Posts belonging to Category 'CRM'

What Kind of CRM Do You Need?

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series CRM Key Insights

by Mark Nahlovsky

CRM as Platform, Tool, or Module?

Because technology continues to be a hot button topic for advisors, it the launch point for our recently launched Advisor Success Series, which begins with an in-depth look at Client Relationship Management programs (CRM).    The acronym “CRM” can mean many different things depending on one’s role within an organization and the size, structure, and focus of the organization itself.  When it comes to CRM for financial advisory practices and firms, we have simplified the options into three broad categories described as follows:

  1. CRM as Tool:  Advisor-specific CRM solutions that integrate with a multitude of advisory software (Portfolio Management, Financial Planning, etc.) and are maintained by a firm that “gets” financial advisors.  The primary benefit of this category is in the expedited “time to value” an advisory firm can achieve.
  2. CRM as Integrated Module:  Advisor-specific CRM with embedded portfolio management and/or data aggregation capabilities.  These solutions can integrate with other advisory software, but their strength is in the integrated experience they provide through a common database.
  3. CRM as Enterprise Platform:  Enterprise CRM solutions that can be configured to the exact needs of an advisory firm or that have been configured for advisors by a consulting firm or overlay partner.  Advisory firms that have been successful with this option rarely if ever need to say “no” to a business request – where there is a will there is a way!


Why should you care?

The cost difference between the options listed above can range from a few hundred dollars per year to tens of thousands of dollars per year depending on what you need.  When you factor in the amount of “care and feeding” a more flexible platform may require, the cost differential only grows larger.

CRM success isn’t about paying more to get a better system, there are great solutions at every price point.  It is about choosing the solution that best meets your needs and fits within your budgetary appetite. 

The first step I always tell advisors to take when figuring out where to start the CRM selection process is to ask themselves whether they are bringing in CRM as…

A tool to complete certain tasks, if the answer is yes, then learning more about what functionality is available is the next logical step and what matters is whether or not it can do what you want it to do now and in the foreseeable future.  Anything beyond that is not worth the additional investment.

A module integrated with another program, if so, then your investigation should center on the programs that you use or plan to use and ensuring compatibility.  Understanding the user experience is a critical investigation point in the CRM as a module approach.

A platform to run their entire business, now the next question is just how unique your business model really is and how much flexibility do you need.  As you can probably guess, the more unique your needs, the more flexibility you will require and the more likely it is that you really do require an enterprise platform.

The good news is that you’re travelling down a path that others have gone down before.  You can learn from your peers, leverage a myriad of industry resources, and leverage firms like mine to go down this journey with your eyes wide open.

My next post will provide insight into breaking down CRM functionality.

ActiFi announces new Advisor Success Series

We are excited to announce the launch of the Advisor Success Series, an innovative series of programs designed to help financial advisors run exceptional businesses.  The Series will consist of reports, webinars, and online tools and resources developed through quantitative research, trend analysis, and best practices garnered from working with the nation’s top advisory practices and the institutions that serve them. Learn more at

The Series starts with a look at Core Advisor Technologies as that continues to be a hot topic for advisors.   Through research and hands-on access to the leading tools, we have observed first-hand the benefits enhanced functionality and pre-built integrations are providing advisors. There has never been a better time for advisors to take a fresh look at the technology solutions being built just for them.

Within the Technology section, the first program is CRM Selection, focusing on key insights and major trends impacting the leading financial advisory CRM solutions. A free Education Option is available along with a Personalized Option that adds access to our innovative online CRM Selection Tool Advisors may be able to access the program at a free or reduced rate through participating financial institutions who offer customized versions of the program to their advisors.

Our goal at ActiFi is to help advisors run more efficient, effective, and profitable businesses. And, just as importantly, to provide financial institutions access to our unique and industry-leading solutions so their internal teams can help their advisors.

Why [Software] Technology Fails to Deliver Results- Part II

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Why Software Fails

by Spenser Segal

Even firms who have gotten past the initial software implementation and implemented some written processes around its use can wind up feeling like their software failed.  Usually, in our experience, because they were uncertain about how or unwilling to build their processes into the technology directly.

Level 3 Utilization — using workflow to manage tasks.  This level of utilization is where the rubber really begins to meet the road and is the point at which your software investment is moving beyond serving as a glorified rolodex or spreadsheet.  This is where the written processes you worked diligently to verify and document begin to show up inside of your software solution rather than next to it.  By doing so you begin to gain a shared version of the truth and the ability to report on it.  Not reaching this point means you are missing out on the ability to assign tasks in a standardized manner within the system and gain true visibility on status and adherence to your process.  Reaching this level is where the software begins to provide a true window to the business results you were sold on and a definitive step away from the danger zone of lackluster results being pinned as a failure of the software.

