Tax-advantaged retirement savings plans, such as 401(k)s, are commonly offered as a job benefit for employees. The employer sponsors the plan and may offer incentives such as contribution matching to encourage participation. These plans act as an important tool for attracting and retaining talent, but only if they perform well. 
The typical account access website for these plans has outdated tools and technologies and lacks insight into plan performance on an individual and company-wide level. This experience can lead to poor plan health, a lack of plan participation, and employees who are not prepared for retirement. 
dailyVest is a FinTech company looking to improve investment and performance reporting for recordkeepers, plan sponsors, and plan participants. Its executive management team has a long history in the financial services industry. Co-founders Daniel Benson and Peter McNellis previously founded and built an industry-respected retirement products software company, Viga Technologies, and wanted to transform how retirement and 401(k) plans were managed by employers.
As of December 31st, 2020, dailyVest had:
  • $569 billion assets analyzed
  • 12.3 million plan participants analyzed
  • 16,200 employer-sponsored retirement plans analyzed
  • $3.3 billion in transactions analyzed
  • $28 billion in contributions year to date
  • $32 billion in distributions year to date
dailyVest’s first project in 2003 was a commercial engine to deliver a personal rate of return, which calculated a plan participant’s investment performance based on their own transaction history and resulting cash flows. This first product was designed to exclusively run on-premises. 
As dailyVest developed this engine, the team recognized a bigger opportunity to enable plan sponsors to get the most out of their 401(k) data through a white-label dashboard and intelligence tool.
dailyVest needed easy access to update and improve the initial dashboard product, but the on-premises legacy software sat behind a firewall and made it logistically difficult to move forward. Achieving this goal would require a shift to the cloud. 

dailyVest’s Core Product and Expansion Modules

The core product that dailyVest needed to move to the cloud was EnterpriseROR. This solution offers an investment performance analytics and reporting system capable of gathering and analyzing vast amounts of investment account data in real or near real-time. The analytics and intelligence are presented as a series of highly customizable and interactive dashboards. Its capabilities can be further expanded through modules, which include: 
  • planAnalytics: A plan sponsor reporting tool that offers robust monitoring and analysis functionality. Plan administrators and sponsors use this solution to measure how well employer-sponsored retirement plans are working, model plan-level investment behavior, and determine the soundness of these plans.
  • Personal Investment Performance (PIP): This real-time investment performance calculation engine and reporting system integrates with financial services firms’ account access websites. 
  • Account Statement-on-Demand: This module delivers customizable, on-demand, and batch-generated investor account statements. These dynamic account statements empower plan participants with actionable plan and account information to help them make better investment decisions on an individual level. 
  • Print Batch Output: This high-performance Print Batch processing solution generates personal rates of return and other investment content for all plan participants. It’s used for generating personal rates of return and performance charts for printed account statements and archival purposes. 

Surfacing Plan Health Data for Plan Sponsors

Plan sponsors, such as Boeing, use dailyVest’s platform to inform many decisions, such as: 
  • Understanding low plan participation: Plan sponsors can review reasons for low enrollment and create a strategy for encouraging participation based on employee profiles. 
  • Addressing low retirement contribution rates: Plan sponsors can revise their retirement education strategy to emphasize the benefits of increasing contributions and the impacts it can have on retirement income goals. 
  • Fixing inappropriate asset allocation: Employees with inappropriate allocations of asset classes for their ages can receive proactive communications about the risks of this approach, and an investment strategy that better matches their personal financial picture. 
  • Flagging poorly performing funds: Plan sponsors can track the performance of funds and determine whether poor performers should remain available to participants. 
  • Sending alerts for unusual money movement: Increased fund inflows and outflows, excess trading, and market timing may indicate undesirable participant behavior. Plan sponsors can act on this information to maintain plan health. 

The Challenges of Choosing the Right Cloud Database to Power the EnterpriseROR Engine 

The sheer size and scale of this financial data required a robust, cloud-based infrastructure that could keep up with dailyVest’s current and future analytics demand. It took two years to convert the plan health data analysis engine to cloud-compatible software, and dailyVest chose Microsoft Azure SQL for its cloud platform and used it for two years. 
However, Azure SQL couldn’t effectively scale to meet the team’s performance and cost expectations as the transaction volume increased. Common operations such as copying or restoring a database took an hour and tasks such as generating all key performance metrics for the latest month took more than four hours to complete.  
While their customers weren’t complaining about the speed, yet, dailyVest wanted to offer a better user experience and user interface (UI) performance. The increased storage costs for long-term recovery backups from month to month also increased several hundred dollars per month. 
Overall, the team needed a database that could address the technical challenges currently standing in EnterpriseROR’s way and control the rising costs. The ideal solution would: 
  • Provide enough compute power and capacity for cached data generation and to speed up the ingestion process
  • Deliver superior performance to support complex queries that generate large amounts of data
  • Be compatible with the Microsoft Azure cloud environment to avoid a change from a security standpoint
  • Handle a transaction growth rate of 36 percent per year
  • Offer columnstore for better compression and read performance, allowing dailyVest to handle ad hoc queries against large data volumes
  • Enable dailyVest to continue using SQL due to developer familiarity 
  • Offer C# to avoid rewriting code for a different cloud
dailyVest evaluated many database technologies as the team developed the cloud version of EnterpriseROR and launched it in the first quarter of 2019. At the time, they ruled out several options:
  • Redshift: Stored procedures were not supported at that time, and it underperformed compared to Vertica. 
  • Vertica: Nested queries were not available during the evaluation. 
  • MariaDB: dailyVest was already committed to Microsoft’s Azure cloud, and the  database did not support it.
Other databases under consideration included KDB+, ClickHouse, PostgreSQL, MonetDB, and Infobright. They did extensive proof of concept (PoC) analyses to compare the various options and ultimately, none of these other offerings supported the features the team needed or they were too cost-prohibitive. 

