Solving Office Software: Advisors & Fintech Part 4

A reliable customer relationship management system is crucial for any firm.

Reviewed by: Debbie Carlson
Edited by: Debbie Carlson

[This article appears in the February 2016 issue of ETF Report. This is the fourth of a five-part series: Building Better Portfolios; Tools For Strong Messaging; Paper Trail Preservation]

A smoothly run back office is critical for any financial advisory firm. Many firms will use one or two key customer relationship management systems to help with clients on the front end, and some of these systems do back-end work as well.

Mike Forker, chief compliance officer at CLS Investments, part of NorthStar Financial Services Group, says his firm uses Orion Advisor Services, which started as CLS Investments’ in-house system and is now available to other investment advisors. Orion is now CLS’ full back-office system and is customizable, Forker says, with compatible plug-ins like Riskalyze and RIA in a Box.

“These tools that plug into Orion specifically help compliance people, and we can run reports to look at a wide range of things,” Forker said. For example, Orion also allows CLS to automate its trading function to set up trades in batch files, and the system receives daily feeds about position reports.

“If a client puts $1,000 in their TD Ameritrade account, we’ll know the next morning, so the client wouldn’t have to notify us,” he said.

Other Tools
David Garff, president and chief investment officer of Accuvest Global Advisors, says his firm uses Advent Axys for its back-shop needs because it provides some very specific functions.

First, it helps the firm know what they own in their client portfolios on a daily basis, and allows them to reconcile what they see in a client’s portfolio versus what the client’s custodian may see. It also allows Accuvest to automate trades, and do so for several clients at the same time.

“Administratively, we can roll that up into one trade in the same security for every single client,” Garff said. That ability has helped make Accuvest’s separate account business much more scalable. “It would be impossible for us to manage all our separate accounts if we didn’t have that software.”

Practice Management Help
There are other CRM tools available for advisors too, such as Mars SalesFocus Solutions, which offers a full suite of practice management solutions for advisors, including leads on clients and tools for managing client relationships, competitive analysis, compliance management solutions and data cleaning, among other services.

Portfolio Pathway is a client portfolio accounting system, which also allows account reconciliation, statements and other back-shop needs.

RiXtrema creates robo-risk-modeling platforms for advisors. The main risk model is called “Portfolio Crash Testing.” It can be used for full-service clients, and as a way to advertise the robo-advisor platform to prospects who might not yet be able to become full-service clients. One of its selling points is that this is the same risk management system used by the Nobel Foundation to protect the Nobel Prize money.

Mike Capelle, chief strategy officer and head of the Platform and Technology group at United Capital, says HubSpot is useful from a sales and marketing standpoint for his firm. HubSpot can offer anything from analytics to lead management and social media, if necessary, but it also has a sales CRM system to help turn potential prospects into clients, he says.

HubSpot also integrates with other back-office systems, such as Salesforce, which he uses.


Fintech Tools

Mike Capelle is chief strategy officer and head of the Platform and Technology group at California-based United Capital, a financial management company. The firm uses Salesforce for the majority of its back-shop operations.

How long have you been using Salesforce, and how do you use it in the back-shop end of the business?
We’ve been using Salesforce since 2007. It’s very core to our business. We use it in a few different ways. The nice thing with Salesforce is it’s very much open architecture [software]. We can bring in outside systems that tie in to it. For example, we also use HubSpot [for social media and marketing]. It integrates into Salesforce, so we can have something that’s very specialized. If we get leads on potential clients and prospects from HubSpot, all the results can be sent to SalesForce. All the information is in one place.

It’s very customizable. I know it’s been difficult for smaller advisory practices to go forward with Salesforce, because they have to make an investment in it to dial in to their particular practices and how they work with clients. For us, being a larger firm, we had the resources and made the investment in it to customize it to meet our needs.

How has it helped United Capital increase productivity?
What it’s done from a productivity standpoint is it’s helped our practice to be able to support a much larger number of clients at the same service level. So we’ve seen our average client per advisor continually moving up. On average, we’ve seen advisors go from the 200- to 300-client range to the 300- to 400-client range or higher.

Another thing is that it helps prevent double entry of information. That’s one of the real productivity killers. You lose time trying to track down information in different systems and bring it all back together to where you want it [if you don’t use an integrated system]. Instead, we have all the data flows automatically go through Salesforce.

For instance, when you’re using a third-party financial planning tool, we integrate it so the results of the plan come back into Salesforce. When you’re preparing [advisors] for an upcoming client meeting, or doing a deliverable for a client, you automatically have all the information right in Salesforce; the plan results are right there. You don’t need to go to multiple systems.

You also don’t have to double-enter the information and then run a quality check because you’ve been manually touching the data, which can inherently introduce errors. Salesforce gets rid of the extra work, because we’ve integrated the systems.

You were also able to tie your email system to Salesforce.
We integrated Gmail into Salesforce. If you want to track any email with clients, you can use something you’re familiar with, like Gmail. We can have those emails saved directly into the client records. There’s convenience in using something you recognize.

Debbie Carlson focuses on investing and the advisor space for U.S. News. She is an internationally published journalist with bylines in publications including Barron's, Chicago Tribune, The Guardian, Financial Advisor, ETF Report, MarketWatch, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal and others.