IN FOCUS6-8 min read

How data is helping us invest

Schroders' Data Insights Unit is helping our portfolio managers navigate the Covid-19 crisis and plays an increasingly important role in our investment process. Watch our webinar to hear Mark Ainsworth and Charles Somers discuss recent projects the team has worked on.



Francesca Guinane
Investment Insights Unit Relationship Manager
Mark Ainsworth
Head of Data Insights and Analytics

Thanks to Coronavirus, data has become an ever more important part of our everyday lives. Anyone watching the news is now used to data on case numbers and the previously-unheard of “R rate.” While the pandemic continues, this data dictates how and when businesses can open, how many of our friends and family we can see at one time and where in the world we can travel.

The analysis of new data sets is not just of use in public health – it can also be a useful tool for investors. In 2014, Schroders formed a Data Insights Unit. The team uses data science techniques to provide our investment managers with a broader and more nuanced view of the assets they own in a portfolio.

What is “Alternative Data?”

Market data such as share prices and volumes, company data and government statistics are all considered “traditional” sources of data. However, we now have access to huge “alternative data” sets that haven’t normally been used in the past.

These include data on weather, store locations and social media use. Accessing and analysing this information typically requires specialist skills, but it can provide unique and valuable insights.

Raining on your shop parade

Weather data is something that we are all familiar with – but we don’t necessarily have the ability to look at it across multiple
locations and time periods. Schroders Data Insights Unit have found ways to use current and historical weather data in many sectors. In one project, the team was asked to help assess a company’s claim that poor weather was to blame for disappointing sales. Our analysis of weather data suggested that in fact the temperature had been below the normal range. In this scenario, alternative data allowed us to verify a management team’s claim and allay concern that other, more fundamental challenges were behind the poor sales.

Temperatures in Poland 2014-Q1 2018 Temperature (celsius)


Source: Schroders Data Insights, April 2018

Local Battlegrounds

Alternative data can be used to help us map the location of retail outlets. This can give us a much clearer view of local battlegrounds for business and help us assess the relative positioning of competitors. For instance, the map below shows which parts of a US city are closest to home improvement competitors Home Depot and Lowes. We aggregated this data from hundreds of locations and combined it with information on local demographics to help us understand whether better store positioning was helping Home Depot outperform. 


Analysing the pandemic

As it became clear that Covid-19 was spreading globally, we started focusing on the crisis to provide our investment teams with a clearer view of its potential impact. We used data on infection rates and population density to develop our own epidemiological models. We also looked at new data sets, such as traffic and consumer spending data, to help understand the potential economic impact. Interestingly, data shows that growth in online spending has not significantly slowed with the re-opening of "bricks and mortar" retailers. This suggests that prospects for some e-commerce companies could still be brighter than the market anticipates. 

Population density Persons per square kilometre


Source: Source: Schroders Data Insights, May 2020


Francesca Guinane
Investment Insights Unit Relationship Manager
Mark Ainsworth
Head of Data Insights and Analytics


The value of an investment and the income from it may go down as well as up and investors may not get back the amount originally invested.