Schwab Advisor Solutions has completed the beta testing phase of integrating the CRM application SalesForce.com into Schwab’s custodial and portfolio management systems, and is moving those beta testers, along with more Schwab-affiliated RIAs, into a pilot program this fall, with general availability for all of Schwab’s advisors by year-end.
In an interview on Monday with AdvisorOne, Schwab’s Brian Shenson, managing director of Advisor Services technology, reported that a dozen advisory firms participated in the beta testing of Schwab OpenView Integrated Office, the turnkey application that integrates SalesForce with Schwab’s custodial platform and Portfolio Center, Schwab Performance Technologies’ portfolio management software (PMS). Those same 12 were beta testers of Schwab OpenView Gateway, a modular application for SalesForce CRM users. Some third party consultants to advisors who help with technology integration were also included in the beta testing.
The CRM testing is the first in Schwab’s Intelligent Integration project that is designed, says Shenson, to provide RIA firms with a choice on how they will integrate their standalone applications into the Schwab platform. “Our view of the world,” said Shenson, “is that you need your CRM, portfolio reporting, and custodial platform” to be integrated into an advisory firm’s workflow to help advisors best leverage their business operations.
In an interview last October, Neesha Hathi, Schwab’s VP for Advisor Technology Solutions, described Intelligent Integration as an “ecosystem,” designed to help its affiliated advisors be more efficient in their use of advisor software so that any applications “works well with the applications that they’re already using.”
Schwab’s intent, Hathi said then, was to “focus on creating choice in the marketplace, creating relationships with a few different providers, but also creating integration with those providers.” (Hathi also wrote an article for Investment Advisor ‘s August 2011 issue on how advisors could use CRM as an “engine of growth.”)
Shenson, who is serving as the leader of that effort during Hathi’s maternity leave (she is due to return next month), said the beta testing reflected the project’s four main principles:
- CRM centricity—the criticality of organizing an advisor’s office around how they actually serve clients.
- Intelligent Integration—the way data flows from one application to another.
- Choice—providing both a modular approach and a turnkey package, with one point of service.
- Criticality of help and guidance—making sense of the options available to advisors.
At Schwab’s annual conference for advisors—impact—last October, Bernie Clark of Schwab Advisor Services announced the three CRM systems–SalesForce.com, Microsoft CRM and Junxure—that would get the Intelligent Integration treatment. Shenson said the result was “tremendous integration,” with Schwab data that is “easy to configure.” From the beta users, Shenson says Schwab learned “we hit the mark” in terms of both design and process.
As for the other two CRM systems—Microsoft CRM and Junxure, Shenson reported that Schwab is “making good progress … leveraging the same approach and processes” that were used with the SalesForce integration.
The turnkey application is only being developed for SalesForce, Shenson says, and Schwab will not charge its advisors for any of the three modular approaches. The price for the turnkey application has yet to be set by Schwab Advisor Technologies, though Shenson said it would be “competitive.”
He also said that of Schwab’s nearly 7,000 advisors, more than 50% are already using one of the three CRM systems, and that roughly 40% of all the affiliated RIAs are using Portfolio Center. The beta testers included a range of advisory firms in term of size and business focus—“from small one or two-man shops to large firms with 75 seats with SalesForce—some of whom, Shenson said, had other custodial relationships and were using other CRM packages.
Those advisory firms that were beta testers will be invited to take part in the pilot phase as well, he said, along with additional users.