It's pretty much a given these days that advisers use technology to handle the broad spectrum of clients' needs — hence the ubiquity of CRMs and other platforms that manage data via a wide range of apps. However, most applications advisers use today to serve clients are not native to their primary technology platform. And what, exactly, is a native app?
A native app is simply an app that was built for a specific platform, and can take advantage of all of the platform's features. In other words, the user experience is optimized for that platform. In addition, the data captured by the app is saved on the platform. For example, apps downloaded from the Apple App Store onto your iPhone or iPad are native apps.
Now, the platforms that advisers use cover a lot of ground. The CRM is one platform. The adviser likely uses a separate platform for trading (through a broker-dealer or custodian), and perhaps yet another for access to investment managers. In addition, advisers may access separate applications from these platforms for functions such as financial planning and portfolio accounting. All these platforms and applications may have different access points. Under the old IT model of doing business, the adviser must still migrate among the various platforms and software solutions. And, even though there may be a tight integration among the platforms, the adviser will have to learn a different workflow for their respective systems.
That's not the only problem. The data being input into these apps is also input into their corresponding platforms, and saved in those platforms and applications. Typically, data saved in those separate systems, such as financial planning, cannot be accessed for other functions — there is no “two- way” sync of data. That's just restrictive and, frankly, clunky.
On the other hand, in a native app-driven world, you're living on a single platform. And for advisers, the future is the CRM platform. A native app platform, such as some CRM systems, is where all the data from a client's initial contact will be entered, and remain through the life cycle of the client. So, this one platform should be the repository for all client data, including financial account data, capital market assumptions, goals data and household member assumptions such as projected retirement dates — for every client. Having unrestricted use of all this data for each wealth management client, in one core location, is invaluable.
For example, say an adviser has a great article on Section 529 college savings plans. If the adviser is using a CRM with native apps, he or she can generate a custom report — a list of all clients whose goals, across multiple systems, include college education funding and fire off an e-mail to the entire list. The adviser has just made use of a wide range of information that, in a non-native app-driven world, would have been stored on multiple platforms, and required separate retrievals. He or she can also create custom alerts for automated e-mails in the same way.
For these reasons, the native app has proven an essential marketing tool for the adviser. He or she needs only the apps designed for a CRM platform, and they will allow every bit of data for each client to be entered, and used, in a neat, centralized package. Why carry around more baggage than you need? I believe in the old maxim: Less is better than more.
Neal Ringquist is president and chief operating officer of Advisor Software Inc., where he oversees all aspects of the company's operations, and is responsible for setting and driving the overall company strategy.