Just Say NO to Point Solutions! A Tale of Two Asset Management Firms

by Tom Berger, Vice President, Financial Services

In financial services—whether you’re in wealth management, asset management, or other—there is no argument that the software you depend on for your business needs to fit the way things work in your world. You would think, then, that a point solution (I am not going to name names here…we are not in the business of disparaging our worthy adversaries—but suffice to say we have worked with clients who used the major players in Asset Management) would be the logical choice.

But that’s not necessarily true. Although these point solutions were designed for your business in theory, they also present some pretty significant obstacles. What you gain in the “convenience” of an out-of-the-box financial services solution, you lose in other ways, including extensibility, support, integration, and the ability to take advantage of new technology.

This is something we see regularly with our prospects. Either they are on a point solution that has hit a wall—it can’t do what it needs to do any longer, and there is no new development—or they are looking for a new solution and have narrowed the field down to a point solution and Microsoft Dynamics 365.

It won’t surprise you that we are advocates of the latter. But let me explain why (because there are some very compelling reasons) by sharing “case studies” of two firms that recently chose the way of the open platform.

But before I start, let me just say that yes, there are firms that will prefer a point solution. Point solutions are pre-built, easy to deploy, and require very little involvement from you, the client. If your preference is for someone to just handle it, then a point solution might be the right option. However, if you have defined business processes (and don’t most of us have those?) or have acquisition plans or other goals to grow or expand in the future, want to take advantage of new technology like the Cloud or integrate with other business-critical systems, you will encounter problems. I like to say that points solutions provide short-term gain for long-term pain.

But let’s hear it from a customer’s point of view. In both of these cases, we replaced point solutions with Dynamics 365:

A Leading Institutional Asset Manager Lays the Foundation for Growth and Expansion

Simply put, this is a story of extensibility. This institutional asset manager was using a point CRM solution that was not keeping up the firm’s growth and changing business processes (adapting to the fluctuating industry landscape). For example, the team responsible for onboarding, bringing on new accounts, terminations, and managing client requests was rapidly expanding, and the system just could not keep up.

The same was true for the firm’s sales force. Their processes needed to support multiple strategies, and the teams needed the ability to work closely together. Reporting was also an issue—slow and unable to give them the information they needed in a meaningful format. By “meaningful,” I mean that they were not able to get a sense of the products they are selling to their institutional clients.

Internal reporting problems also created problems. They knew their AUM was growing, but they didn’t know how and where. Without an understanding of what was truly going on in their business, they were running blind—and missing opportunities.

So, they chose Dynamics 365. Why? It’s not designed specifically for financial services. However, what this firm realized was that an open platform—implemented with the right partner behind the wheel (yes, us) allowed them to put all these challenges to bed. Completely. Why? Extensibility. They found that an open platform does not make you conform your business to the software; the software should be able to conform to how you run your business.

A National Intermediary Breaks Down Silos and Uncovers New Opportunities

This firm had a big job. They wanted to combine three lines of business: private client, institutional, and intermediary business. These areas were separated by two systems. Essentially, the private client business was shoehorned into one CRM system, along with the institutional business. The other CRM system was being used as intermediary software, data provider, and data aggregator. This forced the sales team to work in two CRM systems, which created havoc. Clients were duplicated in the two systems, and contacts were not being tracked in the same place, which meant that clients were often contacted by different people trying to sell them the same product.

Visibility was a serious issue as well. No one was able to see the big picture—the overall relationships with a client—in one system. They had to do research in two systems, reconcile the information, and put it in a meaningful format before they could have a conversation with the client. Reporting and roll-ups of AUM (all done in Excel), managing marketing efforts effectively—all of these operational problems and more were the result of silos caused by the fact that no single point solution could address their needs.

By choosing an open platform, they were able to completely eliminate those silos, bringing all that critical information together under one roof—and taking advantage of new features and integrations with complementary solutions like ClickDimensions.

Why Are Open Systems like Dynamics 365 Winning?

So, the question that comes to mind is, why are systems that were built specifically for financial services being replaced by open systems like Dynamics 365? Here are some very compelling reasons:

Reason #1: Flexibility and Extensibility

As the two previous case studies point out, open platforms do not force you to do things their way. Even something as simple as naming a field the way you want to name it can make life easier, and point solutions don’t allow that. Now, multiply that by a thousand when you think about complex business processes.

Reason #2: Customizability

This is a “Part B” to the point above—and it does NOT mean having to deal with coding! No single product can do everything you need right out of the box. Each business is unique, so to get your solution exactly where you want it might require some configuring. With open platforms like Dynamics 365, that’s not an issue. Microsoft provides toolkits for developing, customizing, and your solution. Dynamics provides a business rule engine, process bar, field-level security, workflows, access to a full software developer kit, which provides you with the flexibility to give you exactly what you want. Oh, and Microsoft Certified Partners (like AKA) are experts not only in the technology, but in your industry. So, remember the point I made earlier about point solutions being “easier” in that you don’t have to deal with customizing? I take that back. With Dynamics 365 and AKA, you still come out on top.

Reason #3: Investment in the Product/Speed to Market by the Manufacturer 

Point solutions simply do not have economies of scale like Microsoft and other open platform providers, so they don’t have the dollars to put into research and development. It’s only natural that you will get THE latest and greatest—Cloud, mobility, machine learning, and so on—from a company that has the money and resources to keep that ball rolling, and rolling fast.

And speaking of investment in the product…the latest release of Microsoft Dynamics 365 really taps into the power of Machine Learning and AI. You can learn more at our webcast, What’s New in Dynamics 365 – 2017 Update.

Reason #4: Availability of Third-party Products/Ease of Integration

This someone relates to point number 1. Third-party providers like ClickDimensions are much more likely to work on integrations with a Microsoft product for two reasons: there is more opportunity because of a larger customer base, and modern, open platforms make it much easier to integrate. The same goes for integration with Microsoft Office/Outlook and other productivity tools.

Reason #5: Support and Security

This is where being a heavy hitter like Microsoft really benefits you. They have the resources to provide 24/7 support, 365 days a year. They’ve been doing this for a long time and have a lot of customers to keep happy. Let’s just say they have this down. The same goes for security. Microsoft must adhere to very stringent standards (read more about this at the Microsoft Trust Center)—particularly when it comes to the Cloud. They have invested millions of dollars and have teams of hundreds of professionals that focus exclusively on ensuring their products and customers are secure. Point solutions providers do not have these resources.

At the end of the day, the choice comes down to this: Do you want fast and hands-off, which comes with significant limitations both now and in the future? Or do the possibilities and opportunities presented by an open platform intrigue you enough to learn more? We believe it’s worth a look—and once you’ve seen what you can accomplish, you’ll make the right choice. And if you’re on a point solution now, talk to us. We have experience migrating customers like the two firms we talked about here, and we can help you, too.

 

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