Updated Wednesday, July 23, 2014 as of 10:43 PM ET
Blogs - The New Generation's Practice
Startup Lessons: Choosing a CRM System
Friday, July 5, 2013
Partner Insights

I’ve tried to make my new RIA as heavily reliant on cloud technology as possible. Anything that I could push into a cloud technology solution I have. However, I’m still wrestling with one of my basic needs: a CRM system.

At the previous RIAs I have worked at, I worked first with a proprietary CRM and then with Junxure. I enjoyed using Junxure, but it didn’t make sense to use it in my one-man setup; it’s just too big for me. (The initial price tag is out of my price range, and it has a three-user minimum.)

I took a trial run on Redtail, which is used by many firms -- both solo and larger practices. I was shocked when I saw the interface, though; it was uninspiring and simplistic.

I couldn’t imagine how advisors can manage their practice from a system that seemed so basic.

That brought me to a tough choice. I was hoping that one of those two systems would work for me as I was going to use all of their available integrations. But now I had to search for another system.


Going to various technology surveys and NAPFA forums, I saw that some advisors were using Salesforce, so I signed up for a trial. I had some trepidation, after being disappointed with the other systems, but was pleasantly surprised when I found the AppExchange, which gives me the opportunity to integrate many of my software programs with the CRM. The colors were appealing and it was a nice surprise to find the add-ons designed specifically for the financial services community.

Even after a three-month search, though, my solution is imperfect. I signed up for Salesforce during the company’s incentive period, and can access the software’s API and workflow add-ons, but I was only able to purchase the standard version. I’m now looking into moving to the Wealth Management version or using the XLR8 add-on, which is customized for advisors.

The journey’s not over yet, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Dave Grant, CFP, a Financial Planning columnist, is the founder of Cary, Ill.-based planning firm Finance for Teachers. He’s also the founder of Fee Only Consulting, which focuses on developing the skills of Gen Y planners. In addition, he’s the founder of NAPFA Genesis, a networking group for young, fee-only planners.

(5) Comments
Its awesome that you are sharing your experiences Dave.

Back in the mid 1990's, when I started working with many financial advisors (with custodial services provider Waterhouse Securities - which eventually became TDAmeritrade) there was no LinkedIn, or Twitter, or Facebook. There was no real forums to post ideas and share experiences.

They had to learn on their own, trial and error.

Today, advisors starting out have a wealth of resources to learn from the experiences of others. Though I am not a financial advisor, I admire your taking the time to add you posts and experiences in your venture. They are a wealth of information.

Good luck!

Marty Morua

Posted by Marty M | Saturday, July 06 2013 at 9:26AM ET
Thanks for sharing Dave. Our firm went through the search process recently (we looked at FA-specific apps like RedTail and more general CRM systems Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics). We ultimately settled on Dynamics because it's much less expensive (we couldn't justify the additional cost of Salesforce) and integrates with Office (including e-mail in Outlook). We're in the process of rolling it out now. If interested, I can keep you up to date as things progress.
Posted by Frank N | Tuesday, July 09 2013 at 10:13AM ET
This is a great post that highlights many of the issues people can face when choosing a CRM. Choosing the right CRM to help your business achieve its goals is no easy feat - whether to opt for a cloud or on-premise solution, the level of mobile accessibility required by a business and usability are just some of the many factors companies have to bear in mind when deciding on a CRM platform. Maximizer Software's Ensuring your CRM delivers guide is a great resource to anyone looking to implement a CRM system, covering the key questions a business needs to ask itself before plumping for a platform. It can be downloaded here.

Mike Richardson, managing director EMEA, Maximizer Software

Posted by Mike R | Friday, July 12 2013 at 11:08AM ET
Thank you all for your comments.

Marty - you continue to be my cheerleader! Thank you for following this blog and sharing these thoughts with your network.

Frank - Salesforce is expensive, and gets very expensive when you price it out for a team and include overlays. However, I knew it was a software that was the center of my practice, so was willing to pay a little more to get it right. I run an all Apple office so when "Office integration" comes up, it doesn't even register :)

Mike - thanks for the info.


Posted by Dave G | Friday, July 12 2013 at 5:30PM ET
As with Frank above, I noticed in your article Dave that you did not try a Microsoft Dynamics based CRM like the one we offer through our Pareto Platform CRM.

My partner David Miller and I took the shell of Microsoft Dynamics based CRM and optimized it specifically to meet the needs of Financial Advisors. It implements many of the best practices that we encourage in our Financial Advisor coaching curriculum.

In reference to the interface, many advisors have told us that they like the "Microsoft Outlook" style of the CRM. It seems more familiar and therefore useful than proprietary systems that have to be learned.

Give it a shot if you have the chance. http://crm.paretoplatform.com/

Posted by Duncan M | Monday, July 22 2013 at 3:16PM ET
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