Advisor Applications
Salesforce.com Hit With Outage
Thursday, June 28, 2012 21:51

Salesforce.com experienced system problems in a number of regions on Thursday, starting at 3:34 a.m. PDT, according to the company.

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The problem began in Salesforce.com's NA2 instance in North America, according to the company online status page. A subsequent note blamed a "fault" in Salesforce.com's storage tier for the issue and said it was preventing customers from accessing the service.

 

No tech company is infallible.

 

 

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Kudos To Schwab For Publishing A Workflow Library For RIAs, But Is Schwab Intelligent Integration’s Focus On CRM An Outdated Notion For RIAs?
Thursday, June 21, 2012 11:33

Tags: advisor technology | CRM | custodians | Integrations | practice management | productivity | Schwab

Schwab Advisor Services today published 28 workflows for RIAs, covering lead generation, client on-boarding, and service requests. They’re free for investment advisors who

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custody assets with Schwab.


Schwab also published a “white paper” on workflows that presents an excellent primer on why embedding workflows is important to RIAs, a topic we
cover frequently. It’s great that Schwab is making workflows available to RIAs. (TDAI released a library of 50 workflows  in October 2011 embedded in Salesforce.)


Schwab’s workflow library was launched in October 2011 and Schwab says that, as of May 31, 250 firms have downloaded 500 workflows. Schwab says it now offers a more intuitive way for advisor to select workflows, and an advisor can download workflow instructions customized to their specific CRM. In addition to the 28 workflows released today, Schwab already offered five workflows customized to Junxure and Salesforce.


Schwab continues to focus on running an RIA based on a CRM-centric technology stack, but that notion seems dated.


CRM, for years an underutilized information database in RIAs, is definitely important. But it is no more important than your portfolio management system, financial planning system or client portal. The concept of creating a single app that dominates an advisor’s desktop is outdated. As software has become more specialized, the notion of making the CRM the only screen you need has become less important.


Different users in a firm have different needs and software is so specialized now. “There’s an app for that,” is the mantra of modern technology. Five or six years ago, the notion that CRM would dominate the advisor desktop seemed logical. But that was before the advent of professional applications for a suggestion engine for advisors, automated portfolio rebalancing, client portals, and a product marketplace integrated with financial plans for clients.


Software development progresses so fast now that the notion of controlling it all or even viewing it all from one app, CRM, is no longer desirable or necessary. Software advisors use is so much easier to learn since more specialized Web-based professional apps became widely available. Plus, it’s all more affordable nowadays because development of software advisors is generally off-shored. Development is cheap. Advisors and staff just need to be able to navigate easily from app to app to get exactly what they need when they need it.

 

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Tykoon, An Online Platform To Teach Kids Financial Values, Launches Public Beta
Monday, April 23, 2012 14:55

Tags: advisor technology | charitable giving

Tykoon, an online financial services platform that aims to empowers parents to teach their children about earning, saving, giving, and responsible spending is launching its public beta.

 

Parents and their children can use Tykoon to set financial goals, track progress, and earn rewards for hard work in a virtual environment.

 

Kids can track and view their progress and learn through real financial experiences.

 

The tool is customized based on each family's financial values and practices.

 

Through Amazon.com and charity affiliates, kids can shop online and donate to charities in a safe environment with controls set by parents, says a press release.

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Redtail CRM: Latest Version Of Popular CRM For Advisors Fixes Many Useability Problems
Thursday, April 19, 2012 16:21

Tags: cloud | CRM | managing | practice management | productivity | technology

With 43,000 users in 9,000 offices, Redtail Technology is one of the most widely used CRMs targeted to financial advisors. It’s latest update includes a long list of improvements that make the product more user-friendly.

 
“We’ve drastically overhauled the system in a great way, to make it more flexible and friendly,” says Brian McLaughlin, CEO at Redtail, “and that also allow us, as a software company, to develop new tools faster and make more integraions than ever before.”

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McLaughlin is one of the hardest working people in advisor technology. A father of baby twin girls, McLaughlin is respected by other tech vendors for his drive to build a great business and a great experience for Redtail users. McLaughlin has tirelessly traveled the advisor conference circuit for most of the last decade marketing Redtail and talking to users. 
 
 
 
Redtail has not been perfect, far from it. Still, McLaughlin, who is the chief technologist at the company, was the first to build a Web-based advisor-targeted CRM from the get go. And, to its credit, Redtail has offered an inexpensive CRM with all the basics. But it has lacked some of the bells and whistles of pricier CRM solutions targeted to advisors, such as Ebix and Junxure. As a result, high-end offices have not been Redtail's biggest proponents. With this latest release, however, that may begin to change. Redtail has refined many of its rough edges and the product is more user-friendly.
 
