Financial advisers and wealth planning firms are always looking for new technology to improve their businesses. When I started working in fintech 20 years ago, the technology available to independent financial advisers was limited.
Forward-thinking firms were often using portfolio management software to create more holistic reports than the custodians and broker-dealers. Some advisers were moving from spreadsheets and Word documents to financial planning systems, while most firms were still using a combination of Outlook, sticky notes and yelling across the office as their "customer relationship management" systems to run their offices.
It was around this time that the industry tech gurus began to advise firms that they simply could not run their businesses properly without CRM. Their businesses would begin to shrivel and die if they didn't stop using Outlook and start using a "real CRM" — a platform that analyzes and implements client data to focus on specific business goals.
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So RIAs dutifully began implementing real CRM in their practices. With diligence, time and training, many firms found they became more efficient and profitable by using these platforms. They succeeded in delivering a higher level of service, more consistently, to more clients — with the same number of employees. InvestmentNews found these best managed firms — representing the top 15% of independent, fee-based advisory firms — had 26% more client households per professional and a whopping 79% more profit per professional.
Unfortunately, not everyone had such a positive experience with their CRMs — mostly because of their inefficiencies in using the platform. Even today, many firms' CRMs are nothing more than glorified Rolodexes that are used sporadically.
Ironically, employees often find themselves taking longer to enter data and notes on the CRM — with no perceived benefit. Advisers are frustrated when they see the efficiency and profitability of the CRMs as experienced by the best managed firms — they know they must do better but are unsure how to get there.
Here are four CRM best practices financial advisers and wealth planning firms can follow to become more efficient and more profitable while raising the bar on the level of client service they offer consistently.
1. Think of your CRM as a hub. Most financial advisory firms have data all over the place — in portfolio management systems, custodian websites, computers, emails, etc. Your CRM should be your hub — all your client data should be consolidated on your CRM — to ease the aggregation and analysis of the data and improve your business operations.
2. Your CRM should be your corporate memory. Many growing and mature financial advisory firms have many people who work with clients — advisers, paraplanners, admin and other staff. It doesn't matter who took the phone call, had the meeting, or sent and received an email — your CRM should help gather all of these interactions into one place. Your mantra should be, "If it isn't in the CRM, it didn't happen!" This helps to facilitate open lines of communication across the firm and to make sure no assignment falls off the firm's radar.
3. Your CRM should facilitate mass communication. It shouldn't take an admin person half of their day to gather a list of clients and print a letter with labels. Your CRM should offer robust and intuitive tools to gather lists of contacts to create and send personalized letters and emails designed to help advisers communicate with their clients and lay the foundation for strong and long-lasting relationships.
4. Your CRM should manage office workflow. Your CRM should do more than store sporadic meeting and phone call notes — workflow management tools help make sure the right person is assigned the right task at the right time. Firms shouldn't have principals doing admin work because it falls into their lap. Proper assignment of tasks helps define employee accountability and outlines a transparent action plan for employees to adhere to when it comes to accomplishing client work.
By gradually adopting these practices and expanding the scope of CRM platforms, firms can spend less time worrying about the logistics of the office and more time doing what matters the most to their businesses.
In fact, Moss Adams found that owners of the best managed firms have 180 additional hours annually. Who wouldn't want an extra month to spend time with clients and prospects — or recharge their batteries on a vacation?
Robert DeFrancis is director of sales at Junxure.