Ep. 246: Maximizing KPIs Through Advanced Analytics with Franklin Tsung, AppCrown

Come on in, sit back and relax. You’re listening to Episode 246 of the WealthTech Today podcast. I’m your host, Craig Iskowitz, founder of Ezra Group Consulting. This podcast features interviews, news and analysis on the trends and best practices, all about wealth management technology.
My guest for this episode was Franklin Tsung from AppCrown. We spoke about how AppCrown is a data integration and analytics platform that sits on top of Salesforce CRM. What’s interesting about it and we touched on it a little bit is that when AppCrown first came out, they positioned themselves as a CRM overlay, but they quickly changed but that but the word didn’t get out. At least not to us. When Michael Kitces and I update the Advisortech map we had AppCrown as a CRM overlay for many years. 
I met Franklin a bunch of years ago and once he gave me an overview of AppCrown’s data architecture and connectivity, I realized that they aren’t a CRM overlay at all! They just use Salesforce as their core and as a cloud provider and data warehouse. They can consolidate data from multiple portfolio management systems, from financial planning, and custodial platforms to provide a unified household view which we talked about in the episode and as well as be able to drive practice management KPIs. We also talked about some new features that they have released. You’re going to get a lot out of this episode about AppCrown!
But before we get started, let’s talk about tech stacks. At Ezra Group, we’ve seen tech stacks of hundreds of RIAs and let me tell you, most of them are loaded down with tech debt. So you shouldn’t feel too bad about yours. But let’s face it tech debt is like a giant anchor, holding back your business growth. If you want to free your firm for exponential growth, you should run, not walk to our website EzraGroup.com and fill out the Contact Us form. Our experienced team can evaluate your current tech ecosystem, deliver targeted recommendations, optimize your existing systems and operations or run an RFP and help you implement new software to take your firm to the next level. You can take advantage of our free consultation offer by going to EzraGroup.com.

Topics Covered

  • Transforming KPI Management for RIAs: How AppCrown Leads the Way
  • Zero Touch Technology: Streamlining Client Data Collection and Workflow Automation
  • Seamless Integrations: Enhancing RIA Platforms with AppCrown
  • The Power of Pre-built Data Models: Scaling Efficiently with AppCrown

Episode Transcript

Craig: I’m excited to introduce our next guest, Franklin Tsung, Growth Advisor for AppCrown. Franklin, thanks for joining the program.

Franklin: Thank you, Craig for having me. Appreciate it.

Craig: Glad you could jump in on the road. I know you’re not in your office at the moment. Where are you calling in from?

Franklin: Calling in from New York City. Our offices are based out in Long Island, but heading into the city today and meeting well a bunch of good friendly RIAs in the neighborhood.

Craig: We like friendly RIAs, we do a lot of that as well over here. We I’m based in New Jersey, so not far away from you. We’re all experiencing this great July weather here in the on the east coast. But Franklin, let’s just jump right in. Could you give us the 30-second elevator pitch for AppCrown?

Franklin: Gracious sir. I would say when you look at AppCrown, it is an application integration company that is trying to deliver the crowning achievement of the CRM and for practice, which is integrated practice analytics and practice KPIs.

Craig: That was very brief. Under 30 seconds.

Franklin: The hustle of doing this for 15 years, you try and learn to condense it into two sentences.

Transforming KPI Management for RIAs: How AppCrown Leads the Way

Craig: Alright, so you mentioned practice KPIs, obviously we know why practice KPIs are important. But how does AppCrown do it better than the way an RIA would measure their own KPIs without AppCrown?

