After a stint managing an institutional portfolio for a major media firm, David Lyon started Main Street Financial, an independent RIA firm with headquarters in Chicago, in 2012. He developed technology for his own firm to attract and retain clients, and about a year ago he set up a separate entity to market this solution to other advisors under the brand Oranj.

If his own firm’s success is any indication, Lyon and his associates may be on to something. Main Street Financial’s AUM has quickly grown to more than $270 million. The trick will be to see how useful his firm’s internal technology becomes for other financial advisors.

“Oranj is a one-stop shop for comprehensive practice management,” Lyon says. “Everything we do at Oranj is about providing advisors with the ability to be more strategic in how they run their business.”

The managers at Oranj believe there are four drivers of business, and that if a firm gets these four things right, its business should prosper. Oranj is designed to address these core areas by helping advisors do the following:

  • Engagement: Communicate strategically with clients and prospects.
  • Scale: Improve productivity and direct resources to where they can produce the best results.
  • Management: Understand your business so you can refine your practices.
  • Intelligence: Identify areas of opportunity.

VERSION 2.0

Oranj is currently in a transition phase, with the 2.0 version slated to be available by the time you read this.

The platform has been live for about a year, with some 125 firms on the platform.

Yet although I was tempted to write about Oranj earlier, there was at least one aspect of the product that disturbed me. The original version split the functionality of Oranj across two products: Oranj Cloud and Oranj App. Advisors could purchase one, the other or both — a flexible but potentially confusing approach.

The new version makes a number of meaningful enhancements and, thankfully, it combines the functionality of Oranj Cloud and App into a single offering. If you license Oranj now, you’ll get the complete package.

The Cloud portion of the offering covers marketing. This includes a website, Internet analytics that look and feel similar to Google Analytics, “lite” CRM, billing and e-marketing capabilities. No one feature here is revolutionary, but the integration is impressive.

If you do not have a website or if you are not satisfied with your current provider, Oranj will build a new one for you. Oranj websites are not the most dazzling, but they have a clean, modern feel. The design is very easy to update, and the built-in editing tools let staff perform updates with minimal training.

If you already have a Web presence that you are satisfied with, Oranj can integrate the website it builds for you into your existing site. Whether you choose its site or the integration, the initial setup is included as part of the Oranj package.

Analytics let the advisor see exactly who visits the site, where they came from and what they clicked or viewed.

CRM OFFERING

The CRM is basic, but it may be enough for some advisors. You can add custom fields, and you can perform basic searches of the database.

Where the CRM shines is the integration it provides with the other Oranj Cloud features. For example, there is a resources portion of the website that contains graphics, videos and educational materials that you can make available to prospects who visit your site. If you choose to make the resources section secure, visitors must enter information about themselves (name, address, email, phone, whatever you specify) to access the materials.

When a prospect enters this information, a record is automatically created in the Oranj CRM. If a prospect or client subsequently visits other areas of your site or responds to an email campaign, this information will also be recorded in his or her record.

The email marketing functionality is similar to that of Constant Contact or MailChimp. In the dashboard, you can see exactly how many recipients opened the email and whether they clicked on a link. This data also gets entered in an individual’s CRM record.

Other types of activities can be initiated through an email campaign or through a website visit, and then tracked and analyzed.

The billing module is an e-commerce site for advisors who bill directly for some goods or services, as opposed to debiting investment accounts.

GETTING ATTENTION

The goal of Oranj’s marketing function is to get the attention of prospects, drive them to your site and encourage them to take action by entering their information in the Oranj App. The app includes account aggregation and tracking of portfolios and other assets and liabilities. It also includes goal tracking, a secure vault, alerts and reports.

The Oranj App provides advisors with technology that should enable them to compete with online money managers — the so-called robo advisors. The onboarding process is very similar. Prospects/clients go to the site and enter basic demographic data. They can then add bank accounts, credit cards, investment accounts and mortgages and have the data aggregated on the site.

With this information, Oranj can display asset and liability summaries, a net worth statement, an asset allocation chart and more.

Much of the Oranj account aggregation is powered by Yodlee. It provides balances plus limited history and limited transactional details. For example, if you are tracking spending for a client’s credit card account and the client spends $100 at Whole Foods, you’ll see a transaction labeled “groceries” — but you won’t be able to see the merchant.

One proprietary technology that Oranj is adding in version 2.0 is the ability to access statements from aggregated accounts within Oranj. The first time that clients access their statements from an account, they must enter their credentials for the account — but after that they need only to specify the account and a date range.

After answering a few risk questions, users can also enter financial goals and link accounts to a goal. Oranj will then display, in the dashboard, a client’s progress, with aggregate goal coverage. Once the prospect/client has established a portal, the user can access it at any time from a PC, tablet or smartphone.

Once prospects and clients engage with the Oranj app, odds are that they will stay engaged — providing you with opportunities to interact with them in a meaningful way.

OPPORTUNITIES

The new artificial intelligence feature can suggest opportunities across a wide variety of possible situations. To provide just a few examples, it can alert an advisor that a user’s risk tolerance and asset allocation are out of alignment, that investment expenses exceed industry averages, that the assets in a portfolio have a high positive correlation, that life insurance coverage is insufficient or that current contributions are not sufficient to meet goals.

The client portal includes four sections: one to hold performance reports that the advisor generates and uploads; one for investment materials that the advisor shares with the client; a third for financial plans and analysis; and a fourth where clients can upload personal documents — such as estate-planning documents, copies of passports and anything else — and then share access to this section with the advisor.

Another new feature lets new clients open accounts electronically through the Oranj site. With a wizard guiding them, prospects fill out the appropriate electronic forms, answer a short risk questionnaire and sign the application electronically using DocuSign technology. Based on the risk questionnaire, the investor is mapped to a model portfolio with the appropriate risk and return. Account transfers can also be initiated directly from the site.

ADVISOR PORTAL

Advisors get portals similar in look and feel to the client portal, but allowing them to view the whole business in aggregate, as well as view individual relationships.

In the case of prospects, advisors get the information they need to reach out and make contact. In the case of clients, the advisor can monitor their financial dealings and spot opportunities to add value to an existing relationship.

In a future release, Oranj plans to make the platform even more robust by allowing other applications to plug into the company’s site. Currently, the technology allows CRM vendors, financial planning vendors, portfolio management vendors and so on to reside inside the Oranj infrastructure, but the platform does not yet support single sign-on — so for everything except QuickBooks, the advisor has to sign in to each app separately.

Pricing for advisors starts at $250 per user for the first user, with $50 for each additional user.

Advisors are likely to come under increased competitive pressure in the years ahead. Whether you want to strengthen your relationship with existing clients, attract new prospects, engage better with

Gen X or Gen Y, or compete effectively with robo advisors, Oranj offers a tool set that may help.
Oranj is a relatively new firm, and this type of advisor technology is evolving rapidly, but Oranj seems to have a fresh, digitally savvy approach to marketing, client communication, and client retention and service. For many readers, that should be a compelling combination. 

Joel Bruckenstein, a Financial Planning columnist, is co-creator of the Technology Tools for Today newsletter, conference series and technology guides for advisors, including Technology Tools for Today’s High-Margin Practice. For more information, visit JoelBruckenstein.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FinTechie.

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