Some of the most popular posts on this blog come from two series of articles: Which Portfolio Rebalancing Software is Right for You? and Which Financial Planning Software is Right For You?
Adding to this trend, I’m launching a new series called, Which CRM Software is Right for You? In it, I will be reviewing Customer Relationship Management applications designed for financial advisors, including both stand alone packages and those that are integrated with a wealth management platform.
Since I was at the Envestnet 2014 Advisor Summit last week, I thought it would be appropriate to start this series off with a review of their aptly-named Advisor CRM® 2014 application, which is offered as part of the Tamarac Advisor Xi platform. This new version is targeted at RIA’s and was recently released as a completely redesigned web-based application.
Advisor CRM is based on Microsoft Dynamics® CRM 2013 and delivers a host of new features as well as an entirely revamped look and feel. Envestnet will also be supporting the Microsoft Outlook-based CRM version, at least for the time being, so advisors will have the option to pick either one.
Overall, this new Advisor CRM UI has a very clean, uncluttered look and feel. I spoke with a few RIA firms at the conference who switched to Envestnet from other providers and one of the most important reasons they gave was easy of use. Effective use of technology can be an overwhelming task for many people and advisors are no different. They need their software tools to be simple, without too many options or screen layers between them and what they need to accomplish.
Both Apple and Android mobile devices are fully supported and remarkably have pretty much exactly the same user interface as the desktop version (with the exception that users on mobile devices can swipe to change screens). This is a testament to Envestnet’s relentless focus on delivering a consistent user experience across their entire product line. Once advisors are trained on the platform, they can use any device to access the system and they get the same look and feel.
Facebook & Twitter Meet CRM
I was fortunate to be offered a private demo of the software by Ashley Dahl, Advisor CRM product manager as well as Stuart DePina, Group President, Envestnet | Tamarac.
Out of the many new features in this release, my favorite is the integrated collaboration and social-media style functionality. Anyone who has ever used a social media application (and that is almost everyone) will find these tools to have a familiar look and feel and will quickly understand the value in being able to access them in a CRM environment.
This functionality is a key selling point of upstart competitors such as Wealthbox CRM and NexJ. The 800 lb. CRM gorilla, Salesforce.com, has numerous social media-like features, but I don’t believe they are as easy to use or look as nice as Envestnet’s. Neither Redtail CRM nor Junxure CRM have any functionality similar to this, as far as I know.
Similar to Facebook or Twitter, every user of Advisor CRM has a My Wall page that displays a real-time feed of activities he/she has carried out. Many activities will be automatically posted on your wall, but some must be added manually. You can even “tag” a post with the name of a specific client or prospect, which will push it onto anyone else’s wall that is following you or following the client/prospect.
For RIA firms looking to attract younger advisors, collaborative, social media-like functionality designed into your wealth management platform would seem to be a strong selling point. What would be interesting to know is if this type of news feed interface is more or less effective than the a dashboard screen or a standard report. If you miss an update from one of your friends or relatives on Facebook, it’s not a big deal. The same can’t be said for missing a post about a hot prospect or your biggest client.
Envestnet obviously made a major investment in developing a better User Experience (UX) in Advisor CRM. The menus are a nice change from the standard drop-down lists to which we are all accustomed. The colors and graphics are pleasing to the eye and make it easy to pick out the function you want. No more squinting at lists of menu options.
Financial Planning Integration
The concept of goals-based wealth management has become more popular with advisors who are looking for better coordination between financial planning and investment management tools. Most of Envestnet’s competitors offer various levels of integration with major financial planning applications. (See Orion Pumps Up Financial Planning with ASI Integration)
This version of Advisor CRM has basic integration with PIEtech’s MoneyGuide Pro (MGP) financial planning software. Basic integration means that you can manually export data to MGP such client holdings and accounts, assets & liabilities and contact information, but you can’t pull data from MGP back into Advisor CRM.
The export functionality is useful for a number of reasons including avoiding having to re-enter client contact information into MGP to setup a new account. The new client account will automatically be created in MGP once the data is received.
