When financial adviser Vincent Holland found himself struggling with the slate of advice CRMs on the market back in 2014, he realised his mum was having the same issue.
Fortunately for Vincent, his mother Lindsay – also an adviser – was equipped with a specific skillset that enabled her to do something about it.
Before she took up financial advice Lindsay, who Vincent describes as “a very spirited, very smart lady”, was a software engineer.
Also fed up with the prevailing suite of advice relationship management tools available, Lindsay took it upon herself to start designing and building a CRM that could compete with the likes of Xplan and Coin, the two market leaders in 2014.
The first priority, however, was just building something the Perth advisory business – which included Vincent’s father John (adviser), and sister Leanne (chartered accountant) – could use themselves.
“We were all working together at our advice practice, Forty Seven, and Mum said ‘look, I think we can do this better by custom-building software’,” Vincent recalls. “I thought she was a little bit crazy but she started building the prototype and once we saw it we realised there was a lot of potential.”
After four years of developing and building out the tool, called Plutosoft, the Holland family set up a corporate entity and went to market. As of today the CRM has over 100 advisers on board with “between three and five” new subscribers every month.
“We didn’t go to market with a huge fanfare, we knew we didn’t want to hype ourselves up and onboard 1000 firms from day one,” he says. “We wanted everything to be proven and tested, so we went in gradually and scaled up incrementally over the next few years.”
The family’s advice business is still running, Vincent says, with father John at the helm. Vincent, who is also a qualified lawyer, runs Plutosoft full-time as the head of sales development while Lindsay works in a strategic capacity.
The fledgling advice technology firm is primed for growth in a market that is hungry for alternatives to the incumbent market leader, Iress’s Xplan.
Vincent says the idea was never about making a better Xplan, however. Instead of using existing CRMs as benchmarks and finding ways to improve on them, he says the Plutosoft team started with a clean slate and built a CRM for modern advice practices, without legacy influences.
“We wanted to build from scratch instead of bolting on,” he explains. “Sometimes building a house is better than renovating or adding a room. It allowed us to sit down and ask what we needed the software to deliver, which really boiled down to the speed of the advice production. That’s the number one pain point for advisers.”
Plutosoft has a couple of forces pulling it in the right direction. More advisers are becoming self-licensed and choosing their own solutions, while licensees are trying to separate themselves from the pack by offering a broader suite of technology solutions.
“You’re seeing the industry open up, it’s not as protected as it once was and it’s encouraging new innovation,” Vincent says. “We’re seeing the rise of the self-licensed firm where they can choose the tools they want to use and dealer groups are becoming more aggressive in what they allow advisers to use. It’s a market that’s ripe for disruption.”
Vincent is the first to admit that his mother will be leading the charge for Plutosoft. She prefers to stay out of the spotlight, keeping the engine running by leading what is now a growing software development team.
The CRM wouldn’t exist without her drive and dedication, he says.
“You know, back in the day software engineering wasn’t a common pathway for a woman, but she’s always been very good at it,” Vincent says. “She’s very driven and had to go through a lot of obstacles to get Plutosoft out there, it hasn’t been for the faint-hearted.”
“At the same time she’s just a lovely person and really enjoys helping people – it’s why she got into advice in the first place.