Financial adviser Alexander Forbes Retail needed to replace its customer relationship management (CRM) system to meet new challenges. The firm deployed Microsoft Dynamics CRM to help ensure business continuity, migrating more than 10 years of client contact information over a weekend. In two years, 30 advisers have been hired to increase revenue, while the system runs more efficiently and needs fewer support staff.
Alexander Forbes Retail offers comprehensive financial and wealth advice and solutions to individuals. It is a division of Alexander Forbes, a leading global provider of financial, risk, insurance, and multi-manager investment solutions, based in South Africa, Namibia, and the United Kingdom.
In 2008, the Alexander Forbes group concluded that its existing business customer management system was no longer suitable for an expanding business, having reached the end of its life cycle. Andrew Westaway, Chief Operating Officer, Alexander Forbes Retail, says: “The previous system was no longer supported and was posing a significant business risk. Making a change presented several challenges, including the migration to a new platform of more than 10 years’ worth of client contact history and related documentation, amounting to 1.2 million documents.”
Alexander Forbes needed to ensure that all previous functions and customisations of the existing solution would be effectively catered for in any new software. Deployment of any alternative also had to be completed quickly to ensure business continuity and adherence to regulatory requirements. Westaway says: “We literally needed to switch off the old system on Friday at close of business and have the new environment operating for around 250 users on the Monday morning.”
The firm was keen to minimise the time needed for employees to familiarise themselves with the new software. Integration with the group’s other line-of-business applications was another imperative, together with data security.
However, the most important consideration was to improve business productivity by supporting an increased number of advisers in the front office, while avoiding the need to hire more support staff. Westaway says: “We calculated that by automating workflows we could avoid the need to allocate dedicated back-office staff to support individual advisers. With the work spread across a team there would be less downtime, fewer manual processes, and increased efficiency.”Solution
Alexander Forbes chose Microsoft Dynamics CRM after considering a range of options, including Siebel, SalesForce, Maximiser CRM, and Goldmine. These were ruled out due to total-cost-of-ownership considerations and systems compatibility. The Alexander Forbes group decided to focus on Microsoft enterprise software and the Microsoft Office suite of products.
Alexander Forbes Retail was the second division of the company to migrate to Microsoft Dynamics CRM software. Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and systems integrator nVisionIT managed the system adoption and integration to serve many divisions of the organisation with a single and cost-effective deployment of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
Piers Matthews, Solutions Strategist, nVisionIT, says: “The migration for Alexander Forbes Retail had to be carefully planned because the customer couldn’t be without an active system for any length of time. Any downtime would result in disruption to critical business processes, loss of income, and damage to reputation.”
By collaborating closely with Microsoft and the Alexander Forbes team, the move to the new system took just one weekend, without any loss of data. Matthews says: “Specialised entities and workflows were built to represent the retail business processes. These supported the management of many of the customer engagement activities, including team work allocations, annual review process management, retail-specific customer data management, and customised security.”
Microsoft Office SharePoint Server provides core document management capabilities. The new system uploads and tags all client documentation through the user-friendly Microsoft Dynamics CRM interface, storing it in Office SharePoint Server. The Office SharePoint Server storage solution has the added benefit of being able to quickly calculate and render relevant compliance aspects per client according to legal and financial standards. The solution is fully integrated with the group’s line-of-business applications.
Matthews adds: “A key requirement from the user base was effective live data sync across the financial administration back office and CRM front-office systems. The solution synchronises the client details between the CRM software and the line-of-business applications, and provides secure bi-directional updates of data, based on business rules and specific data-matching criteria.”Benefits
By deploying the solution, Alexander Forbes Retail has added 30 advisers since 2008 to its team, while reducing the back-office complement of staff. The new workflow processes have resulted in a more even distribution of work between support employees. It has allowed the firm to cut its operational and support costs and reduce staff in this role from 120 in 2008 to 90 in 2010. Westaway says: “Business productivity has improved and customer service is much more consistent, with better reporting and less duplication in the back office.”
Support team headcount is lowered while customer-facing time is increased. Westaway says: “In a period in which we’ve added 30 advisers to our front-office team, we’ve reduced our support staff by 30 due to our well-supported new platform for CRM.”
Monitoring of key performance indicators improves customer service. Automated monitoring has ensured that advisers have increased their targets for face-to-face annual reviews with clients from 40 to 65 per cent—a significant improvement in customer service.
Single view of the client across the business. The company, which has grown by acquisition, is now better positioned to take a single view of each of its customers across the business, raising the opportunity for cross-selling and up-selling. It also assists with auditing—a critical compliance requirement.
Enhanced controls through automated workflows. With automated workflows, business processes are no longer duplicated. They’re more consistent and less downtime occurs for back-office staff, who previously worked for individual advisers.
Better business decisions. The new reporting system linked to the CRM software provides clearer and more comprehensive information, helping Alexander Forbes Retail make well-informed business decisions based on up-to-date information.
Integration with Microsoft assets creates added business value. Westaway says: “The ease of extracting information from the CRM system and its integration with our core insurance back-office systems means we’re getting a lot more business value out of what we’d previously bought.”This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.