A major customer relationship management (CRM) platform replacement was needed to help Brisbane-based financial investment company, FIIG Securities, offer more targeted financial services to clients.
"The vision was to create a single, centralised platform to try and reduce the number of tools our staff had to use," FIIG Securities CIO, Adrian Dixon, told CIO. "We also wanted a platform that was more powerful and could be expanded in the future.
"Data underpins everything in business today, so defining and maintaining a suitable data model to enable business intelligence and provide workers and clients with timely, accurate and relevant information is crucial."
The company switched on Microsoft Dynamics CRM in September 2012. Dixon flagged the platform's enterprise-grade capabilities and versatility across a range of services as key considerations.
"This was attractive for us because it meant we could have a customer-centric platform at the core of our system," he said.
One of the first innovations the company made was added trading functionality so all of its fixed income dealers can enter trade ticket information directly into the CRM system.
"The CRM replacement has allowed us to segment the client base so we can deliver tailored services for each tier," Dixon explained. "The way we would interact with a client managed through a financial adviser is quite different from a client that deals directly with us."
According to Dixon, the CRM replacement took one year to complete with the help of an IT consultancy firm. CRM development has been running internally since April 2013.
"It was more cost-effective for us to maintain that platform internally because we have enough skills to support the CRM system," he said. "However, if we were looking to do a Dynamics upgrade we would bring in an [IT] partner who has that experience."
Any business trying to do a platform transformation, and that maintains a small IT department, needs to consider how they outsource to a third-party and who they get to do that work, he said. "Using an IT service firm worked very well for FIIG Securities because we hit the dates and targets that were set out," he said.
Dynamics CRM isn't the only Microsoft product used by the company with its PC based estimated at 10 per cent Windows 8, 80 per cent Windows 7 and the remaining 10 per cent still on XP.
Once the CRM platform went live, Dixon turned to his next project: Developing a new online portal for clients. This involved rewriting its website into Microsoft .Net code and launching a range of self-service tools.
As a result, clients can now access their personal financial reports every month. "We can show clients a range of information about their holdings and portfolio, including cash flow information. The client's relationship manager has the same view of that information online," Dixon said.
In addition, customers can browse bond pricing lists. In December, the company added cash flow forecasts for the next five years, giving customers future dates when they can expect to receive money into their bank accounts.
"Like many businesses today, we face a tremendous amount of demand for accurate data. Making sure there is a continued focus on evolving the quality of retained data and that there are user-friendly tools to put that data at the fingertips of those who need it in a timely manner is very important," Dixon said.
To cater to customer demand for a responsive mobile website, the site automatically resizes for tablets and smartphones. Next on Dixon's list is the development of an Android and iOS app later in 2014.
"This app will mean we can target messages to clients rather than sending out mass emails," he said.
"Website usage indicates the Android platform is gaining momentum among our client base. It's on equal footing with iPhone so we have to consider an app for both platforms."
In late 2012, Dixon also embarked on a core network and infrastructure upgrade so that FIIG's systems could cope with the growing demand for fixed income securities and research.
Previously, the company ran its infrastructure in-house in smaller data centres, but has now moved that infrastructure into two tier 1 data centres in Brisbane and Sydney.
Dixon said it chose Australian-based data centres, rather than a private cloud, to host data due to the tight regulations governing the financial services industry locally.
"We have used private cloud services for our development environment but it's always safe to assume regulation is going to increase rather than decrease so we've erred on the side of caution," he said. "For security reasons, it's far better for us to store client data in-house."
In order to help new clients open an account with the company in a more timely fashion, there are plans to offer a real-time customer verification service on the website from March.
At present, the sign-up process can be time consuming because it involves various identity checks.
"We've built identity verification into the system and we also look up information on the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to validate an organisation's registration details," Dixon said.
He claimed this will enable a new customer to open an account within a "matter of minutes" rather than the process taking several days. Stringent security processes are also in place so that cyber criminals cannot use the service to create fake accounts.
"Our business is all about protecting the assets of clients, whether it is personal information or their financial investments so they need to have confidence they are held in a safe pair of hands," he added.
For Dixon, information security is something that needs to be considered at all times. To protect client information, the company has engaged with several speciality security consulting businesses and partners that provide a range of services including penetration testing and security architecture advice.
Dixon advised other organisation in the financial services industry to leverage organisations out there that can do that. "There is so much activity going on that you need a specialist to provide up to date reporting, especially if you can't afford an internal security team," he said.