“Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom.”
– Clifford Stoll
I don’t know where or how I first came across his blog, but from the first post I read of Nick Maggiulli’s, I said “this kid is special.” He writes with the clarity of Ben Carlson, the data-crunching chops of Michael Batnick and the worldly sweep of Morgan Housel. He’s got it all. Jason Zweig tweeted out one of his first posts and he was on his way.
Nick’s blog, called Of Dollars and Data, is the best new investment blog I’ve come across in the last three years. He was a data analytics specialist doing consulting work for law firms who was so passionate about personal finance that he just had to start writing about it. And what amazing writing it was, once a week like clockwork, a miniature masterpiece of insight. Universally relatable for all investors who are trying to figure out the grandest puzzle of all. Laden with beautifully crafted charts and graphics, some of which had moving parts and all of which were perfectly aligned with the message he was trying to convey.
I was blown away, as were another 15,000 or so readers who’ve subscribed to it.
Last fall the team and I got to meet Nick in person when, on his own dime and for no other reason than a love of the financial web, he made the trip down from Boston to attend our 2nd annual Evidence Based Investing Conference in New York City. He got to meet Jason and say thanks for the early push, which is really cool. He came out for dinner with Barry, Kris, Michael, myself and the rest of the Ritholtz Mafia, and we began a dialog.
Meeting Nick generated a simple question for me to think about: How could his incredible skills with data, analytics, visualization techniques and business intelligence combined with his passion for personal finance fit into what we’re building? It didn’t take long before a thousand possibilities went racing through my mind.
Everything we do at the firm is geared around setting our clients and their advisors up for success. Making good decisions, acting deliberately and efficiently, improving the customer experience, answering questions with evidence – this is the work we do every day. Our business generates a ton of data and we have not even scratched the surface in terms of how it could all be utilized, marshaled like a precious resource with positive implications for all of our processes, internal and external. Data, on its own, is not information. It’s got to be turned into information, through analysis and understanding.
This is the project that Nick began when we brought him on this week as Ritholtz Wealth Management’s official Analytics Manager.
I don’t know how many Registered Investment Advisor firms have in-house analytics and data experts, but I have to guess it’s pretty rare. Maybe five in the whole country? Ten? We’re going to do some cutting edge stuff with his talents and involve his input in all conversations about the way we run the firm, the service model we use to take care of customers, the process by which prospects become clients, the production and distribution of our media content and the presentations we do for both the general public and the industry.
We want to know who the most satisfied clients are and how we can replicate that success across all relationships. We want to know who our readers are and how we can be having more substantive conversations with them about what we do. We want to know where the strongest and weakest parts of our presentations are and make data-driven decisions about how to improve the the whole experience of talking with us and working with us. We want to share meaningful concepts with beautiful graphics and leave no stone unturned in the quest to produce great outcomes for the families we work for – in up markets and down, good times and bad.
Client experience and advisor competence – these are the daily battles, it’s the whole thing. Firms that win these battles are going to win the war. With Nick’s help, our advisors will be armed to the teeth with the input they need. We preach evidence based investing every day. Now we’re going to bring this evidence based approach to how we do everything else.
Below, an brief introduction to Nick Maggiulli. You can follow him on Twitter here. Welcome aboard, kid. The adventure has just begun!