One of the most frequent complaints I hear from advisers about client management software is that specialist adviser systems lack much of the power and functionality offered by larger-scale customer relationship management solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics.
This month sees the official launch of a system which aims to address this challenge by delivering specialist adviser software built on top of Microsoft’s world-class Dynamics CRM system.
Curo from Time 4 Advice is the brainchild of Roland Rawicz-Szczerbo and Mitchell Philpott, the duo who built the Quay software client management system which they sold to Capita. The other directors include several of the former senior management team at Bluefin, including current Personal Finance Society president Jon Everill.
Although the product was first rolled out to a group of users earlier in the year, having previously been in beta test with a small number of firms since the middle of 2011, it is now in full public release with the launch of version 1.1 of the software. Crucially, this brings with it key integrations for electronic commission processing via Time 4 Advice’s Symmetry messaging hub which will be closely followed by online valuation services in June.
Further integrations will be put in place with a range of third-party tools before the end of the year, including the Paraplanner online and ATEB suitability report tools, SamMedia’s Money Info service, as well as financial planning and cashflow tools from Voyant, Plan Lab, Money Scope, FE Analytics, Morning-star adviser tools and Defaqto research are all due to be added, so advisers can pick and choose their own preferred third-party resources.
By choosing to build on leading-edge Microsoft tools, Dynamics, SharePoint and Office, Time 4 Advice is leveraging billions of dollars of development that have been spent on these products. The Dynamics’ family alone has a $2bn development budget. Equally, because the MS Office suite is so familiar to just about everyone who has ever used a PC, even novice users should find it easy. If you can use Microsoft Outlook, you will have a pretty good idea how to use Curo, which appears in Outlook as just another inbox with as another email account or can be selected from the Curo button.
Within Curo, there are seven key areas – workplace, client management, administration, marketing, compliance, settings and resource centre. Workplace is where the user spends most of their time and is where most work is done. Within the resource centre, Time 4 Advice is creating a knowledge base which includes some 200 articles on how to do things within the system and a further 10 videos so users can see how tasks are accomplished to help make learning to use the system easier. It has also created a community area as an environment where users can offer feedback on the software, what they like about it and what they don’t and make suggestions for further improvements.
Users can also vote on proposed enhancements and there are forums so users can share best practice. Support can also be delivered via this community area.
The system includes a time- charging component which works on the basis of units of time rather than a switch-on, switch-off timer.
This can apply day rates and fixed prices per job, allowing users to set up as many different charging propositions as they like and increasing the ability of a firm to roll out consistent charging.
An excellent example of how easy it is to manage an advice business using Curo can be seen from the support provided to help advisers design and deliver their various customer propositions. Firms can use the service to build their own client proposition, including summarising their “service promise”.
In addition, the program helps them agree the various components of their services to clients. Using a series of dro- down menus, all of which are configurable, they can agree their service proposition, for example, high level, high touch, one-off advice or low level; the service style, for example, face to face, seminar, telephone or internet; the review frequency; valuation scheduling, that is, how frequently consolidated valuations are produced; advice offering, that is, whole of market, restricted or execution only, also the service communication proposition – how will the firm communicate and how frequently; the basis of charges, retainer if applicable, etc.
From version 1.1, the system will be supplied with a range of configured content, including KPI reports, client account reports, policy schedules, commission and fee reconciliation report etc. Firms can either use these as supplied built or choose to have these entirely configured to their own specific requirements.
Having defined a proposition, the system allows advisers to group participants in a particular proposition and identify groups of clients who need particular activities to take place to deliver on an agreed offering. These activities can then be scheduled from within the system.
After defining the services to be offered and having recognised all the clients that have subscribed to each proposition, the workflow element of the system then generates the procedures and activities necessary so an adviser can be sure they are delivering on the agreed customer proposition, something that will be a crucial requirement.
In recent months, I have seen an increasing number of fresh, innovative adviser software packages that represent a further leap forward in what is available to advisers. Time 4 Advice certainly fits into this category and should be seriously considered by anyone looking for technology to support the evolution of their business.
FTRC has created a LinkedIn group for anyone interested in following developments in the specialist adviser software market. The group, advisersoftware.com, can be found through Ian Mckenna’s LinkedIn profile or through this link
Ian McKenna is director of the Finance & Technology Research Centre