About a third of Redtail’s users are advisors at RIAs with no broker/dealer affiliation. Two-thirds of Redtail’s users are affiliated with a BD, but many of those are dually-registered, meaning they have their own RIA or provide advice services on a fee basis through a BD-owned RIA.
 
Before detailing the new features in the latest version of Redtail, one important missing feature must be mentioned: user rights and roles. Redtail’s weakness has long been in its inability to allow an advisory firm to create roles for different users. Perhaps you do not want all of your staff to see how much each client owns or to read all the notes you write about clients. You can’t do that in Redtail. 
 
For $65 a month, which is priced lower than other CRMs for financial advisors, Redtail gives access to up to 15 members of an advisory firm. Trouble is, they gain access to everything the boss can see. You cannot limit their rights. However, McLaughlin says Redtail is weeks away from launching a user rights feature that will address this shortcoming. (When it is released, we’ll examine how you can apply it to your existing Redtail database.)
 
Here below is a list of the improvements in the CRM’s recent release. The video tour gives you a look at all of this.
 
  • Improved Dashboard. Redtail eliminated its left-side menu, giving its users a simpler interface. Importantly, you can customize your dashboard to your needs. While all users can see all client data stored in your firm’s database, each user can personalize their dashboard view. So a client service staffer might want to expose tasks due today on his home page, while a portfolio manager might want to display portfolio values.  
  • View Clients Firm-Wide. You can now see what your all your staff is working on for a client in one screen. You can see if other staff members owe the client any work and who in your firm was last to contact the client.
  • Contact Cards. You can display a client’s contact information on any page with a widget. So even if you are working in a window where you enter activities or tasks, you can add the contact card to expose the client’s basic contact information.
  • Email Viewer. Redtail works with Outlook. However, when you clicked on an email in Redtail, which is Web-based, it previously took time to view the email in Outlook, which is on your desktop. Redtail created its own email viewer now, shortening that lag time.
  • Near-Time Archiving. Previously, Redtail synched emails once every 24 hours. You had to wait for emails you sent to today to show up in Redtail tomorrow. Now, the delay is just five or 10 minutes.
  • Widgets. Recent notes, emails, and open activities can be collapsed. McLaughlin calls these sections of information "widgets." You can customize each screen to your preferences by setting widgets to stay closed until you collpase them to reveal their contents. If you do not want to see open activities because it makes you scroll down too often, you can just collapse that widget.
  • Graphical Calendar Interface. Redtail's calendar interface has undergone a major upgrade. It’s more like Outlook or Google’s calendar. You can drag and drop an item in the calendar without having to input text. For example, say you want to move an appointment from today to tomorrow or cut it from 60 minutes to 30. Just grab the appointment and adjust it. No need to input the new time. The calendar, which supports a day, week or month view, also lets you color code your activities. For example, you can set all client meetings to contain a yellow fill color and all research to use a green fill color. This makes it much easier to for you see at a glance how you are spending your time.
  • Workflows And Checklists. Redtail now supports workflows as well as checklists. Workflows are very important to advisory firms because they enable you to embed your processes in your CRM to remind you and members of your team to handle certain tasks to complete a workflow. Workflows allow you to create dependencies, for example, specifying that Staffer A will not call the client until Staffer B gets a form signed by his attorney. Checklists, which are also supported by Redtail, do not allow for dependencies. In addition, if you are late or early in handling a step in a workflow, Redtail will automatically adjust the workflow so that all members of your team have new deadlines for completing their step in a workflow. You can also choose to display checklist and workflow activities in your calendar, or not. Also, workflows can now be automated based on a triggering event. For example, receiving a check from a client can trigger a workflow for getting his money invested.
  • Custom Exports. Redtail’s database includes more than 500 fields of information. Redtail now exposes 145 of those fields for export in a custom report. From a page listing all 145 fields, you can check each one that you want to export into an Excel file or report, enabling you to create your own custom reports. In addition, user-defined fields that you have added — custom fields — can now be included in these reports. This is a good feature for exporting client data to other apps, for marketing purposes. for example.
  • Event Management. Redtail now incorporates a way to manage seminars, webinars, and client appreciation events. You can systematically track and respond to those who have not responded or who choose to attend.
  • Dictation Integration. Copytalk and Mobile Assistant messages are now integrated with Redtail, allowing you dictate an email or note into your phone and have that transcribed for insertion into Redtail.
  • New Integrations. Morningstar Office, MailChimp , Constant Contact, Trumpet's document management system, Worldox, and NetDocuments are all now integrated with Redtail.