Franklin: Interesting, so many ways KPIs was born out of performing a lot of these integrations of multiple custodians, portfolio systems planning systems. into the CRM like Salesforce for 15 years where we’ve put together a very good sense of KPI, key performance indicators for practice at Stern AUM levels. There are different KPIs for $100 million AUM advisor versus say 300 million 700 million and a billion to 5 billion and another different set for 5 billion and above. We are differentiated by combining portfolio system data with PI data from the customer these systems so we create a true unified managed household. Then we layer that in with more portfolio data and planning data to create a consolidated KPI that helps advisors know which clients are at risk of leaving them with clients on the to have that review beyond an annual review and which clients are potentially distributing more out of the firm. And guess what you don’t have beneficiaries papered up the households over the age of seven that they add, there’s a lot of risk there because the practice might have grown very quickly, in a very short amount of time, both organically or in organically. You want to be able to cover everybody.

Craig: So explain to us the benefits that AppCrown has so I thought every RIA we work with they’ve got some sort of portfolio management system. They’ve already got some kind of CRM, can’t they see this data now? Like a multi custodial couple billion dollar RIA that we work with, why couldn’t they see households that might be distributing more out of the firm that into the firm through their normal household reports?

Franklin: It’s a great question. I would say that when you’re an RIA, and let’s say you’re custodied at Schwab, your client can go into portal have some degree of control over their their assets at the same time when you go into pulley system, let’s say using Tamarac, Black Diamond, those systems don’t have tax ID in their platform. So it may be hard to create a true household you, husband, wife, and see exactly what the entire holdings is without going to each aggregate or each portfolio bottle. You want to see just one simple view. And that may be very difficult to achieve in a firm wide, simple one for constantly updated perspectives. So we make that easy and we consolidate the number crunching in a very easy way by using Salesforce as a way to view that household. And I would say outcrop differentiates as one of the few vendors that can consume PI data at an institutional level. So we grabbed it from multiple custodians Schwab, Fidelity, Raymond James, Pershing, and SEI and we create that entire single family view. And we layer in that with the Holden’s data layer that understanding instructions data. So we bring in more data that the portfolio system itself may not necessarily grasp, but no fault of their own. That we’re close to we round out those last two gaps of each and every system for portfolio custody planning and then we make that visible in the CRM like a Salesforce for security purposes and ease of visibility.

Craig: So what you’re saying is a multi custodial client at a household level may not be able to bring in that type of data or consolidate or aggregate the data in the way they need to, especially if you’ve got a complicated household, householding we’ve found in our experience is very differently handled from firm to firm. Some firms can have very unusual definitions of a household and that might be difficult to deploy in you’re just using a standard portfolio management platform.

Franklin: That’s accurate, very accurate, sir. I would say then you layer in the complexity of planning data points. And you may want to say when you wake up as a large national practice, Hey, how is my team doing in New York and who are the client holdings that are not performing from the sense of being statistical outliers in a negative way? This last time we create the plan was the last time we had that meeting. So all those questions are answered by data points, that sits in multiple different systems. The portfolio system is powerful, but it also doesn’t grab all the data from custody. So you need a combined effort and that’s where our forte is.

Craig: So you already have existing integrations with the major financial planning applications.

Franklin: Yes, that’s a blend of time and a blend of what they would probably call dumb luck, in the sense of just being early on working with Tony and Bob, when they founded MoneyGuidePro in 2009.

Craig: That’s Bob Curtis and Tony Leal.

Franklin: Indeed, indeed, and Edmond Walters with eMoney and worked closely with Edmund in 2009, 2010. In a world where there was no API’s, it was either XML Database or soap API’s. And I worked closely with him to build it. You can call it the first version of an API to integrate data from MoneyGuidePro bi directionally and eMoney into Salesforce years before Salesforce financial services cloud was ever invented or created.

Craig: We used to call that web services.

Franklin: Yeah, I’m just following your footsteps. I mean, I’m just looking at the world and finding great people like yourself, but yes.

Craig: All right. So let’s move on from that. So that’s all super interesting. I think a lot of people don’t realize that AppCrown has those capabilities. Because a lot of firms see you as a Salesforce overlay when you’re more of a data management platform that just happens to sit on top of Salesforce.

