Company banking on the wealth of its CRM

For Toronto-based x.eye there was little guesswork involved when it created its vertical CRM wealth.manager for the investment management sector.

The company was a consulting firm in the financial services sector, and began development on its CRM offering about five years ago. The initial release of the wealth.manager solution was around May of 1999.

Craig O’Neil said it was a natural progression for the organization given its background.

“In our consulting experience with financial services clients, a vertical CRM focused on a particular need of an industry, financial services and more particularly investment management…(was) important,” said O’Neil, co-president for x.eye. He said the software is built on a Web services type of strategy that is open for users who deal with a plethora of data.

Some of the features of the wealth.manager include a customizable interface where the user can define the view to show only the portfolio name, contact name and phone number, portfolios that represent cash flow, graphical maturity/income and personalized statements to differentiate service levels whereby firms can deliver both textual and graphical information in PDF format.

At the core of wealth.manager is the relationship module – which O’Neil said is the cornerstone of how the software works. He illustrated his point by providing an example: “A high networth person may have a trust or an investment company which is the formal account holder, but the client is the decision maker. The trust company is related to the investment company,” he said. Essentially, it allows for complex relationships to be managed and modelled by using CRM.

Analysts feel that there may be a trend evolving in the CRM market, lending itself to vertical solutions such as x.eye’s offering.

“Specific applications that address the needs (of) someone like a wealth manager or an investment banker is really the future of CRM because its really in the specifics that the business value comes,” said Erin Kinikin vice-president, CRM, for Giga Information Group in Santa Clara, Calif. She said that CRM remains one of the top three issues that her clients have addressed, in spite of the fact that Giga is forecasting growth between 10 to 15 per cent for the remainder of the year. She explained that interest in CRM has not diminished, but rather it is more of a case of customers being cautious in their spending, combined with the fact that the market grew by more than 50 per cent last year.

Kinikin said the financial services industry is the largest single market for CRM, estimating it is somewhere around 20 to 30 per cent of the overall market. She said that x.eye would be competing with a company like AIT in the U.K., and expressed some concern given that x.eye, formally known as Visioneering Partners, had its roots as a consulting company. “(What) comes to mind about x.eye is that it’s really a consulting company trying to be a product company (which is) similar to AIT, that also came from a consulting background.” She added the issue for potential customers is whether they are buying a product or a set of consulting resources.

Yet, there is some definitive agreement among analysts that a vertical CRM is growing in popularity.

“I’ve been seeing an emphasis on more vertical solutions lately. Companies that are buying these solutions really need to demonstrate an ROI in a short period of time,” said Brian Jones, CRM analyst, strategies group, for the Yankee Group in Boston, Mass. He said vertical solutions are better positioned to accomplish this goal because there is less customization involved and there is more of a template to start with. He said the cost of implementation and more focused solutions are driving the market toward specialized solutions.