Level 4 Utilization — automating groups of processes in one application.  If you’ve made it to this point, Automating within business software, you are leveraging the power of the program to remove work from humans and gaining more speed in completing routine tasks and processes thereby giving time back to your team which they can then spend on high value activities like bringing in new clients or proactively reaching out to existing clients.  Achieving this level of utilization drives even more consistency into the processes you’ve developed and reduces opportunity for error.  The greatest risk of software failure at this point is in not having or acquiring the expertise to build in automation or allowing employees to continue using the old way of operating.  Doing things right the first time on implementation will translate to long term savings.  Getting leadership on-board to drive utilization from the start is critical.

Level 5 Utilization — automating groups of processes across multiple applications.  Odds are slim by this point that you are complaining about any failure of the software you selected.  Most companies that achieve at least level 4 utilization will see substantial benefit and improving business results.  Level 5 is the point at which multiple systems begin working together to amplify the benefits achieved in level 4.  Faster completion, less time wasted on repetitive tasks, fewer opportunities for human error are now enjoyed at an even greater clip.  Every hour of effort you put into increasing system utilization, systematizing processes, and building automation will pay big dividends in efficiency and ultimately the profitability of your practice.  The greatest risk for software failure at this point would be selection of a program that is not designed to communicate with other systems.

Software today is designed more and more to be configurable and integrate with other systems.  In the wealth management space, software vendors are constantly improving the quality and depth of the integrations they have with each other.  And while it may require some investment to get there, the payoff in terms of success vs failure to achieve the gleaming business results you were looking for is unquestionable.

If your team is calling your recent software investment a failure, maybe it’s time to look at the implementation and the user acceptance path that followed.  Chances are pretty good that the software isn’t what failed.

Why [Software] Technology Fails to Deliver Results- Part I

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Why Software Fails

by Spenser Segal

The investment was big, at least in terms of what you would typically spend as an organization.  The results, well they never materialized.  Now it’s time to find out why the software you so carefully selected failed to deliver the game changing business results you expected.  Hold on tight, this might not be the ride you were expecting.

Selection of “the right” software is the first step on the road to creating the business results you desire.  We’ve seen far too many firms mistakenly believe that simply selecting the “best” software will solve their business issues and increase productivity.  The truth is that there are many good software solutions available for advisory practices, programs for Client Relationship Management (CRM), Portfolio Management, Document Management and Financial Planning.  The key to success with all of them lies in adoption and usage.

In a recent series of blog posts for we explored a 5-Step Process to Utilize Your Existing Technology.  The series explained how advisors can more effectively use and get greater return on the tools in which they’ve already invested time and money.  What we didn’t cover in depth there is how failure to advance through these levels of utilization can ultimately result in an apparent failure of the software and falling short of your business goals.

What we’ve seen in our experience working with hundreds of advisors and advisory leaders throughout the years, is this; the number one reason for software failure is not a failure of the software but rather a failure to lead, implement and fully utilize the software.

Level 1 Utilization — when it’s all in your head, is the default starting point for many practices.  They have figured out how to get in and use some of the features, but there is not a well-designed, written process on the optimal use of the tools.  If an organization fails to move beyond this level of usage, it will most certainly result in an apparent failure of the software.  Without a well-documented process, effective training, and guidelines for use, users will be unlikely to understand the true capabilities of the system and struggle to make it part of their day-to-day routine.  This usually results in the tools being underutilized in an inconsistent manner and not delivering the business value the advisor desires.

Level 2 Utilization — writing it down/using checklists is an excellent next step which can drive a marked increase in usage.  The reason for this is the habits is can help form for the users. Defining and gaining agreement on your processes, sets the stage for successful progression, and may in fact be the most difficult part of the journey.  Left unaddressed, it often manifests as a failure of the software when indeed it is a failure of the organization to manage consistent usage and accountability.  An undefined process leads to confusion, inefficiency and ultimately an inability to effectively grow your practice.

Any organization that invests in software technology to move their business forward and then wallows at one of these levels in terms of usage will likely label the software as a failure.  The hard truth is that it isn’t the software that failed at all, but rather the will and/or ability of leaders and users to truly adopt the software into their daily routines.

These are frequently the situations that ActiFi is brought into, so if it sounds all too familiar rest assured you are not alone.  There is always an opportunity to turn the ship and begin navigating toward a successful implementation.  In the next post in this series, we’ll look at utilization levels 3-5.

Choosing Software That Works for Your Advisory Firm—Part 7: The Keys to Success

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series Choosing Software That Works for Your Advisory Firm

by Spenser Segal

In the previous six posts in this series on the process for choosing and implementing the right technology for your advisory firm, we provided you with a detailed step-by-step process when doing so. On the surface, it may seem a bit daunting to accomplish all of the tasks we suggested.  However, it is not necessary to do every step at once in a linear fashion. In fact, you will most likely find yourself coming back to elements that you skipped in order to achieve the business results that you are committed to. Although this might seem a bit inefficient, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know and thus, you may need to skip specific tasks until you have more information that is learned accomplishing a different one.

