Stockbroker gets closer to customers

In the face of shrinking brokerage fees and a need to move into more lucrative areas such as advisory services and investment banking, stockbrokers have no choice but to improve their targeting and understanding of customers. The answer? For JB Were, CRM software.

In the face of shrinking brokerage fees and a need to move into more lucrative areas such as advisory services and investment banking, stockbrokers have no choice but to improve their targeting and understanding of customers. The answer? For JB Were, CRM software.

In 1999 the Melbourne-headquartered financial services stalwart started investigating options for improving its customer relationship management, and in March of the next year the firm began workshopping the business needs that would drive the process.

Initial desires were gaining better value and segmentation out of marketing, improved administration support and cutting the distribution costs of its research – meaning expansion of email and web capabilities were essential.

Of prime importance though, according to JB Were business systems manager Wayne Panton, was gaining a global view of client dealings and tailored access to records, research and market data. Tailoring data for clients and advisers was something the company admits it hadn't done well enough in the past. JB Were was geared to servicing private clients and, like the banks, says Panton, a three-year employee, viewing data from an account perspective. What was needed was to see a client’s overall portfolio and potentially important external relationships.

In October 2000 JB Were chose StayinFront’s Web Works (though initially settled on the vendor's client-server option Visual Elk 8.1). Other vendors could offer back-office application needs but StayinFront had extensive contact management experience. What JB Were calls the OneView project went live in October 2001.

OneView allows the display of a broker’s top 25 clients. (The 300-record screen initially designed meant the screen took too long to load.) Brokers can see the value of the client’s portfolio, converted to New Zealand dollars, down to individual assets, total brokerage income and if a client has links to other clients. Thirty five staff have access to the margin lending system via OpenView.

A key concern in the project, apart from simultaneously moving office with 113 people in tow, turned out to be response time. Older legacy systems, including Oracle and SQL Server databases and I-Cobol-based software, were faster, even if it took a lot longer to drill down to get the data needed. The three other New Zealand offices have access to the Auckland-based client database via the web. An upgrade to the WAN cut response time grizzles, but user acceptance is still being encouraged a year on, says Panton, speaking at a StayinFront user conference in Auckland last week. Apart from that, integration of “day to day” needs is ongoing.

Time and budget targets were pretty much fine, he says, as was the stability of the Microsoft-based network.

Success factors? The use of design workshops and prototyping, says Panton, roping in business users as active participants, regular deployment of incremental changes, financial industry jargon being assimilated by StayinFront (“What we mean by portfolio and what other people mean is quite different”) and integration with legacy systems.

Over the longer term JB Were is looking to near- or real-time updating of client data, fully integrated order entry, access via OneView to the research database and computer-telephony integration. The company is also looking at improving its note keeping and expects to trim staff costs – IT costs are high but nowhere near salaries – by directly processing stock transactions through its website. At present the company has to input local stock exchange online transactions through an NZSE terminal.

The JB Were deal was done from Auckland. Financial services are not expected to be a key vertical market focus in the next 12 months, says StayinFront chief executive Tom Buckley.

Pharmaceutical companies will feature strongly, says Buckley, several more deals likely to be stitched up over the next few months. A key competitor in that market is New Jersey-based Dendite. Buckley also sees merchandising as a future market, with the company looking at tie-ups with mobile specialists like NEC and Symbol.

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