Last updated: February 11 2009

CRM is more than just software ñ it drives survival of the fittest!

Does a recession increase or decrease an advisor's need to get, keep and grow his/her client base?
By Jim Graddon

The answer, of course, is that these challenging economic times put a premium on all three of these important objectives. But what may not be as obvious is ìhow?î How do you get new clients? What do you do to retain your best clients? And what are some of the strategies for growing your existing client relationships?

Now is the time to plan for the ìother side of the valleyî when business will be picking up (and you won't have the time to improve your infrastructure). You have a window now to make changes and invest in your own business to ensure you prosper in the face of adversity and fierce competition. Now is the time to leverage technology and automated processes to streamline operations and reduce the burden on people and salaries.

The core technology of an advisor's business is a CRM, or customer relationship management software. An advisor-focused CRM delivers a combination of scheduling management, activity management, contact management, and sales/service workflow automation in a single integrated platform. Implementing a web-based advisor practice management system recruits the evolving resources of the Web for you and frees you forever from the limitations of office-bound systems.

Today, many advisors access a myriad of proprietary websites and transaction systems. This can be compared to asking an airline pilot to constantly cross-reference a myriad of airline, weather, and airport systems while in flight. The result would be disastrous. Similarly, a financial advisor's ëcockpit' that lacks an integrated set of information and controls places the advisors' own ëpassengers' at a high level of risk.

What should an advisor ëcockpit' ñ or CRM ñ address? At a minimum, a CRM should address these three critical areas:

1- Get Clients

∑ List management (including do not call list identification)

∑ Marketing campaigns (including automated follow-up scheduling)

∑ Mail merge & full integration with Microsoft Office

∑ Lead/opportunity tracking integrated with website leads

∑ Event management and registration tracking

2- Keep Clients

∑ Detailed client file including notes, documents, emails, policy and investments data

∑ Access data 7/24 wherever you are through web browser and/or wireless device

∑ Automated compliance audit trail and client review processes and scheduling

∑ Holistic client account aggregation and valuation of on book and off book data

∑ Automated triggers and alerts to drive client interaction and reviews

∑ Client data privacy and security meeting international security standard levels

3- Grow Clients

∑ Mine client data and automate cross-marketing campaigns

The most efficient advisor CRM is one designed by and for Financial Advisors. Though this is the worst recession in memory for most advisors, the survivors will not freeze like a deer in the headlights. Instead, stay cool, keep your poise, and take the opportunity to bring your own practices and systems to the next level.

Jim Graddon is the GM of the Canadian subsidiary for E-Z Data, creators of the web-based SmartOffice advisor platform. Jim has been a change catalyst for insurance and investment operations and technology for over three decades, with a focus on Canadian financial advisor technology since 1981. He can be reached at 866-568-9809,; or by referencing contact info at