we're able to build the right application channels, the right delivery channels, to get it to who needs to see it where they need to see and, in the format, they need to see it.

Matt: So, Jim, you're clearly passionate about the market and what we've developed to date. I'd love to hear what excites you about the future and where we're going.

Jim: Thank you, Matt. Yes, we are excited about the future. And I think we're only scratching the surface of the capabilities that Broadridge can provide, as well as our clients can leverage. We house and host and store manage so much information, so much digital content, and we're doing a tremendous job helping our clients improve how they communicate, how they distribute that information to their end customers. But we're again scratching the surface on the value of that data. Right now, many of our clients feel that they're storing that data from a regulatory need, their compliance. They're distributing that data and making it easy to access. But there's so much value in that data that we're just only beginning to understand. So, we're excited about the opportunity to further analyze and understand that data, use it for predictive analysis, forecasting information.

The data is stored, it has to be stored, it has to be maintained in our systems. However, we are just beginning to understand what more our clients can do with that data and really working through some interesting conversations right now in discovery sessions with our clients to see how we can better utilize that data, how we can provide new services on top of the data that we store today, and really allow their end consumers as well as their internal operation and professional staff to better understand account activity, better understand market activity, and use the data which we host to be the foundation of those analytics and understanding. So, we're super excited around new technology that's available in the ecosystem today and applying that on top of the Communication Cloud as yet another module that we can apply to the Communications Cloud, infrastructure, and system.

Well, Jim, thank you so much for joining for this special episode of "The Spotlight" series.

Jim: Thank you very much, Matt. It's been my pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Matt: I'm Matt Swain, you've been listening to the "Reimagining Communications" podcast. If you liked this episode and thinks someone else would too, please share it, leave a review. And don't forget to subscribe. And if you're ready to reimagine your customer experiences, consider the Broadridge Communications Cloud, an end-to-end platform for creating, delivering, and managing omnichannel communications and customer engagement. To learn more about Broadridge, our insights, and our innovations, visit or find us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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