For Krull & Company in Asheville, North Carolina, technology has always been a key driver in supporting the firm’s sustainable investing mandate in an efficient manner that benefits both advisors and clients.
“Our clients want to invest with their values, and they recognize the importance that technology will play in an energy-efficient society that uses resources more responsibly and equitably,” said Peter Krull, president and founder of Krull & Company. “We see technology as a great equalizer, meeting the sustainable investing needs of clients and enabling us to provide superior, integrated service.”
To that end, Krull & Company is in the midst of a large tech overhaul and is revamping its platforms in order to select from the best products and solutions — hardware as well as software — on offer today.
Financial planning technology got off to a slow start, said Neill Yelverton, investment advisor and partner at Krull & Company, and was not particularly innovative at the outset. That trend has reversed, with new, best-in-breed products coming out on a regular basis that are designed to be intuitive, user-friendly and to integrate with one another.
Integration is the only way forward, as far as Yelverton is concerned. Its importance to the financial services industry is reflected in the software solutions that are being created today and the way in which these tools meet advisors’ needs.
“What we’re seeing in the industry is that instead of single solutions that do everything for everyone, we’re getting products that allow for high levels of integration,” Yelverton said. “That makes sense because if the pieces aren’t talking together, if they’re not well designed, easy-to-use and well integrated, then our workload is not going down. If anything, it’s going to go up.”
The cornerstone of Krull & Company’s new tech system is a fully integrated interface that seamlessly links CRM, analytics, investments and client service across platforms. The firm has invested in Redtail, a leading CRM provider, and in Liberty, Trust Company of America’s well-known technology platform for sales, analytics and performance data.
“Redtail and Liberty integrate with each other; they go back and forth, and basically, everything else plays into those two main pieces of software,” Yelverton said. “Take MailChimp, for example, which we use to communicate with portfolio updates, newsletters, events and so on: Redtail integrates with MailChimp and makes things so much easier. Without this kind of integration, half your communication would be living out by itself, separate from everything else.”
Redtail and Liberty also integrate well with Precise FP, a unique assessment tool that allows Krull & Company to discover their clients’ personal strengths and challenges when it comes to money and investing, thereby allowing the firm to tailor investments to clients’ needs and desires. It also has adopted FinaMetrica, a financial risk analysis tool, to get a detailed picture of clients’ risk tolerance.
Having in place a technology system that is open to integration allows Krull & Company to innovate easily as new products come to the market.
“It is our goal — and we talk about this already in this software uncovering process — that if we find Software B a year from now and it’s doing what Software A does but better, we will switch out,” Yelverton said. “That means we’re constantly looking at what’s out there.”
(Related: Dan Skiles on creating a technology scorecard to keep tabs on the state of your firm’s technology.)
Ultimately, a fully integrated system that allows different elements to work together seamlessly gives Krull & Company a firm foundation from which to operate and to gain a more in-depth understanding of who their clients are and what their goals are. That information then allows the firm’s advisors to really tailor portfolios to individual clients’ risk tolerance and personal goals — a task that, in Yelverton’s view, is particularly important for a firm whose sole mandate is socially responsible investing and whose clients are equally committed to that goal.
Krull & Company’s due diligence process was recognized by the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investing (PRI) program as a best practice in their 2010 Annual Report on Progress.
“We are a solutions-focused, deeper green firm,” Yelverton said, “and while the socially responsible investing space as an industry is no longer a fringe space, we are truly dedicated to it; and our values, as well as those of our clients, are reflected in the investment choices we make.”
--- Read How One RIA Uses Technology to Nurture Client Relationships on ThinkAdvisor's TechCenter.