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July 31, 2001

A Closer Look At a Client's Account: CRM Tools Helps Find Where Bodies Are Buried

By Brian O'Connell

Also in this article

  • A Closer Look At a Client's Account: CRM Tools Helps Find Where Bodies Are Buried
  • Page 2

Why can't traders be more like Erin Brockovich?

Remember Brockovich, the consumer advocate who worked at a law firm and knew all the sins of the firm's clients? Well, with customer relationship management (CRM) tools, traders can know more about their own clients.

Now a big factor in the financial services sector, especially in banking and brokerage, CRM software is hitting trading desks across the globe. What's CRM? Simply put, CRM is about transforming customer information into usable customer intelligence. For market makers, floor specialists, and mutual fund and brokerage traders, CRM can help pinpoint client trading preferences and habits. It can also provide traders with a blueprint on leveraging those preferences for heftier fees and commissions.

Traders can now access all the information pertinent to their clients, including historical interactions such as e-mails and phone calls, as well as transaction data like portfolio balances and stock trades.

Demanding Customers

That's a big development in a trading environment where customers are becoming more demanding. Customer relationship management systems have traditionally integrated marketing, sales and customer service functions so that all forms of client communication, including telephone, fax, e-mail, letter correspondence and the face-to-face meeting, can be monitored and managed in one place. That enables traders to maintain an up-to-date client profile, deliver on promised actions, provide information and materials efficiently on a client's stock, as well as follow- up in a timely and disciplined fashion.

"CRM is giving us a better understanding of what our customers are looking for," said Craig Berkson, chief information officer for portfolio solutions at Thompson Financial Management. (Thomson Financial Management is a unit of Thomson Corporation, which owns Traders Magazine). "Expectations are getting higher and competition is becoming intense, particularly as you see mergers and trading firms coming together. So you're seeing a need to manage better relationships," Berkson added.

In the early phases of the CRM/financial services relationship, traders are a vital cog, whether it's accessing real-time information on a customer's last phone call with another trader, or figuring out how to keep a client's investor relations liaison better appraised of a company's stock.

CRM is a way of giving an entire firm access to updated customer information, which can be sent to the trading desk.

"We're getting a single view of our customer across our entire business," Berkson added. "Our CRM package allows anyone in our customer service [area] to research and solve customer issues more quickly, giving everyone access to the phone, fax, or e-mail contacts from the customer so we can service."

Sensing the demand for more personalized trading-based CRM applications, many familiar names - plus a few new ones - are lining up to provide customer management tools. Leading vendors targeting CRM and sales force automation (SFA) in the finance sector include IBM's BackWeb, Onyx Front Office 2000, Nortel Network's Clarify, Firepond's Application Suite, Pivotal's eSelling 2000, and Siebel's eBusiness 2000. Other up-and-comers in the CRM world include San Francisco-based Black Pearl, Interact Commerce Corp., Ascendix and Sales Logix. They all meet the Holy Grail of customer expectations by merging direct sales, online sales, customer-service activities, and channel management in a single platform.