Focus on Executing and Monitoring Your Business Results

It’s okay if you don’t follow the five steps exactly.  Each firm has certain natural strengths and activities that it does well in the normal course of running its business. These activities will align with some of the specific steps and can be completed in the course of managing the business. For example, if you already conduct an effective weekly staff meeting where you review strategic initiatives and client projects that are under way, you may not need to do anything incremental for your software project. From an “execute” step, you can use your existing meetings to review the software implementation project and discuss key accomplishments, next steps, etc.  (more…)

Choosing Software That Works for Your Advisory Firm—Part 6: Ensuring New Technology Meets Your Business Goals

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Choosing Software That Works for Your Advisory Firm

by Spenser Segal

In my last post, the sixth in a series on the process for choosing and implementing the right technology for your advisory firm, we talked about execution and ensuring that the correct resources in both time and money were allocated to ensure success.

Now that we have a successful initial software implementation, it is time to focus on ensuring that the business results that we anticipated are being realized.

One critical step is having a clear process and defined metrics to measure the progress towards the business goal. For example, if you implemented a systematic rebalancing tool that is designed to free up time for your advisors to meet with more clients, we would first decide what metric we want to measure, for example, number of client meetings per week. Once we’ve established what we want to measure, we can determine what the results were pre-software implementation, set a goal for what we would like them to be (e.g., increase by 20%), and then we can measure progress on a weekly basis toward our goal.  (more…)

Choosing Software That Works for Your Advisory Firm—Part 5: How to Implement New Technology

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series Choosing Software That Works for Your Advisory Firm

by Spenser Segal

In my last post, the fifth in a six-part series on the process for choosing and implementing the right technology for your advisory firm, we discussed the importance of planning. Now that we have a clear and well defined plan, it’s time to get started executing your technology ideas so that improving your business can become a reality.

The effective implementation of technology is not a one-time event, but an ongoing journey. The execution phase is the centerpiece of this journey.  (more…)

Choosing Software That Works for Your Advisory Firm—Part 4: Building an Action Plan

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Choosing Software That Works for Your Advisory Firm

by Spenser Segal

In my last post, the fourth in a six-part series on the process for choosing and implementing the right technology for your firm, we talked about getting clear on the business outcomes that your firm is focused on achieving, as well as an approach to select potential technology vendors that are most likely to enable you to achieve your goals.

Now that we have identified clear outcomes, the next step is to put in place an action plan. The plan will enable you to effectively and consistently execute on a task-by-task basis in a manner that steadily moves you and your team toward achieving your goals.

When it comes to planning for your software implementation, there are two big mistakes that tend to be made.

First, advisors tend to overestimate how much they can get done in a specific period of time whileunderestimating what they can accomplish over the long term(more…)

Choosing Software That Works for Your Advisory Firm-Part 3: Envision

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series Choosing Software That Works for Your Advisory Firm

by Spenser Segal

In my last post, the second in a six-part series, I discussed key elements that need to be assessed prior to embarking on the process of making a technology purchase decision for your advisory firm. Now that we know our current situation, it’s time to Envision what the future could be if we implement the right technology into our practice.

During the Envision step, we focus on envisioning a future state in which we can eliminate the pain points in our practice. Whether it’s a process bottleneck, a boring and repetitive task, or an opportunity to grow the business, we need to envision how technology will improve the way we currently do things.

The initial step in Envisioning is to define in specific terms the anticipated business benefits that will come from implementing the new technology. For example, let’s say that the specific business benefit we want is to increase the number of referrals we get from current clients by 50%.

Next, we need to identify the specific features and functions that are tied to the business objective. In this case, ability to generate an “ask for referral” agenda item, track referrals and generate referral reports are key functions related to the above business benefit we want to achieve.

Finally, we need to narrow the list of potential vendors, because we don’t want to spend time analyzing 25 potential vendors – instead we would like to focus on five or fewer vendors.

How do we narrow the list?  (more…)

Choosing Software That Works for Your Advisory Firm-Part 2: Assess

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series Choosing Software That Works for Your Advisory Firm

by Spenser Segal

In my last post, I discussed the five steps necessary in selecting and implementing the “right” software for your practice. The first step is Assess.When purchasing technology, one of the most common mistakes we see advisors make is not clearly understanding, from a business perspective, the “why.” We don’t see advisors asking the key question: “What is the business objective we are trying to achieve with this purchase?”

A key limitation of technology is that it is only as good as the business improvement it drives and the readiness of team members to use it effectively. For an example, look no further than a motorist who paid extra for four-wheel drive in his car without ever using that feature or even knowing its purpose.

In the ActiFi “Process Bridge” (see above). a five-step process, the “Assess” step is about assessing three things: (more…)