Brian Shenson, vice president of adviser technology solutions at Schwab Advisor Services, told PLANADVISER that advisers are increasingly using CRM software as a sophisticated way to improve their businesses. CRM software can provide tools for developing and analyzing business, managing leads and follow-ups, improving relationships with clients and automating workflows.
“[CRM] really takes information and turns it into insight about the organization,” Shenson said.
A good CRM platform can streamline tasks and responsibilities for an advisory firm by providing a consistent infrastructure. The CRM system can be the primary tool for a firm’s day-to-day operations with tasks listed in a workflow and notifications that alert others in the firm when steps are complete. “That CRM is going to provide the glue across that organization,” Shenson said.
An automated workflow allows advisers to work in a way that delivers the firm’s brand consistently, he added. If an adviser is on vacation, for instance, the automated workflow can provide instructions for how another adviser should follow up with a client.
Firms are focusing on building rich CRM platforms, but challenges still exist. “It’s pretty daunting what these systems can do,” Shenson said, which is why education is needed about how to optimize them.
This summer, Schwab Advisor Services polled 1,608 independent advisers about their use of CRM technology. When asked to grade their firm’s use of CRM, 72% of respondents gave theirs either a B or C. While 84% of advisers agreed that the right technology was in place to make effective use of their CRM, only 6% said they believed they were using their firm’s CRM data to its fullest potential.
The most-used function of CRM is the storage of client contact information (98%); followed by preparing/sending client communication (61%) and assigning tasks to others in the firm/tracking completion (58%). So if advisers have the CRM technology, what keeps them from using it?
According to 43% of survey respondents, the top barrier to effective CRM use is employee behavior. Sixteen percent think that employees do not see the value of CRM systems, while 33% think there are higher priorities for time and money than effectively using CRM.
About 25% of advisers think more education and training would help them make better use of their CRM, and 28% think deepening their understanding of the technology’s capabilities would help them use it more fully.
Schwab Intelligent Technologies recently rolled out Salentica Advisor Desk with Schwab OpenView Gateway, which allows independent investment advisers to view real-time information on their clients’ financial holdings within their CRM. Schwab is in a pilot program with five Microsoft workflows for the Schwab OpenView Workflow Library, which will be broadly available by the end of the year. Schwab currently has 28 workflows available to advisers who custody assets with Schwab Advisor Services.