Marcel Naumann, Senior Engineer Investment at NN Investment Partners, sees a future where fluid, easily accessible data and insights help portfolio managers achieve returns while investing in a responsible manner. We spoke with Naumann to learn how he’s making this future a reality with the Snowflake Data Cloud.

NN Investment Partners (NN IP) manages assets for investors across 37 nations. It stands apart in the asset management space with a dual focus on responsible investing and delivering strong financial results for its clients.

To deliver on these two pillars, NN IP’s portfolio managers ingest data from multiple sources to assess investment cases and performance, and analyze each investment case on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors. 91% of NN IP’s assets are ESG integrated (data as of 31 December 2021).

Collating all this data and visualizing it at scale is not straightforward. As Marcel Naumann, Senior Engineer Investment, and his team grappled with a legacy on-premises data warehouse and a multi-cloud data pipeline, the team started looking for a solution to deliver data-driven insights faster and at scale, a service which Snowflake’s Data Cloud effectively offers its clients. 

Building a bridge between data and visualization tools

“We have a mix of data we create ourselves, and data we get from third-party vendors that help us share knowledge and give better insights,” explains Naumann. “We collect this data in our knowledge platform named Papyrus and snapshot export it to S3 buckets in our AWS infrastructure. We then have to find a way to connect those buckets to our Power BI visualization tools hosted in Azure.”

With a data pipeline spanning multiple cloud providers, Naumann found his options were limited: “After testing a few solutions, I found they either couldn’t directly connect to our visualizations or demanded too much manual work to maintain.”

When Naumann started testing the Snowflake Data Cloud, he became enthusiastic about the solutions this cloud software offered. Things changed when Naumann discovered Snowflake Data Cloud. “I tested Snowflake, and it worked the way I was hoping for,” he said. Using Snowflake Connector, the Papyrus team can use DirectQuery to consume its data in Power BI. “When I realized we could deploy Snowflake without having to completely revamp our infrastructure, we gave it a try,” he said. “In just four weeks we’d run a successful test and started to see the real possibilities.”

The platform — and the support — to empower investors

“With some support and training from Snowflake, we were able to quickly onboard a few people and deliver the test successfully,” said Naumann. 

Since completing the first deliveries and opening up Snowflake for general use, the Papyrus team at NN IP has been better equipped to deliver on the company’s core priorities of delivering financial and non-financial performance information. Portfolio managers can quickly visualize any investment’s historical performance, along with market data that might influence future returns and the many kinds of information that contribute to ESG scores. 

And developers can do all this analysis faster, and with less manual work, than before. “The speed at which we are able to make informed decisions has increased,” said Naumann. “And we have no issues maintaining that performance and speed as we scale. As more teams become interested in Snowflake and the data we host in it, I know we can meet their requests in a matter of minutes instead of days or weeks.”

The Papyrus team also benefits from a platform that offers robust compliance controls and monitoring. “We rebuilt our internal data-sharing tools in Snowflake, and we could replicate our controls to check data quality and security,” Naumann added. “As we operate in a strict regulatory environment, it’s vital that we are able to build and scale the tools at our disposal to create centralized platforms where we can conduct analyses on a firm-wide scale. Snowflake enables comprehensive data governance, which allows us to meet high and continuously evolving compliance standards.”

“It’s vital that we are able to build and scale the tools at our disposal to create centralized platforms where we can conduct analyses on a firm-wide scale.”

A platform that’s ready for the future

In a few short weeks, Naumann’s Snowflake pilot brought faster data visualization workflows to share insights. Naumann knew Snowflake Education and Support Services were on hand to support the team on its data journey: “The team at Snowflake was really helpful. I had experts ready to assist me and any queries I had about the technical and commercial aspects of our partnership.”

“We are still at the start of our journey with Snowflake Data Cloud, but the asset manager already has exciting plans for the future. I’ve been pushing for this kind of data mesh for a while, where teams all have their own data environments they use as needed. With Snowflake, I am hopeful that we are taking steps in the right direction.”

There’s also a long-term benefit for NN IP’s potential pool of talent. Naumann said, “Attracting talented and knowledgeable people is hard in any industry. But as we move to a more modern approach to market analysis and data visualization, we can offer the market-leading tools top talent expects to see in their workplaces.”

Ultimately, moving to a modern data platform has also helped Naumann take even more pride in his challenging work at NN IP: “I’ve worked in IT for over twenty years, and I’ve seen how things have changed. People need to be more multifunctional now and bring expertise in security, infrastructure, and data. I’ve enjoyed meeting that challenge head-on.”

“The most surprising thing is that the successful onboarding and partnership was achieved during the pandemic,” said Naumann. “We’ve now got better systems helping us deliver higher, more responsible returns. And it’s all serverless. There’s no on-premises systems and no need for me to leave my house—just a complete, enterprise-ready data cloud, ready to go.”