 

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Suggestion Engine For Financial Advisors Finds Opportunities To Sell Clients Products, But Can It Be Harnessed By Fee-Only RIAs?
Thursday, April 12, 2012 20:55

RightBridge is a suggestion engine for financial advisors. It provides sales intelligence on your clients.

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RightBridge is a web-based solution from CaptialROCK, which was founded by John Hyde. Hyde led the team that built SunGard WealthStation, which today sits on the desktops of tens of thousands of advisors at wirehouses, insurers, regional brokers, bank trust departments, and other financial advice enterprises. RightBridge is yet another example of the boom in innovation and productivity occurring across American business and that I regularly document in the financial advice business.
 
No software I’ve ever seen does what RightBridge does for financial advisors. RightBridge is not financial planning software and it’s not a marketing tool. It represents a new category of software for advisors. For the second time in two weeks, I’m writing about a product that’s a category-buster. (See inStream Wealth.)
 
RightBridge’s suggestion software does things CRM does not. Hyde says CRMs are great at setting up a process for handling existing clients but they do not analyze your client data and suggest opportunities. Landing credence to Hyde’s assertion is the fact that Ebix CRM, one of the largest CRMs in the financial services industry that is on about 125,000 advisor desktops, has partnered with RightBridge even though its CRM has its own “opportunities finder” module.
 
Hyde says that in his experience only about 20% of financial advisors use financial planning software. In addition, the 20% of advisors using professional financial planning software with clients only use with about 20% of their clients.
 
“Financial planning is great,” says Hyde. “I love it. But it just does not get done.”
 
“With less than 10% of advisor client actually getting a financial plan, it makes you wonder what the other 90% of clients are getting from their advisors,” says Hyde.
 
RightBridge scans and analyzes an advisors’ client data using algorithms to find automatically opportunities o sell them products, and fiduciaries would frown upon that. However, the rules engine can be built to support fee-only fiduciaries. We’ll come back to that later.
 
Hyde says that instead of an advisor conducting a tedious data-gathering process —as is required of financial planning apps today — RightBridge proactively provides advisors suggestions without requiring a “discovery” meeting with a client where you collect all their account and personal demographics. RightBridge relies on brokerage and account aggregation systems to collect to client’s assets, liabilities, insurance and other key financial and demographic data. For enterprises RightBridge targets, that’s fine. (For RIAs, collecting data on held away and AUM presents a challenge but it is not insurmountable.)
 
RightBridge’s suggestion engine is similar to what Netflix uses to pick movies you’ll like and to the way Amazon suggests items you might to buy. By looking at the sage of everyone in a family, RightBridge can suggest college-planning, life insurance, annuity and other products. It’s a needs-based analysis.
 
The system has been deployed in insurance and brokerage enterprises and, according to unaudited data from RightBridge, the average advisor acts on 37 suggestions a month and 32% result in a positive outcome — a sale, a pending sale, recommendation or scheduled follow-up meeting. Users of RightBridge average a 13.6% rise in revenue.
 
Hyde, along with RightBridge’s sales VP, Matt Paulsen, came to New York and met with me, and the Salt Lake City company team is impressive. Many of the company’s 12 employees formerly worked for Hyde in building SunGard WealthStation.
 
The history here is important. Hyde worked for Sterling Wentworth, a software company, and ran its financial planning division. When SunGard acquired Sterling Wentworth in the late 1990s, Hyde was brought over to run SunGard’s financial planning software effort. Hyde oversaw the purchase of Frontier Analytics, an asset allocation application integrated into WealthStation, as well as other small software companies that were successfully bundled into WealthStation and sold by SunGard to the enterprise market.
 
“I came into this with my eyes wide open,” says Hyde, “and I know that getting the client data is crucial to the success of the suggestion engine — garbage in, garbage out.”
 
Hyde says the RightBridge suggestion engine can be tailored to RIAs, which is why he contacted me. He is interested in creating a version of RightBridge that could be used by fee-only investment advisors.
 
Hyde says implementing the suggestion engine for an insurer is very different than in a brokerage, and that the software was built to make it easy for a business analyst — not a programmer — to create the rules used by suggestion engine. Thus, an advisor can configure RightBridge to monitor cash withdrawals from retirement plans or support other service-oriented objectives.
 
“You can build rules that would only recommend win-win opportunities for both the client and the advisor,” says Hyde. :”Just because it’s a suggestion engine does not mean you can’t make suggestions that promote win-win opportunities.” 
 
If you want to be on an advisory board to help RightBridge develop a version of its rules engine for fee-only RIAs, please let This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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