After Joining Stableview Asset management, an independent firm, managing director Colin Fisher started shopping for a new customer relationship management (CRM) platform.

Topping his list: a secure system, which if housed in the U.S. could prevent U.S. enforcement officials waving Patriot Act court orders from peeking into client information. He also wants features that automate daily workflow, store a wide range of client documents, and let his team connect regularly with customers.

Fisher doesn’t want StableView to worry about owning the servers, installing upgrades or dealing with tech guys. He’s still in the process of vetting software.

CRM brands like Sage ACT, Maximizer and Goldmine are well used. But with regulators demanding better compliance, and wealth management firms wanting to better leverage client data, new solutions have emerged.

Salesforce, the $2.5-billion-a-year CRM giant, has spurred much of the upheaval. Its cloud-based applications and plug-ins, while expensive, promise an all-in-one system.

Mark Farris, director and wealth advisor for Richardson GMP, says an efficiency push caused his team to shift from ACT to Salesforce last year. Farris and his colleagues increasingly use mobile devices, making the program’s web features a must. He adds a CRM is no longer just about remembering client birthdays. In fact, not tapping the technology means leaving money on the table.

A business essential

Craig, an Ontario advisor who prefers not to be identified, works for a large institution with a creaking CRM system it keeps pledging to improve. He’s been using it to track customers since the 1990s.

But to schedule meetings and send emails, he uses Microsoft Outlook. And to access portfolios and get information about client RRSPs and dividend payments, he relies on Vantage. To execute trades, he has to use yet another platform.

“I have a lot of pieces running at the same time,” Craig says. But since this patchwork does the job, there’s little motivation to fix it.

Tage Cawley, Canaccord’s Edmonton branch manager and senior vice president, says his firm recently moved to Salesforce to look for fresh ways to mine client data. Why? Advisors have to be able to capture and quickly verify all conversations with clients to avoid complaints or lawsuits. “[I tell] the guys this is about self-preservation.”

And there are some good features. Planning and tracking attendance at client appreciation events is more streamlined. Suddenly, events that would have been held twice yearly can happen monthly, with the corresponding increase in leads.

For Farris, the most important benefit is the ability to manage and integrate initial contacts, portfolio reviews, presentations and follow-ups. He uses Process Composer, a Salesforce app, to distribute those tasks among team members.

Yet not all advisors are sold on the newest generation of CRMs. Cawley understands the reluctance. “If you don’t put money up yourself, you probably won’t use the system. But when they start to see new clients coming in, there’s more buy-in.”

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