Franklin: That’s correct. That’s correct. This part is on the overlay discussion a result I would say early years, a 20 year old version of myself, mind you when I first started working the RIA segment, working in those in the with the folks that I mentioned, I was in my 20s. So I’m 37 now, but a bit older, a little bit wiser. I did not know how to categorize what we did. It was only recently I was in the last five years to your point, we’re using Salesforce as a container. And it’s a containment strategy, where Salesforce has those PI protections, which has become more invaluable in a world of cybersecurity attacks that you want to have a very safe enterprise platform to view sensitive information. So we’re using Salesforce to cue that and create the household. We do the heavy lifting in the middle, the back office to translate financial account data models into that household data model, where CRM tends to be the best one to view that. Now caveat that with, I could easily send this to wealth box to the street, they become an want to become a enterprise platform to view the kind of sensitive data and have those protections. So it’s not necessarily exclusive to Salesforce. It’s simply that Salesforce is just so flexible as a entity platform to receive that kind of data.

Zero Touch Technology: Streamlining Client Data Collection and Workflow Automation

Craig: I understand. Alright, let’s move on to the next topic. You said you want to talk about zero touch technology. Can you explain what that is and how you’re delivering this to advisors.

Franklin: Zero touch is a terminology that we’re coining where you’re essentially asking your end investor client, it could be an LP, it could be an RIA, and high net wealth customer for general, mass affluent customer to gather IPS data points, and zero touch means I’m extending CRM to send that data point to them so they can fill it out. Or like I said, a multitude of reasons. It could be for IPs, KYC, or accredited investor information status will qualify purchasers status for a multitude of reasons. And by completing that what looks like a digital form to the end person, once they press submit, updates the CRM automatically you’d never have to go and copy paste the field never have to go log into Salesforce, edit the field and update the field which takes tons and tons of time. So if you want to do this for 300 households all in one shot, you could do it with zero touch and we helped the advisor move to LPL Financial, and over the weekend repapered over 500 households within the matter of one to two hours.

Craig: Using this client data gathering technology, using this client data gathering technology that you have, where an email sent to the client they can fill in the form in their email, hit send and the data goes right into Salesforce.

Franklin: Exactly to that record to that specific thing and then from there automatically kickstart the next workflow.

Craig: What might the next workflow be can you give an example of how that works?

Franklin: Sure. If you were to say the next workflow is an accredited investor status and this client is looking to become involved in a private fund opportunity through the investment advisor representative the RIA. So the high net worth client completes this finishes it press submit, Salesforce automatically updates it and the next step is then to automatically send from Salesforce back to the client. The fund private offering memorandum the POM and then automatically let the advisor and client or client service team know to reach out and schedule a follow up meeting.

Craig: We don’t want those tasks to fall through the cracks.

Franklin: I would say most likely it’s good to be on top of all things large and small.

Craig: I like it. I like it a lot. Are there any other functionalities that you have deployed with the zero touch technology?

Franklin: Well, one thing that we’ve done is RIA M&A. We’ve helped a lot of our biocide clients, we have a few firms looking to buy RIA’s and they’ve done this to engage with selling firms more efficiently.

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Craig: How’s that work? So if I’m selling the firm, how does this technology help?

Franklin: I would say that the zero touch technology in a RIA M&A context is very helpful because the buy side can communicate with the sell side it share sensitive information before it becomes a data or deal real situation. And all of that is captured not through text messaging, not through emails, tuition can fall through the cracks, but it’s archived flooded through zero touch technology and then saved inside of Salesforce to keep track of how the communication with this prospective firm that were maybe to acquire or merge with is going and I can then disseminated very easily to the CRM to the partners and stakeholders for internal committee discussions and create a deal summary of how this relationship is going and how the deal is progressing. So the touch facilitates secure communications in that way.

Seamless Integrations: Enhancing RIA Platforms with AppCrown

Craig: That’s cool. I like that. I think that has a lot of potential use cases. That a lot of wealth management firms should be looking into. Alright, let’s talk more about some of the integrations that you have built and that you have. Some of the more popular RIA platforms include Tamarac, Black Diamond, and Orion. And you’ve got integrations from AppCrown to and from these systems. You can you talk a bit about the the Black Diamond and Orion integrations and how they work and how a firm using either of those platforms would benefit from adding AppCrown into the mix?

