Cliff Nelson
Cliff Nelson is currently on the investment team at a venture capital firm, DRW. Prior to DRW, Cliff was part of the product and corporate strategy team at Avant, a consumer lending and personal finance company.

Like many financial services firms, Avant generates significant revenue through direct response channels, including through its call center.  Customers call for a personal loan and the call-center must process them.  

Several factors influence the volume of calls including overall market conditions for loans, the economy as well as the company’s own marketing initiatives. Additionally, Avant must consider the amount of capital available at any given time to actually fund the loans.  Thus, call-center staffing teeter-totters between two extremes:

  •  High call volume/ Inadequate call-center capacity –> Lost Revenue
  • Too much capacity/ Low call volume–> Unnecessary costs

Finding the right balance requires planning at least a few weeks’ lead time.  People must be hired and trained.

The strategy team where Cliff worked built a sophisticated model connecting relevant variables, including key factors such as call center staffing needs, expected call volumes, marketing initiatives underway, and the capital available to make loans.  They tweaked and improved the model continuously. 

A larger cross functional team from marketing, operations and the capital side accessed the model through a cloud-based planning platform called Anaplan. To use the model, however, you need to understand it and few of these individuals understood either the its underlying structure or assumptions. It was so complex that individuals needed to invest significant time to understand how it worked, let alone modify its assumptions, test scenarios and actually use it.

Turns out that merely sharing the model in the cloud was not that helpful.

With Trefis, Cliff envisions a single visual, interactive model would allow stakeholders across functions–product, corporate strategy, marketing, and finance–to align on a sophisticated analysis, without getting bogged down in the structure or complexity of the original Excel model built.  The Trefis visualization reveals the most important drivers of the model and lets everyone drill-down into it, whether the user is an Excel wizard or not.