By Eric Clarke
As investment advisers become more tech savvy, they increasingly rely on a wider variety of desktop and Web-based applications to run their businesses. But what happens when two software packages on one system collide? And does the need to operate efficiently make this issue even more critical?
Imagine this: In an effort to make life better for you and your staff, you upgrade to an enterprise-level CRM system. But just as your team is wondering how they ever lived without the latest and greatest CRM, you realize it doesn't share data with your portfolio accounting software. Your critical systems will now require duplication of data entry and likely never be in synch-not a great example of efficiency.
Efficiency Is More Important Than Ever
In today's shaky economy and utter uncertainty in the market, efficiency is more important than ever. So when it comes to investing in technology, look past the bullet-point promises of boxed software and seek tight integration among your most crucial applications to become more efficient.
For many advisers, growing their company is certainly a major goal, but growth doesn't just mean getting bigger, it means getting better. So, if you are spending too much time managing something other than client relationships or money, you could be making yourself less efficient.
A great way to increase efficiency is to maximize the integration of your software systems.
"As more consolidation occurs in our industry, small and mid-sized advisers need to find ways to use integration in order to compete," says Sondra Purcell, managing member of Purcell Advisory Services LLC in Tacoma, Wash.
How Integration Works
Integration works when two systems use open technologies, heavily leveraging Web services, allowing them to independently develop their own products, but use common platforms that will allow each other to hook into one another's core functionalities.
For example, we know advisers feel much more comfortable in their CRM than any other system, but they rely heavily on the reports and data provided by their portfolio accounting systems. With Web-based integration of the two, an adviser can pull critical data and reports for a client through their CRM. That type of integration can make you more efficient.
"This model (of using open technology) gives advisers enormous agility for their business to seek best-of-breed solutions instead of being tied to massive, proprietary or lethargic one-size-fits-all systems," says Ted Tsung, chief executive officer of E*Assist, a compliance and operations solutions provider.
Find Solutions That Integrate
Stop focusing on the software, and figure out your wants and needs before you shop for solutions that can integrate with each other. Here are tips for finding the best, integratable software for you:
- Look at the available CRM, financial planning and portfolio accounting systems and ask the software companies how the different pieces you need will integrate with each other
- Your new system(s) should never require you to enter redundant data into multiple systems
- Avoid quasi-integration; situations where you are shifting text files around or re-keying data
- When data is needed in one system, it should call the other in real time to share or retrieve the necessary data
- Systems should be in synch in real time
- Systems should offer a single sign-on for mutual subscribers
- You should not have to make any major changes to your business model to implement the new system(s)
Take the time to ask questions. Find the best technology solutions that integrate with what you're already using, and you'll find yourself with more time to spend with clients, especially now-when they may need it most.
Eric Clarke is president of Orion Advisor Services LLC (www.orionadvisor.com), which provides complete back-office solutions for fee-based advisers.