Microsoft Dynamics CRM program gets a face lift

Still, the platform may not be ready for prime time, advisers say

Dec 1, 2015 @ 1:21 pm

By Alessandra Malito

Microsoft Corp. announced upgrades for its client-relationship management program Microsoft Dynamics software on Monday but some financial advisers say the platform is still not ready for the big leagues.

In a market saturated with industry-specific CRM platform options, Microsoft offers a reputable name but no financial services-focused product. It is currently paired with Salentica, an overlay for financial advisers who want to use the platform.

Its new version, which is now available in the cloud and on desktops, is fully integrated with Office 365, including Word, Excel and Outlook, and is accessible offline on mobile devices. On the sales side, the CRM will use Microsoft's Cortana Analytics Suite, a big data provider, to offer product and service recommendations for customers as well as detect potential leads or issues.

But the CRM is still not an easy sell as a standalone product because it doesn't focus on financial services.

“Microsoft Dynamics is an amazing tool,” said Neal Quon, co-founder of QuonWarrene, a technology consulting firm for the financial services industry. "That being said, its place in the adviser market is still a little bit cloudy."

NOT THE MOST POPULAR

Advisers currently use the CRM, but it isn't the most popular. In the 2015 InvestmentNews Adviser Technology Study, 90% of firms said they use CRMs. Redtail Technology led the way with 27%, followed by Junxure at 26%, Salesforce at 9%, Act! at 6% and Microsoft Dynamics at 5%. An “other” category came up with 17%.

It's a competitive market. In August, Salesforce launched Salesforce Financial Services Cloud, a wealth management-geared CRM platform.

Howard Erman, president and founder of Erman Retirement Advisory in Seal Beach, Calif., said the focus on the industry makes these programs so effective.

“It is all the small things that add up,” Mr. Erman said, adding that for Microsoft to do well with advisers, it needs to narrow the focus of Dynamics. “It makes a lot of sense to penetrate a niche.”

It is hard to argue that Microsoft's features, especially its integration with Office 365, Outlook and OneDrive, are not attractive, Mr. Quon said.

OUTLOOK INTEGRATION KEY

Todd Walklett, managing director of Covington Capital Management in Los Angeles, Calif., said his firm has been eyeing Microsoft Dynamics for months for the very fact that it works so smoothly with Outlook, an integral part of his business.

“It is such an embedded part of our workflow that I am shocked at the lack of attention it has been given by all of these other CRMs,” Mr. Walklett said, adding that he suspects it's because CRM platforms offer email and other services. For him, however, that's a gap.

Still, Mr. Quon warns advisers not to focus just on a program's list of features. Instead, advisers should figure out their priorities for such technology and how it will fit into their current business model.

“They shouldn't get enamored by feature functionality,” Mr. Quon said.

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