Case Study: Crestone Capital Saves Hundreds Of Hours Of Work With Altvia

Crestone Capital delivers a suite of fully-integrated investment management and wealth advisory services to families looking to protect and enhance their wealth and define their unique legacy. With over 25 years of experience and approximately $2.3 billion in assets under management, they help entrepreneurs, business owners, and their families pursue a better life lived.

The Challenge

Crestone invests like an endowment with an asset allocation model, providing a family office structure for nearly 90 families. Their team provides investment services including family wealth planning, payment facilitation, and money management.

With increasing assets under management, Crestone sought out a system to support business growth, create operational efficiencies, and better serve their stakeholders. The team was using a set of disparate systems including Excel sheets, PDFs, and Microsoft Dynamics. It was cumbersome to gather all client data into a central location, and the group had difficulty leveraging Microsoft Dynamics across the organization to accomplish basic tasks. It didn’t fit and ultimately only ended up being used for contact management.

Crestone needed a CRM that could play a key role in scaling the business and support the vision of a central database and eliminate spreadsheets. The chosen solution needed to work with their other systems and provide the ability to show where all of their client’s assets exist at any point in time.

The Solution

The Crestone team chose Altvia and rolled out the AIM platform to the firm in January of 2018. “AIM has capital call vehicles dialed in,” shared Chris Sheehan, Director of Business Processes and Systems. With the AIM CRM, they have visibility and transparency to support their work.

The addition of Altvia’s Managed Services supports the unique family office customization use-cases that Crestone wanted to support their clients. Also, with Investor Correspond, the team has a more efficient method for asset management and agreement distribution and signature collection.

More specifically, the Altvia team merged two different views of the households that Crestone serves:

  1. tracking of relationships (who is related to whom within a given family, what are the interactions Crestone is having with each person), and
  2. tracking of the flow of capital (which investment vehicles each household owns, what are the holdings of those portfolios, what is the total $ amount that Crestone manages for that household).

The ability to summarize both relationships and flow of capital in one system, with everything totaled at the household level was a new capability for Crestone. Imagine how much easier an advisor’s life is when they have one central view of a household they’re advising. Additionally, once they have a structure that can support the data, they plan to use Answers to achieve better insights and analytics for internal and external use.

With the implementation of AIM and Investor Correspond, Crestone will save hundreds of hours of work. Before Altvia, advisors spent hours sorting through Excel sheets of capital calls to determine if there were available funds and then send emails to get the trade—ultimately, 80+ emails had to be typed and sent. “It was a lot of work to launch the pool and get the commitments.” Now everything is streamlined, capital call records are easy to access, and distribution notices are simpler to send.

Crestone also manages 40 private equity pools and the agreement process for entering a pool is much simpler with Altvia. The efficiencies created in the signature process will save their team “hundreds of hours next year.”

A traditional crm was built for general ‘customer’ scenarios

Software platforms have made the world a better place by making work a better place. Indeed the world is better off when people enjoy their jobs even marginally more, and workplace applications on big CRM platforms like Salesforce.com have done that and much more.

But the potential that platforms like these offer presents diminishing returns: once the platform provider has engineered too many industry specific components into its platform, its usefulness for other industries begins to be threatened, and with that so do the usefulness of the component tools built into the platform.

So it is with the CRM category that Salesforce.com has defined: it is generic enough to work for many industries, and yet still offers the potential for others to round off the edges and nail more vertically-oriented and extremely tailored software solutions.

Private capital markets are actually a great demonstration of this dynamic. Where generic CRM platforms simplify — appropriately so — to assume there’s a business, a customer, a sale, and service of that customer, there are a few industry-specific pieces that are missing.

Take for example, that investors become customers by investing through legal entities the GP raises. It’s a subtle but important nuance that just doesn’t make sense at a platform-as-a-service level (because it’s overly complicated for a simple one-time sale that many industries require), but which can easily be added without 10 years or software engineering. Once provided, the rest of the platform’s components become tremendously powerful again and you’re set to take over the world.

As a traditional CRM in our pillars methodology, these nuances must be present to properly account for investors in these legal entities, potential target companies and which are owned by these entities, the context of all interactions with these parties (as well as the appropriate overlap, ie co-investments), and how you’re arriving at finding these opportunities on both sides of the equation, such that you’re able to piece together what’s effective and what’s not. Not just because we say so, but because these are the very relationships and data that are key to the motivation behind a CRM in any industry.

It’s critical, too, that the valuable publicly-available information that helps to enrich CRM systems and save users painful steps of entering it themselves is fully-integrated at the platform level.

Again, look no further than the 3,000+ pre-built integrations that Salesforce.com — the creator of the CRM platform concept — has at a platform level to do so, and which only exists by way of holding just short of overly-specifying certain industry workflows that would present challenges to properly integrate.

Stakeholder reporting and communication (investor relations) draws on a range of datasets

The traditional “customer service” model of CRM systems once again makes overly-simplified assumptions about the customer relationship when applied to private capital markets.

In fifteen years I personally have yet to hear the terms “warranty” or “service call” in this market because it’s just not the same. But make no mistake, as uncomfortable as it may be to say aloud, customer service is more important now than ever and it’s constantly happening; the industry is, after all, considered to be a financial “service”.

As it turns out, that service is primarily information-based — it’s driven by data and takes the form of reports and analysis that drive decisions, and then end up again in investor-facing reports and analysis.

The foundational elements of a private capital markets CRM must be built such that they accommodate this data (like we discussed above), but so too that it can accommodate additional supporting data that investors (customers!) need in the context of service.

Oftentimes this supporting data — financial metrics and time-based values, for example — is believed not to meet the traditional definition of CRM and the natural thought is “well, better do this in Excel!”.

While I happen to believe Excel is still the greatest software application ever built, its introduction to this value chain we’ve discussed herein actually creates the problem many firms suffer from: key data needed to provide customer service (again: effectively the entirety of a firm’s reports and analysis) is now in disparate systems and detached.

Both of those dynamics are important and distinct: not only is this supplemental data disparate, but when brought together there is no logical association that can be made between the two data sets.

Allow me, then, to make the point very simply: not only can this financial and time-based value data (you may be thinking about is as “portfolio monitoring” or “accounting”) be a part of a CRM, it is arguably the most important part of a CRM because it’s at the core of what providing service to the customer entails — information that comes out of data!

Firms need a digital method to engage stakeholders (ie investor portals)

Investor portals are not new; in fact, for many of us — including myself — they conjure up horrifying nightmares in which we’re aimlessly guessing at folders to find the newest document we need.

So in lies the opportunity: not only have the portals we’ve come to hate not simplified the process of acquiring information, they’ve failed to create an entirely new experience that is “customer service” driven.

To be fair, this is not a B2C market where you’d be long out of business for not having focused on customer service and thus the customer’s technology-driven experience. But don’t expect to be around too much longer if you aren’t thinking about this shift.

Today’s institutional investors increasingly expect this same consumer-like experience, and a massive opportunity is being missed by not providing it. It’s not about providing them the experience they desire; it’s more about the ability to measure engagement that is had in return.

Put simply: what’s keeping the market from providing this experience is the availability of the information that’s required to create the service that provides the experience.

If you’ve hung in this long, you know that by focusing on your CRM, you have the data that’s required to manage the customer relationship and the technology-driven experience through which that information is shared to create a differentiated and opportunistic customer experience.