Benefits of SingleStore Managed Service for FinTech Companies

dailyVest first encountered SingleStore years ago, but in its early days when it was just an in-memory database without columnstore. The team looked into it again in 2019 after running into the performance and pricing challenges of Azure SQL. dailyVest discovered that SingleStore now offers columnstore, along with the fast in-memory rowstore and other features and benefits that met its technical and business requirements. 
SingleStore offers a unified database for fast analytics on any data, anywhere. It supports deployment on Azure cloud and is optimized for fast analytical queries across large, dynamic datasets. Parallel, high-scale streaming data ingest addressed dailyVest’s ETL performance goals. SingleStore’s ability to process billions of events per second and millions of real-time queries formed a foundation for managing the short and long-term needs of the platform. 
dailyVest chose SingleStore Managed Service, a fully-managed, on-demand, and elastic cloud database. McNellis explained, “We have the talent to stand up, administer, monitor, and fine-tune the data infrastructure ourselves, but that's not where our value is. We could do that, but it would take time away from what we do really well, which is analyzing data and keeping it safe.”
With SingleStore Managed Service, dailyVest gained access to SingleStore’s best-in-class speed, scale, and agility without the headaches of installing, configuring, and maintaining software. The processes for creating and deploying clusters, monitoring cluster health, backups, administration, and optimizing and tuning queries are all streamlined with this fully managed cloud database solution. 

Implementing and Optimizing SingleStore Managed Service

dailyVest moved the EnterpriseROR platform from Azure SQL to SingleStore Managed Service in 2020. The bulk ingested data goes from customer data centers to the SingleStore database and powers the platform’s real-time interactive dashboards and APIs.
Most of the data ingestion occurs during the first week of the month, but recordkeepers will import corrections as needed. dailyVest integrates a real-time UI with custom data views within the customer’s web page. The typical custom view might have 35 tiles that each feature a single metric, and the team wanted to ensure they can load within five to seven seconds. Customers can also connect custom applications to API endpoints and dailyVest provides custom handlers for these applications. 
Additionally, dailyVest offers benchmarking of retirement plans, comparing key performance indicators across multiple plans. The platform can’t benchmark these large data sets in real-time, so dailyVest analyzes the information upfront and caches the data. 
Since SingleStore Managed Service supports the Azure cloud, dailyVest was able to keep the application and data in the same data center. Most of the platform’s customers are in North America, so the primary databases are in the eastern US region. An Azure failover is located in a different region. 
Transitioning from Azure SQL to SingleStore Managed Service was not without a few snags, but proactive technical support helped dailyVest through the migration process. 
“We ran into a couple of problems in the early stages of our implementation with temp tables and plan cache. We didn’t even notice these issues ourselves. What we got was a proactive tech support call from SingleStore,” explained Gerry Morgan, Lead Developer at dailyVest.  
“They could see we were heading for a big problem. We fixed that and moved on. We were pleased not to have to open up a tech support ticket ourselves and impressed with the technical support we received from SingleStore,” continued Morgan.  

What dailyVest Achieved With SingleStore Managed Service

The performance improvements dailyVest saw with SingleStore Managed Service were substantial compared to Azure SQL, ranging from 12.4 percent up to an incredible 94.5 percent depending on the operation.
The dailyVest team is able to analyze more on the backend than they previously could, all while achieving a 35 percent reduction in total cost of ownership (TCO). Choosing SingleStore Managed Service over the self-managed SingleStore DB also saved dailyVest the equivalent of one full-time employee. Data security, always a top-of-mind concern for recordkeepers and plan sponsors, stayed equally good.  
Morgan also has high praise for the SingleStore coding experience, with stored procedures offering up to 3x faster performance. 
“Now that I have a feel for what kind of code is most efficient in SingleStore, which means Common Table Expressions (CTE) for me, it’s easy to be consistent with the code. If I had to sum up my experiences as a programmer since we moved to SingleStore, I spend a lot less time analyzing query plans and a lot more time developing code, which is great.” 

What's Next for dailyVest?

dailyVest is looking forward to the 7.5 update for SingleStore, which will allow them to add the following functionality for more speed, scale, and agility: 
  • The separation of storage and compute, which will allow the platform to guarantee or limit resources for a particular task, such as a particular customer’s batch. 
  • Resource pools, which will allow dailyVest to separate live operations from ETL operations and operations in staging databases. 
  • Point-in-time recovery
  • UPSERT operations on columnstores
Explore what SingleStore Managed Service can do for your financial services data ingestion and analytics needs. Get started for free or contact us to discuss your modern database requirements.