Franklin: Sure, sure. So I was started with Black Diamond first or Black Diamond, that system may not have tax in their system. So it’s very difficult to create a true household from Black Diamond. Clients can utilize AppCrown to bring all of Black Diamond data into Salesforce, into a CRM to view how the whole entire household looks, how the holdings look, at Portfolio analytics on top of like Black Diamond model portfolios. You can even track model drift, although with a CRM tied to CRM works to let the team client service team know. And then of course when combined with CRM, meeting notes, or pre and post meeting management, well hey, integrating with Black Diamond and bringing more holdings level position level data, because very, very profound.

Franklin: On the Orion data, Orion is same with financial planning. Work closely with Eric Clarke and the team in Omaha back even in 2009. And with Orion, we have probably a very comprehensive bi directional integration to bring all of Orion reports and all of the historical Orion data of management fees into CRM. So we have a lot of Orion clients we use us to immediately download literally, the entire history from the start of day of working with Orion, the management fee to understand what the last one was earning some blank. So when they want to value themselves those using Orion in AppCrown does have a little bit of an edge from the data management data analytics so we can have a practice has evolved from the start date.

Franklin: We can also pass PI data into Orion account registration. So usually when you create a new account or Orion the registration of first name, last name, address, only guys up to date. But over time, you may not be thinking well custodians after has a bi directional capability to take custody of custody data PI data and push it into Orion automatically on a daily basis. So we’re essentially scaling Orion in the best of breed possible manner in a data strategy that we create with every card and team back in 2009. That’s persisted until this day.

Craig: And that’s a long time that’s 15 years of of working with Orion.

Franklin: It’s been one of those long term friendships and partnerships. And trust me when I say it was sad to see Eric go, because, for me, it was looking up to these guys and many of which have moved on and what they’ve done for the industry.

Craig: And that doesn’t affect what you’ve built, when there’s turnover at the company or does it?

Franklin: No, no, it doesn’t. Our API’s remain updated. We’re certainly investing more into bringing that data out of Orion. One of the key things we talked about integrations a lot. I’ll say this. We never replace or bring all of the systems into CRM. We bring the key critical data points into CRM, so that way it either gets analytics done or gets the customer to go back to the respective system, go back to Orion to get more data go back to eMoney to get more planning data. And that’s the philosophy of integration is that let’s let’s talk about critical as a Switzerland of integrations on our side because I can integrate multi portfolio systems, multi, sources, those from custody planning, like we’ve been talking about for a few minutes here. But philosophy is important. We integrate in a considered way that empowers our partners to make sure that they’re still the centerpiece. And that centerpiece of attention is not lost just because we’re integrating that to CRM. This is something that we in Edmond Walters had talked a lot when he was with eMoney of why and how eMoney should integrate to CRM.

Craig: And if I may say eMoney has done a pretty good job with their integrations.

Franklin: I would say eMoney is probably one of the leading planning systems that we’re seeing.

Craig: With this collection, empowering your partners, making sure they’re still the centerpiece and being an a neutral integration partner, how do you scale this? So if I’m a client that I’m using Orion, and I’m getting into a very large number of accounts, what’s the ability of AppCrown to scale and support this?

Franklin: I would say that you scale is by simply going to Orion setting menu and you just create a user for AppCrown. So within Tamarac, Black Diamond, Orion today, if you just go to the set up menu and you just add AppCrown, that’s the only setup you need. The fortunate aspect of working early on with these partners is that we’ve set up all the different permutations of how the integrations could go and fitting us into this. I would safely say we’ve covered about 95% There has not yet been a situation where we’ve seen and said about this integration is completely new. And the way that you’re seeing this data is completely original. So the upside of being in this space for 15 years is we’ve mapped out a lot of the permutations and the set of processes incredibly.

