Portfolio Analysis Tool

A digital way to extend an already successful—but time consuming—service to more financial advisors at every asset management level


One of the many groups within a large financial institution was tasked with offering key Financial Advisor (FA) clients the opportunity to have their portfolios analyzed by its highly-trained specialists. This white glove service proved to be very popular but the team noticed two key drawbacks:

  • The analysis required a fair amount of pre-work in advance of a live client meeting, so on-the-fly changes weren’t possible

  • The analysis was very resource intensive and, accordingly, couldn’t be scaled too widely; they had nearly reached capacity

The financial institution engaged Pivotal Labs to investigate and help solve for these perceived issues and uncover others. Together, we aligned on the following goals: broaden to create new client relationships, deepen existing client relationships, and sell more products.

The team included 2 Product Managers (client & Pivotal); 1-2 Product Designers (~2 Pivotal, including me); 4 Developers (2 client & 2 Pivotal); and a 3rd party design agency focused mainly on product branding and visual design. My role was primarily research and UX with a healthy back-and-forth with the design agency about visual treatments and design system development.

Problem Space

Before embarking on any solution work, we needed to understand existing analysis team's workflow. A mock call with an analysis specialist allowed us to create a Journey Map to visualize the flow.

Image of a user journey map made of sticky notes and writing on a whiteboard wall

Using the pain points identified in that session, I facilitated an exercise to identify our riskiest assumptions. We used these to generate exploratory questions we posed to eight FAs. This research helped us identify key pains & insights:

Key Pains

  • There's too much data and research to sift through

  • Managing clients takes too much of my time

  • It's hard for me to keep up with Department of Labor (DoL) changes

  • I need some way to project a fund's performance into the past or future

  • Entering tickers is a manual process

Key Insights

  • I try to explain the “why” behind my decisions and use of benchmarks

  • I have a research team that constructs and manages model portfolios

  • I like that Morningstar is objective

  • I create custom benchmarks

  • I meet with clients between 1x per quarter & 1x per year


Using these key pains & insights, we generated many potential solutions and prioritized them based on their perceived complexity and value …

Image of a large number of solution ideas written on sticky notes and grouped on a whiteboard wall
Image of a two-by-two matrix showing top solution ideas

… and sketched out potential solutions using a simplified user flow (based on the Journey Map and other insights we gathered from initial exploratory research and stakeholder interviews):

  1. Register for access / login

  2. Input portfolio

  3. Receive data, insights, and observations

  4. Adjust inputs (which kicks the user back to step 3; this cycle could continue indefinitely)

  5. Save / export an analysis report

Image of the team sketching out potential solution ideas during a design studio
Image of the team dot voting on their most liked solution sketch ideas
Close up image of several solution sketches

Stitching these ideas together, we were able to create a simple prototype (seen on the television screen in the image below) to concept test with six FAs. The findings from research were instrumental in helping us refine features big and small, from the overall analysis tool flow to micro-interactions (drag-and-drop portfolio upload; auto-focus input when adding financial instruments, etc.) that made the portfolio creation step feel quick and easy.

Three people sit around a table while one facilitates a user research session over the phone
Image of a small whiteboard with research findings written on it

Ultimately, we conducted more than 5 rounds of exploratory and usability research with 30+ FAs. This helped us learn things like:

  • Our assumption that FAs wouldn’t understand complex financial charting was false

  • What we initially assumed would be output made available only to the advisor quickly became a pivot toward making end client (i.e. an FA's clients) friendly reports that were able to be shared

  • Some of the proposed visual flourishes (e.g. an intricate branded loader; a several-level deep sidebar) were unnecessary and ultimately detracted from the overall experience

Given the client had an existing relationship with a 3rd party design agency, we leveraged their expertise to help brand the tool and create a unique visual language. We merged this together with our research findings and UCD thinking to create the beta (and eventually public) version of the tool. Several screens from the tool are included below.

Portfolio Analysis tool's home page
Portfolio analysis tool after an upload takes place where there are errors
Portfolio analysis tool's output page where the top insights are shown
Portfolio analysis tool's "upload your investments" screen
Portfolio analysis tool's benchmark selection screen
Portfolio analysis tool deep-dive screen showing equity regional exposure
Portfolio analysis tool's dashboard where analyzed portfolios and insight output are saved for later use


The project ran for approximately 6 months, with the last 2-3 weeks spent back at the client’s offices helping the team transition. Not long after we disengaged, the product launched with a small beta and, a month or two later, a full public launch. It was an immediate hit with financial advisors and is still under active development.

In the ensuing months, the product was recognized in the financial industry with a prestigious Investment Management Education Alliance (IMEA) STAR award. From the website: “The STAR Awards program is an excellent way to judge the success of your company's efforts to educate and inform key audiences about your products – and is open to all investment management products from traditional mutual funds and ETFs, to Unit Investment Trusts, Closed-End Funds and alternative investment structures.”