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5 Questions to Ask Now About Client Engagement

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There are thousands of companies and products that market themselves as customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, ranging from industry behemoths to tiny niche products. Given the importance of relationships to financial advisors, it’s no surprise advisory and wealth management firms think they need a CRM system.

But is that really what they need? The reality is there are meaningful differences between CRM and an integrated advisor desktop (IAD), particularly for advisors who want to spend more time on meaningful client engagement, and less on mundane administrative tasks.

Here are a few issues to clarify now about these issues:

1. What problems are you trying to solve for?

Advisors usually have two imperatives: to keep their book of business, and to grow their book of business. They want a tool that will help them augment their ability to do so. Something that helps automate workflows, which frees more time to work with clients or prospects, and gives them the information they need to use that time effectively.

What pure CRM providers deliver, however, generally doesn’t give advisors that ability by itself. What advisors really need is an IAD.

2. What are the differences between a CRM and an IAD?

CRM is a component application that stores and retrieves information about a customer. An IAD is a “fabric” into which other applications are woven and can be viewed in context with each other.

For example, an advisor will often work with several applications — CRM, an onboarding application, a portfolio management application, a financial planning application, not to mention all the market news and trends an advisor needs to absorb and aggregate.

An IAD taps into all of those and gives an advisor a single view. Think of this as the advisor portal.

3. Why are IADs uniquely valuable to financial firms?

It’s right there in the name — this is an integrated ADVISOR desktop.

A lot of CRM providers are generalists, and if you want to have data visualization or recommend next best actions or surface relevant news to share with clients, those are separate add-ons, often not even from the same company. You can’t have a robust business model that wasn’t built for your use case.

That’s what an IAD is built to do — serve advisors and their firms.

Once an IAD brings together all the relevant data in context, advisors benefit from new ways to view that information — by client, by book, for the entire firm. It’s a powerful, and liberating, experience for advisors.

4. When do you know you’re ready for an IAD?

Are your advisors spending time using multiple applications every day to do their jobs? Do they log into one after the other? That’s an efficiency loss.

Most firms have reached the conclusion that there will be a disparate set of applications that make up the advisor tech stack. The way to maximize the benefit of the investments they have already made is to deploy an IAD.

5. What should you look for in an IAD?

The data model is critically important. It lies at the heart of the IAD — the ability to understand elements of data from multiple sources and relate them to each other.

You want a system that leaves the data where it is but can treat it like it’s part of one system. You also want modern API tech that can integrate legacy systems, all the way down to the legacy hardware. That’s what advisors today expect and deserve.


Paul O’Donnell is president and CEO of NexJ, a provider of enterprise customer management solutions to the financial services industry, which he joined in 2017. For more than two decades, O’Donnell has held executive roles for technology firms, such as serving as president of OpenText Americas, COO for PEAK Technologies Europe and chief revenue officer of Intelex Technologies.

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