BIG DATA – LITTLE DATA. It’s how you use it.

BIG DATA – LITTLE DATA. It’s how you use it.


To successfully choose a retirement solution for your client you must “begin at the end.” 

The retirement industry continues to try to perfect the concepts of benchmarking and RFP’s in order to make it easier for you to choose a solution for your customers. The trouble with many of those efforts is that they produce TONS of information with few answers.

At the end of the day, your success and the success of your customers’ plans will be judged by one question. “Is each participant in every one of your plans on track for the retirement goals they set?”

After seeing or being part of a number of benchmarking, fiduciary, and RFP projects, it’s clear to us that the industry consistently fails to produce that one data point that matters more than all the others combined: is each participant on track?

After all the fiduciary dust settles, we will be left with a market place that buys and measures retirement differently than it did before. And you’ll want to be sure that you can produce the simple answers. “The participants in my plans are on track for the goals they set.”

Through the 401(k) recordkeeping process we gather data—both BIG data and LITTLE data.  It’s easy to spot the difference. Big data starts with percentages. Little data starts with names.

  • BIG data: “70% of all 45-55 year old employees have not made a fund change.” 
  • LITTLE data: “Bill got a pay raise on May 1 and accepted a contribution increase nudge on May 4.”

Big data can provide the facts and hide the story. Little data is the story; the story of each participant, that is.

Today’s world uses Little data to create a delightful customer experience. You’ve probably already noticed it. The ads you see on a web page are a function of what you’ve shown interest in. If Zappos knows to show up when you look up “shoes,” we certainly know how to show up when a participant has a birthday or a pay raise.

The standard of care in retirement plans is the space between the employer/plan sponsor and the participant. The state of that care is already right there in the data we have as a recordkeeper. PAi uses the data to make the story work for the participant and for you.

Imagine that you’re a retirement life guard with 1,000 participants in your pool and the pool (the internet) is open 24/7. You’re not going to be okay if your 1,000 participants are “on average” somewhere between the bottom of the pool and having their heads above water. If you could only create a system that alerts you as soon as a participant dips below the surface…

At PAi, we use that little data and recordkeep participant stories. Their pay, their age, their goals, and their funds are all a part of each story. Our CoPilot service documents participant retirement goals and the actions that support or defeat those goals. That allows the financial advisors we work with to invite as many participants as they can into the pool and helps those participants stay above water. More participants leads to more outcomes—which leads to more income for those advisors.

In business, my two favorite questions to solve any business problem (or customer opportunity) are “How do you know...?” and “What are you willing to do about…?” Ask yourself, “How do you know that every participant in every one of your plans is on track to achieve the outcome they have declared?” and “What are you willing to do to address that?”

CoPilot, powered by PAi, is a do-it-with-you solution for advisors selling 401(k) plans and a do-it-for-you solution for plan sponsors. Its proprietary Years of Retirement tool shows participants how many retired years they are on track to have and helps them close the gap between what they have and what they desire. In addition to Years of Retirement and participant alerts, CoPilot includes an investment fiduciary and a 3(38) investment manager to create model allocations and deliver them at the participant level.

CoPilot uses the LITTLE data so you can focus on your customers, including your next customer. CoPilot allows YOUR customer to focus on THEIR customers, rather than on their 401(k) reports.

To offer your clients the CoPilot retirement savings experience or to learn more, give us a call today: 800.236.7400.

Michael Kiley, Founder and CEO