While there are no plans for pulling data from the financial planning tool, MGP’s Goal Planning Reports will be available in the Envestnet Client Portal later this year, according to DePina.
MGP is the only financial planning software that has integration support with Advisor CRM. I would imagine that a large percentage of Envestnet clients use other financial planning software such as Naviplan, eMoney or MoneyTree, simply based on market share numbers. I would expect to see additional integration options offered in the future, although DePina did not mention any specific plans. (See Which Financial Planning Software is Right For You?)
A Tight-Knit Software Family
RIA firms that also use other Envestnet products such as Advisor View™ and/or Advisor Rebalancing® should appreciate the tighter integration provided in this version of Advisor CRM. Information about recent rebalances and account holdings are available in context with CRM information. Each piece of data is itself a link back to the source application, so an advisor only needs to click on the link to drill down to the next level of detail.
This is a big change from previous Advisor CRM version, Dahl explained. Previously, only a subset of functionality from the source applications was available in the CRM. This forced clients to keep AdvisorView and/or Advisor Rebalancing open in separate windows so they could switch back and forth. This is no longer necessary.
All three components in the Advisor Xi Suite share data with one another and share the same household groupings. Accounts that are grouped into households can be rebalanced together, viewed in the CRM together and reported on together for performance.
Dahl commented that many clients choose to purchase the complete Advisor Xi suite based on the strong connectivity between the applications. This makes it easier for advisors to quickly answer client questions since they have more data available at their fingertips.
Lead Management & Prospecting
A good CRM will facilitate prospecting for new business by keeping your contacts organized. A better CRM will also track all of your communications with prospects and allow you to schedule and track follow-up tasks. A great CRM will help you manage the overall prospecting process and keep you on track towards your goals. Advisor CRM does this and much more.
Most smaller RIA firms don’t spend a lot of time prospecting, since their primary source of new business is referrals, so they don’t want to be overwhelmed with business development data entry.
I liked how easy it was to follow the prospecting process. Creating a new lead and then marking them as qualified (or disqualified) was simple and required only a single click for each. The Qualified button automatically kicks off a number of actions including freezing the form, creating new account and household records, and posting the update on your wall and anyone else’s wall that is following you or the prospect.
The Advisor CRM analysis tools help you to visualize your book of business and provide drill down so you know where you stand on opportunities with each prospect. It’s possible to filter your pipeline by leads (new) or opportunities (existing).
There are also useful tools for marketing such as comprehensive mailing lists that can be segmented to focus on a specific clients that you want to target for a promotion (i.e. golfers invited to a charity event).
Using the Goal Analytics functionality, you can setup a business development report and have the system schedule it to be auto-generated and emailed out to the firm partners every Sunday night, so that everyone has the most recent data at their fingertips for the Monday morning management meeting.
The system has a wide selection of canned reports, but the Envestnet consulting team can help customize any of them to your liking. Some customers have 50-75 custom reports, Dahl noted.
Workflows have become a critical function for firms to automate their key business processes. All of the top CRM systems for wealth management (Junxure, Redtail, Salesforce) have some form of workflow processing. Advisor CRM does as well and provides 40 workflows out-of-the box for processes such as new account opening, automatic withdrawals and ACATs.
Workflows can be initiated manually or automatically based on a trigger in the system, such as changing the status of a prospect to a client. Required tasks that need to be handled immediately can be distributed to team members or they can have conditional tasks that wait for other events to finish before kicking off. Dahl added that the Envestnet consulting team can helps clients build new workflows during the implementation process.
Advisor CRM is a well-designed upgrade to the Tamarac Xi suite of wealth management products. It has a clean user interface that provides all of the information an advisor needs without being cluttered or overloaded with bells and whistles. Advanced analytics and reporting tools will endear it to management since it makes their jobs easier and prospecting functionality should increase the closing rate, if used properly. I would recommend that any RIA firm in the market for a new CRM take a look at Advisor CRM, especially if they are already using other parts of the Xi platform. But even for non-Envestnet customers, this CRM application can stand up on its own.