Craig: I think that’s written overlooked aspect of integrations, is that you’ve got these pre built with a lot of major vendors over the years, where it is just going to a config screen and clicking a button. And then it turns on your connectivity.

Franklin: Integration is also an expensive operation. If you’re going to build the integration, you don’t want to keep building it ad hoc did custom developed each and every time. It would never scale. So we had to create essentially mappings and pre build integration packages on our data processing. side, which is what we’ve done. And we’ve gone through the painstaking of time, 15 years of permutations of which outcomes so we can tack on, for example, any statistical combination of Orion, MoneyGuidePro, Schwab, Fidelity, Orion, eMoney, Schwab, Pershing, all of those different settings we’ve done.

Craig: And some of these firms even provide support when their clients say they want to integrate with AppCrown, their tech support people can handle that setup.

Franklin: That’s a great highlight. Thanks for bringing that up. One of the things that I’m most proud about with this integration game is Schwab you can just call the 1-800 line anywhere in the US, the Schwab Advisor Services and say I want to have an integration and their data team will know what to do set it up for you try master forms. All the data set will be cut by the Schwab data team and you’re good to go within two days to process all the Schwab masters. We have a client of ours that has 150 Schwab masters, obviously, large multibillion dollar RIA and we processed all of that and household all the master accounts into a house we view Salesforce within 24 hours, which I think is cool.

Craig: That’s fast. 24 hours.

Franklin: Yeah, we try.

The Power of Pre-built Data Models: Scaling Efficiently with AppCrown

Craig: So what about you mentioned before we go I want to just hit on data models. You mentioned data models briefly when you were talking about practice KPIs, and that’s something that’s overlooked as well, in that it’s not easy to build a data model. More of our larger clients have asked us for help with building custom solutions, usually custom dashboards, reporting, and other other tools. But they need to have the data model for whatever platform portfolio management or CRM other platform they have in order to understand the information and be able to manage it. And you said you have data models for all of these platforms. How did you build that and what’s the advantage you think that provides for you?

Franklin: I think the data model for integrating the combinations is very powerful. And it’s probably less appreciated even by part only until the last two years when I’m seeing a lot of RIAs by a lot of firms. So one of the larger more aggressive acquires out there are firms have reached out to us and say, Hey, listen, we bought all these firms together, we have two instances of Orion three instances of Black Diamond and we did consolidate all of this. And I look at that request. And I think, well that’s fascinating. Because from my side, it’s a quick exercise of creating the configuration file and you’re done. Let’s say 20 minutes technically, once I finish the file, versus on their side, they’re just coming into this game and try and realize you have consolidated and for them they’re looking at a large consulting bill of 10s of millions and maybe like three or four years of effort or five years investor and I look at that and I say well, speed is time value of money. So the question is for the advisor, what do you want to do? Do you want to make this a five, six year project? Do you want to grow this and build it in house development team for do you just want to integrate it very quickly. And so it’s interesting. I think it’s valuable more so for these advisors who have multiple different advisory practices and now they need to consolidate the empire 10 have learned from Alexander the Great and consolidate the acquisitions.

Craig: I’ll bet people listening did not expect to get a history lesson.

Franklin: Probably not, probably not.

Craig: So Franklin, I think we’re just about out of time. So for the listeners, where can they find more information about AppCrown?

Franklin: I would say, go to the AppCrown website. Fill in the form it hits our team in New York here, we’re a staff of 30 across Long Island, we only are New York, full time employees. We’re all very keen as New Yorkers to get back to our clients.

Craig: And that’s AppCrown.com.

Franklin: That’s correct, sir.

Craig: Great. Franklin, thank you so much for being here on the program.

Franklin: Thank you for the invitation. Thank you, sir.

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The Wealth Tech Today blog is published by Craig Iskowitz, founder and CEO of Ezra Group, a boutique consulting firm that caters to banks, broker-dealers, RIA’s, asset managers and the leading vendors in the surrounding #fintech space. He can be reached at craig@ezragroupllc.com