Not Your Father’s CRM

Published by Shawn Gillespie, Director - Senior Account Executive, Business Development
January 30th, 2015

business_nothappyMost financial advisors share similar goals and objectives. Most of these goals center around two purposes: attracting new clients and ensuring that existing clients are happy. More times than not, this is easier said than done. Prospective and current clients each come with their own unique set of challenges.  Technology packages are supposed to help, but sometimes they make life more difficult.  Some applications are useful for sales and prospecting, but may fall short and feel disconnected once the prospect becomes a client.  A great benefit for advisors has been the evolution of client reporting; cloud-based, accurate, and great looking reports with a single mouse click.  Although these applications serve their primary purpose, that’s just it, they often service only one purpose.  The advisor is forced to use separate systems for other needs.  For example, most firms have separate CRM and client reporting systems; that’s just the tip of the iceberg.   Throw in a fee system, proposal generation, client website, and portfolio rebalancing system and the list gets longer.  Not to mention that if the advisor’s client base is spread across multiple custody and clearing firms, a whole new set of challenges are introduced.  With all of these different applications and platforms, maintaining data consistency and accuracy can be a nightmare.

A few years ago here at First Rate one of our wealth management customers brought this predicament to our attention.  They used First Rate’s applications for client reporting, Microsoft Dynamics for CRM, and Microsoft Excel for fee analytics. They maintained seven different custodial relationships, had manual investment policy statements and lacked a client portal.  Data was maintained separately in the CRM, custodial system, and client reporting system.  Simple holiday card mailings were error prone and took weeks to complete.  Clients had limited accessibility to current data.  Mobile apps were non-existent. Simple phone number updates or address changes had to be completed in multiple systems and were rarely consistent across all of their systems.

After meeting with several advisor firms we realized these types of challenges were widespread among advisors. First Rate set out to expand our capabilities and round out our solution set.  As we surveyed the market, common themes began to emerge.  The big, well-known CRM systems were too generic.  To get them to work for an advisor one must undergo an expensive implementation, customization and development effort.  Many of the popular client reporting applications claim to have CRM capabilities, but strangely enough many of their advisors have purchased separate CRM systems.  Some platforms will offer fee management capability, but only if the rules are not too complex.  Few of the client reporting systems can handle all of the advisor’s accounts—especially when multiple custodians are involved.  Some of the data aggregators offer client reporting, but the data accuracy is suspect and unreliable.  As a result of all of these challenges advisors are required to engage with multiple providers and manage multiple technology platforms.  The benefits these separate systems bring with them are often offset by new inefficiencies due to lack of integration and the need for redundant data entries.

Some of the most notable challenges:

  • The account opening process is time consuming
  • Profitability metrics are valuable but time consuming to track and store
  • Maintaining a client portal can be expensive
  • “Know your client” rules are challenging
  • Paper documents take up valuable space and make audits time consuming
  • Advisors are mobile but their technology is not
  • Manual entry of account data is time consuming and expensive
  • Print and mail distribution of client reports is expensive

Two years ago, empowering advisors to rule their world became a possibility. During an investment industry conference we met Aaron Guidotti, the CEO of Grendel.  Grendel is affiliated with an RIA and as a result the tools Grendel offers are purpose-built for financial advisors.  We found Grendel’s story to be an intriguing one and after an introductory conversation our interest was piqued.  Following the conference we scheduled a demonstration of the Grendel CRM suite. Given our past experience with CRM applications, our expectations were low. We were not expecting what we saw: client prospecting, contact management, workflows, data aggregation, daily account values, investment policy statements, email archival, client portal, insurance quotes, asset allocation reporting and integration with financial planning tools.  Almost immediately the light bulb turned on.  First, the purpose-built CRMs like Grendel are a much better fit and present a far better value for financial advisors versus the large generic CRM offerings.  Second, if the CRM were to be combined with client reporting, fee management, and practice management analytics, advisors would be able to satisfy most of their technology needs with a single platform. By implementing a unified platform they would streamline their business, become more profitable and all while improving their relationships with their clients.

We felt strongly that what we were now talking about goes far beyond CRM.  In fact, referring to it as a CRM application would have been a disservice to the full capabilities of the platform.  Two years later the result is ARKON, a unified wealth management platform for financial advisors.  ARKON combines over 30 years of investment technology from First Rate and Grendel.

Arkon BrochureFeatures of ARKON include:

  • Compliant and advisor built CRM
  • Email archival
  • Paperless office
  • Workflows
  • Client reports with accurate performance data
  • Client portal
  • Account opening
  • Data aggregation
  • Portfolio oversight
  • Fee management and analytics
  • Cloud based
  • Mobile apps

Recently a wealth management firm conducted a search with nearly 300 hours of work to find a platform that was designed to meet their technology and CRM needs. Fortunately for First Rate, our integration efforts were wrapping up and their search coincided with the launch of ARKON. This firm came to the conclusion that their best option would be to run their $2.8 billion practice on ARKON.

ARKON makes it possible to think about CRM in a different way. It goes above and beyond to provide a single portal while managing all of the different facets in an advisor’s world. The traditional CRM systems are limited and do not meet the needs of advisors, whereas ARKON puts the power in their hands, effectively and efficiently helping them to Rule their World.

About the Author: Shawn Gillespie is an Account Executive at First Rate, Inc. and helps investment firms and advisors solve their toughest challenges with innovative technology solutions.

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