Advisors already have no shortage of customer relationship management products to choose from, so does the marketplace really need another one? The folks at Wealth Advisor CRM think so, and perhaps they are right. Their offering may be just different enough and inexpensive enough to attract a sizable following.
Wealth Advisor CRM is a web-based product that seems aimed at small and midsize firms and carries attractive pricing. The company offers three price options. The Basic Plan, at $59 a month, provides access for a single advisor and a single administrative assistant. The Business Plan, at $69, accommodates up to two advisors and two administrators. The Premier Plan serves four advisors and three administrators for $79. All the plans come with a 14-day free trial. Only online orders and payments are accepted, through Visa, MasterCard or Discover.
The initial registration takes a couple of minutes. You select your plan, provide your name, address, telephone number, broker-dealer and rep number (if applicable) and your time zone, then you provide a username and password and select a website name.
SCANNING THE DASHBOARD
When you log on to the application for the first time, you land on the Dashboard page, which is divided into four areas: Schedule, Scoreboard, Opportunities and Checklists.
The Schedule section includes a number of clever navigation tools. For example, at the top of the section there is a gray bar with the labels Last Week, This Week, Next Week, Today and All.
A drop-down list allows you to filter by all meetings or the meetings of any individual within the firm. Each meeting is displayed in a format that resembles a business card.
It includes the name of the client or prospect and the meeting location - your office, out of the office, conference call, etc.
You can also enter the time, the phone number of the client, and a description of the meeting's purpose, its location and other notes. The card includes a picture of the client.
When the meeting actually occurs, you can click on an icon to take notes. The notes area is subdivided further.
In the section What's Changed, for instance, you create a subject line, select from one of four icons (Family, Medical, Money and Job) and type the note. The icons appear on the meeting card and provide a visual cue.
Another section is for notes related to financial challenges. Here, there are three icons. "Tornados" is for issues that can cause imminent, permanent financial damage and that need immediate attention.
"Leaks" represent things that need to be done, but not immediately, like consolidating a number of small IRA accounts. "Fires" are apparently less pressing than Leaks in the Wealth Advisor CRM scheme of things.
There are also sections for just plain notes (no icons here), Promises, Homework and Meeting Prep. "Promises" are commitments that you make to the client. "Homework" items are tasks the client agrees to do.
All Promises, Homework and Meeting Prep assignments are displayed in each person's Checklist section along with their tasks. You can sort the Checklist by type (Promises, Homework); status (completed, late, to be done); type (call, email, etc.); or person assigned to complete the task.
The Scorecard tracks sales goals. This is particularly useful for commissioned reps since it allows you to track trades or applications submitted and approved, as well as to note whether the funds have been received, the product has been funded and the rep has received his or her commission. You can set a goal for the month, and view your progress over a number of months or year to date.
In the Opportunities section of the Dashboard, the application displays the total value of the opportunities available to the advisors, based upon entries that have been made. Each listing displays the client or prospect's name, picture and dollar value of the opportunity.
If you click on an opportunity, you'll see all the details that have been previously entered. This might be, say, an owner who is about to sell a business, or a client who is ready to roll over a 401(k) plan to an IRA managed by you.
On the calendar, one distinguishing factor is the day view. Instead of an hourly view, this one presents the meeting card in a column to the left, with tasks, promises and the like to the right. The tasks have hotlinks to the person they relate to, and a check box to mark when they are done.
People, or contacts, are spread over three tabs in Wealth Advisor CRM. Prospects get their own tab, and the Networks tab is for anyone who is not a client or prospect. This could include wholesalers or estate planning attorneys, for example.
The Client tab is more extensive. You can scroll through a list of clients or you can search for them by name. You can also categorize clients into groups and filter by group.
In addition, by clicking a hotlink, you can change the client name search to a spouse or child search or a search by city, tag or background information. Advisors can create their own list of tags in the settings area, and then assign those tags to clients and prospects. Tags could cover such things as a client's risk tolerance, tax status and personal interests.
When you select a client, you are taken to his or her profile page. Here, you can review notes and view a client's history, relationships, contact info and other typical data.
If you drill down to the next level of the profile, you can see a summary balance sheet for the client, additional spouse and family member data, and work-related data. There are buttons to the left that provide access to asset details and liability information.
Currently, this is entered manually, so if the client has a certificate of deposit, for example, you'd click on the bank account button, select CD as the type of account and add the yield and the market value.
The trade blotter allows advisors to enter all their trades, and then export them for execution; or they can place their trades in another system and then import them into Wealth Advisor CRM. You can also store additional information like the funding source and notes.
In addition, commissions collected flow into the Scorecard, allowing advisors to track their progress toward their goals.
The Mining tab contains a number of tools that simplify searches for nontechnical people. The Advisor Toolbox tab allows users to bookmark Web pages and organize them in a meaningful way.
For example, you could set up a Mutual Fund menu, and under it list a number of fund companies. Or you could set up a hotlink called "My Favorite Funds" and have that display a page with links to each of your favorites.
There are a number of appealing aspects to this new CRM entrant. One is the intuitive interface. First-time users should be able to use the application immediately. Context sensitive drop-down menus, tabs and hotlinks minimize clicks and minimize errors.
The meeting cards provide a great deal of information at a glance. For those firms in the growth mode, the Scorecard and Opportunities sections of the Dashboard will be a boon, keeping advisors focused on what's important.
The settings section gives firms a good deal of control, allowing them to customize the application for their needs. For example, you can set up your own client note categories, prospect categories, relationship types, tags, lost opportunity reasons and network categories.
Wealth Advisor CRM offers LaserApp integration. If a user has a LaserApp license, they can click on the LaserApp logo in any client profile and it will launch LaserApp with that client's data loaded.
As with any new CRM application, there are some omissions and rough edges. Although you can change categories, tags and the like, you can't customize the Dashboard.
The Schedules, Scorecard, Opportunities and Checklists always appear in the same layout. A more serious omission is the inability to customize the Scorecard.
This area is great for commissioned reps, but not much good in its current format for fee-only advisors. This problem could be addressed by adding a few more scorecards, including ones more appropriate for fee-only advisors, and letting advisors chose the one they want.
There is a settings section labeled Calendar Sync, but it is only a one-way sync. You can send appointments created in Wealth Advisor CRM to Outlook, iCal, Google, Yahoo and others, but not the other way around.
It would be nice to have mouse-over functionality for the icons so it's immediately apparent what they represent. Some of the nomenclature is confusing, as well. There are two levels of client profiles. One should probably be labeled Basic Profile and the other Client Details, or something similar.
Right now, there are no workflow capabilities. I suspect that they will be added later. Wealth Advisor CRM does not offer integration with any major broker-dealers or custodians yet, but I suspect that, too, will come with time. For now, reps can import and export trade blotters using CSV files.
Security is generally good. Data is encrypted while being transmitted and while on the servers. But there's one small issue that troubles me: When you set up an account for the first time, the confirmation email includes both your username and password. I'd suggest just sending the username and not the passwords.
Finally, I like the ability to enter individual bonds and CDs, but if you are going to do that, why not provide the ability to enter a maturity date so you can generate maturity alerts and reports automatically? You can currently do this manually, but that takes a few extra steps.
Wealth Advisor CRM is new, and it was initially designed to meet the needs of a specific firm, so it is understandable that it does not possess the functionality of a more mature product. Despite some omissions, though, the application looks promising.
Joel Bruckenstein is a Financial Planning editor-at-large and co-creator of the Technology Tools for Today newsletter and conference series. He's also president of Global Financial Advisors in Miramar, Fla. Visit JoelBruckenstein.com for more information.