Junxure, a CRM application popular among registered investment advisers, is heading to the clouds.
The new version of the customer relationship management app, called Junxure Essentials, answers the long-held concerns of many advisers about when a cloud-based version would be available.
In the most recent InvestmentNews technology survey conducted lastsummer, 21% of advisers said that they used Junxure, making it the No. 1 CRM app among respondents.
Junxure Essentials has been in the offing for two years from CRM Software Inc., the creator of the program.
“My mandate was that Junxure Essentials has to keep the Junxure DNA, meaning it has to reflect the development work we have put into the product over the last 15 years but be profoundly different,” said Greg Friedman, president of CRM Software.
The development of Junxure Essentials actually dates back further, reflecting his 25 years as an adviser, said Mr. Friedman, who is also a principal of RIA firm Private Ocean.
CLEAN AND ELEGANT
Whether it is profound remains to be seen but Junxure Essentials, in terms of the interface design, is clean and elegant (see the online version of this column for links to a brief slide show).
The firm has hired four employees to work on the project, including a product manager, designer and system architect.
As for timing, though it isn't carved in stone, Mr. Friedman said CRM Software plans to launch its beta of Junxure Essentials in the fall with general availability next year.
The company hasn't decided on pricing, but he said that he intends Junxure Essentials to be competitive with other cloud offerings.
“We have poured our deep understanding of an adviser's business and how [advisers] work [into the product], and that is really what makes us most different from all these systems that are online these days but just with an adviser overlay,” Mr. Friedman said, referring to competitors.
These include industry giants Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce.com, both of which are also being offered as choices on Schwab's OpenView Gateway platform.
Ken Golding, a developer and the co-owner of CRM Software with Mr. Friedman, went into depth on the underpinnings of the new version.
It is being built on Microsoft Corp.'s .Net platform, using SQL Server for the database, and each advisory firm will be on its own database.
Another point to keep in mind is that Junxure Essentials, not surprisingly, will rely on Microsoft Outlook for significant pieces of its mechanisms, as does the current version of Junxure.
It will run without Microsoft Outlook, but as Mr. Golding said about the company's use of the Outlook Object Model, “The best level of integration will require it. It is the only way that we can deliver what we want to do.”
I will update my blog with more detail from my conversation with Mr. Golding, but a big part of what makes Junxure, Junxure are “actions,” and those actions are triggered by e-mails that in turn trigger other actions through work flows.
For example, these might include the automatic transfer of a task to a subordinate or making a note in a calendar or a particular document being prepped.
ONLINE TAKES TIME
A bit should be said about the timing, as some advisers have complained about how it's taken a while to get a purely online version of Junxure (people have been hosting the current versions online for a some time now).
CRM Software, like many third-party vendors in the advisory tech realm, is a small company, and when it introduced Junxure years ago, the only way to run software for a small business was either on a personal computer or a PC tied to a local server.
It has evolved ever since, and something designed for that model and with the depth of features present can't simply be picked up and placed on the web very effectively.
You could liken it in some measure to the transition that car companies have gone through of late. It isn't a perfect analogy, but think of it more from the perspective of shifting from gasoline engines to electric — the fundamentals have changed.
In the case of a car, it is the power plant and the infrastructure, though in the case of the cloud version of Junxure, it is really the infrastructure for delivery and day-to-day use that is entirely different.
See my follow-up blog post on Essentials, which includes more of my interview with Ken Golding and a short slideshow: More on Junxure Essentials, including slideshow
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First there were the various secure portals that have been used by financial advisers for years.
More recently, offerings such as the secure document sites Box.net and Dropbox.com, among others, have added to the choices.
I am now test-driving another service called Ziptr.
The service includes both an online component in the form of storage but also, and more importantly, software for both Mac and Windows that keeps e-mail and files encrypted both during its trips over the Internet and when it is at rest on your computer.
There are multiple versions including one that's free (2GB of personal vault storage online) as well as Pro ($10 per user per month or $100 for a year, 5-gigabyte vault per user) and Biz ($15 per month per user/$150 for a year and 10-GB vault per user) versions.
It is the latter that should interest most advisers because of the built-in compliance-auditing features. The Pro and Biz versions also have centralized user management features as well, so you could, for example, put the whole firm on the system.
All versions include the automated, end-to-end, bidirectional 256-bit AES encryption and a 30-day free trial.
Another great aspect of this service is that it is in some ways “viral,” but in a good way. Once you start using it with clients, they in turn can send invitations to others, be they friends or, say, their accountant, etc.
I will have much more detail on my blog and will check out two additional, somewhat similar competing products as well.
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InvestmentNews is now a media partner with the Technology Tools for Today conference.
Many of you have read my coverage from T3 during the past two years.
Without a doubt, it has grown into the most concentrated assemblage of third-party tech vendors that serve the advisory market. That means dozens of booths and educational sessions dedicated to meeting your tech needs, all in one place.
Look for me to moderate a few panel sessions at the 2013 conference (Feb. 11-13 at the Miami Hilton), in addition to those directed by co-founders Joel Bruckenstein and David Drucker. More details to follow.