There are thousands of companies and products that market themselves as Customer Relationship Management solutions, ranging from industry behemoths to tiny niche products. Given the importance of relationships to financial advisors, it’s no surprise advisory and wealth management firms think they need a CRM system. But is that really what they need?
In this blog, we hear from NexJ President and CEO Paul O’Donnell about the differences between CRM and an Integrated Advisor Desktop (IAD), and help advisors understand how asking the right questions can help them find the right answers.
What problem are advisors typically trying to solve when they say they need CRM?
Paul O’Donnell: Advisors usually have two imperatives: to keep their book of business, or to grow their book of business. They want a tool that will help them augment their ability to do that work. Something that helps automate workflows, which frees more time to work with clients or prospects, and gives them the information they need to use that time effectively. What pure CRM providers deliver, however, generally doesn’t give advisors that ability by itself. What advisors really need is an IAD.
What is the difference between CRM and an IAD?
Paul O’Donnell: CRM is a component application that stores and retrieves information about a customer. An Integrated Advisor Desktop is a fabric into which other applications are woven and can be viewed in context with each other. For example, an advisor will often work with several applications – CRM, an onboarding application, a portfolio management application, a financial planning application, not to mention all the market news and trends an advisor needs to absorb and aggregate. An IAD taps into all of those and gives an advisor a single view. A lot of firms promote their customer portals. Think of this as the advisor portal.
How has NexJ developed its IAD solution?
Paul O’Donnell: NexJ is sometimes referred to as a financial industry-specific CRM company because we help advisors manage relationships, but our core business has always been the provision of an IAD. Integration was THE critical element that made our implementations work. In some cases we may may install applications, including CRM, but we also work with clients who already have a CRM provider, implementing the layer that integrates existing systems to serve the needs of the advisor. So I would say we have always offered an IAD. It isn’t a new product. It’s just now getting the unique recognition it deserves.
What makes an IAD uniquely valuable to financial firms?
Paul O’Donnell: Well, partly it’s right there in the name – this is an Integrated ADVISOR Desktop. We’ve always worked with financial firms and we know what information they need to succeed, and how they use it. A lot of CRM providers are generalists, and if you want to have data visualization or recommend next best actions or surface relevant news to share with clients, those are separate add-ons, often not even from the same company. We know exactly what advisors need and how to weave it together from all these applications. You can’t have a robust business model that wasn’t built for your use case.
Also, once the data is all viewed together and in context, now you have new ways to view it – by client, by book, for the entire firm. Now you can do things with that data, from marketing exercises, all the way to powering some AI initiatives that look for patterns.
How does a firm know when it’s ready for an IAD?
Paul O’Donnell: Are your advisors spending time using multiple applications every day to do their jobs? Do they log into one after the other? That’s an efficiency loss. Most firms have reached the conclusion that there will be a disparate set of applications that make up the advisor tech stack. The way to maximize the benefit of the investments they have already made is to deploy an IAD.
What should firms look for in an IAD and an IAD provider?
Paul O’Donnell: The data model is the big one. It lies at the heart of the IAD – the ability to understand elements of data from multiple sources and relate them to each other. You want a system that leaves the data where it is but can treat it like it’s part of one system. You also want modern API tech that can integrate legacy systems, all the way down to the legacy hardware.
As for the provider, you want someone who is proven and collaborative. That’s where NexJ stands out. We have very, very successful and large deployments in production in some of the largest firms in the world. We also do a really good job helping firms identify issues and opportunities. We’re not just a software vendor, we consult with you to make sure it meets your needs. We allow you to maintain the business model that makes you special and unique. You do not need to adapt to software. It adapts to you.