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Exploring Improvements In Web-Based Client Management Systems For Independent Financial Advisors
One of the hottest topics today in the world of Independent Financial Advisors is financial-oriented client management systems.
These can be available in a variety of formats, such as WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation or CRM (Customer Relationship Management), each holding the promise of enabling much greater advisor efficiency, better collaboration across teams, and improved client service.
But more often than not, such solutions for this industry have long suffered from being too generic and lacking the financial data and advisor-specific business processes to really improve an independent practice.
However, 2011 saw great improvements in these solutions, breathing a much-welcome sigh of relief into Independent Financial Advisors everywhere.
“There is an overwhelming wealth of information an Independent Financial Advisor must keep on top of at all times in order to profitably serve his clients,” said Chris Hastings, CEO of Sapphire Software Services, which developed one of the more popular WPF systems this past year in Panoramix, a portfolio management dashboard for independent financial advisors. “And with today's technology advancing at such a rapid pace and making life so much easier in all industries, we knew there had to be a solution.”
Indeed these programs are a solution. But they're also a process. No such solution can help make a task, workflow or process more efficient if you haven’t defined it first. If you don’t already have a model for how your replicable tasks should be handled, such as new account procedures, how financial plans are developed and monitored, or all the tasks that have to be delegated when a client changes marital status, then a financial management system isn’t going to magically help make you more productive.
It’s also imperative that you rely on your system of choice to do its job, meaning everyone in the firm must use it without exception. One person still relying on the post-it note system for task monitoring and communication can undermine the entire team, since data and process steps will be lost.
When selecting the right system, financial advisors have to consider a number of technical features to determine what is right for them.
The main requirement is that the system has to be the primary repository for critical client data, including asset details, income information, financial goals, and, in general, all aspects of what it takes to “know” your client and offer them advice.
There are a myriad of tools that claim to be for advisors, but are really only glorified prospecting or contact management tools, with a few financial attributes bolted on for good measure.
If you can’t live in your new system and have complete visibility to your clients and business processes, it’s not a complete system. A complete financial management system should have a document vault, an activity archive, management reports, as well as opportunity tracking and task management. A growing number of small office and independent advisors are realizing the benefits of web-hosted applications so they do not need to manage and maintain in-house servers or complex databases.
This is why programs like Panoramix and others have been so well received by independent financial advisors nationwide: they provide 'one-stop shopping' in complete management of client business, and are web-based and quite customizable to a shop's certain way of doing business.
Also – and perhaps most importantly – the main criteria when selecting a complete financial management solution is to determine what other applications it is integrated with. For example, re-entering data completely negates any effectiveness of a new program, so integration with specific best of breed products to suit the advisor’s needs is important to consider, not just the standalone merits of the chosen system.
Why? A majority of small office advisors work primarily in Outlook and/or Google Calendars to manage their client contact information and daily task and meeting schedules, while working in another tool for clients’ financial details. As a result, many advisors are looking for a solution which works seamlessly within Outlook and Google Calendar to reduce their learning curve and avoid additional complicated overhead.
Panoramix, for example, is technically a web deployed, WPF client application, with cloud based data and services. Which means no no clumsy install or update process (instead, web deployed and updated). And as a WPF desktop application, this allows the ability to perform seamless integration and automation tasks with other software on the computer – such as the aforementioned Outlook and Google Calendars applications.
Advisors looking to reduce overhead and make their practice more efficient are well-advised to explore and compare various solutions to incorporate into their practice. And to make such a deployment successful, it takes some up-front planning and expenditures to get the most out of the system.
“Take your time in researching what's best for your practice's specific needs,” advises Hastings. “Done properly, a proper financial management system can be an outstanding foundation for improving your practice, and the value you can offer to clients.”
In short, everybody wins.
Panoramix™ was developed by Sapphire Software Services, a custom software and business-to-business automation company founded in 2003. Sapphire brings business applications to the web, provides consulting services with the best vendors and partnerships, and offers professional development capabilities to automate business processes. Sapphire specializes in business application software development for companies in the financial services sector. For more information on Panoramix, or to schedule a live demo of the product, contact Panoramix at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, go to www.panoramixfinancial.com to view an on-demand demo of Panoramix.
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