Referrals are one of the main engines of growth at registered investment advisory firms, and any industry professional, new or seasoned, will attest to that.

But how to corral deeply researched leads consistently is the question. The key, says Fidelity Investments, is to develop a polished approach, which is what the firm has done with its Referral-EDGE. It is a new Web-based tool developed that is supposed to help advisors expand business at their practices by unearthing client prospects and networking opportunities.

The program is an outgrowth of the Centers of Influence and Referral Strategies program. Advisors can search an extensive database of more than 1.5 million retirement plans, almost 150,000 foundations and endowments and other public information. The vast database is updated daily, and pulls in the information from more than 3,000 sources.

More than 200 advisory firms are already using the program in its pilot phase, including Parallel Advisors, based in San Francisco. Jacob Schutt, principal of Parallel Advisors, said in a statement that the tool, especially its targeted search function, has helped the firm create a new business development process. That, in turn, has led to a big pickup in leads.

The search function lets advisors root out detailed profiles of existing clients, prospects or professional connections using a wide array of variables, including zip codes and professional and social affiliations. Once the advisor has selected the search criteria, Referral-EDGE aggregates detailed public information, and then generates a list of individuals that the advisor can evaluate for his or her practice.

The search parameters can also be saved to create daily alerts whenever a prospect or client generates new activity.