Adrian Murphy explains why adviser firms need to embed technology based on great customer relationship management software now.

    As a business principle, one of my key priorities is how to communicate effectively and more easily with our clients using technology.

    Yet the average adviser firm, ourselves included, uses various pieces of software to run the business, from a back office system here to a risk profiling tool over there, to email marketing software here to a client modeling tool there, but none of it is integrated or offers an automatic workflow.

    “Our industry is people-focused and we need our technology systems to be people-focused.”

    Using technology to engage better with clients should be a simple step, but it’s not. Back office systems are good for data feeds and fact finds, but that is pretty much it. Advisers should have great customer relationship management (CRM) kits in their firms that would allow clients to access a dedicated portal and be the central hub of everything the practice does from tracking the business to monitoring areas of concern and booking client reviews automatically. It would totally transform an adviser firm and more importantly, the client experience.

    A fear of innovation

    But the advice industry is just not where it should be in terms of technology. The platform market aside, there is a fear of innovation in financial services in this country because of the huge focus on regulation. In an industry that generates a lot of money for the UK, the technology has not kept up. Financial services in countries like Canada, Australia and the States are streets ahead of us in terms of what their technology can do for maximum customer engagement.

    And developers are put off coming into industry as they think it is too complex. In the past, some advisers have tried to develop CRM tools for the market but they have not been successful, as good R&D requires very deep pockets.

    We know we’re one of the most efficient adviser firms using our type of back office system, yet we are only using 48% of its full capability. We input basic data and it churns data back out, but we’re not interacting with it and it’s certainly not allowing us to interact with our clients in any way. The system will give us only the information it wants to give us and on set reports. It is a daily battle with a system working against us, rather than with us, and it is very far removed from the slick and efficient process it should be. Our industry is people-focused and we need our technology systems to be people-focused too.

    Traditional back office systems don’t move with the times

    Many practices use traditional, off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all back office solutions that just do not work for them either. I reckon most advisers have sat through a demo for a back office system, invest in it, only to find the system is not right for their business. One of the big frustrations with these systems we’ve been sold over the years is that no money goes into developing them by the manufacturers. They don’t move with the times.

    Advisers need to take a step back and look at investing in technology tailored for their business needs, like a CRM system backed by a big player, such as Microsoft Dynamics for example. Microsoft spend about £2 billion a year on R&D alone and advisers would get the benefit of that. I’m currently speaking with a developer who has built a core CRM system that can then be designed around our processes.

    There is never going to be a good time to build a bespoke CRM system. There will be a lot of upheaval and data migration is a huge issue. But we’re advisers, not CTOs, so we should stick with what we’re good at and plug into the technology that will benefit our businesses. I really believe that those of us who choose to take a leap forward will gain massively.

    It is not about having a shiny new piece of software in the business. I want to change how we interact with our clients so they benefit from a much more modern and seamless advice experience with all information in one place. If we can achieve that, it would make for a much more satisfying experience for both the adviser and the client.

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