Chris Jones didn't need much technology in his 12-year career as a bank broker. His job was to serve customers sent by the bank. That changed in 1996 when he jumped--without many clients--from manager of a bank brokerage to a traditional brokerage. "I set a goal of achieving $1 million in production in five years," says Jones of Dain Rauscher in Austin, Texas. "To do it, I knew I needed to invest in marketing technology."
The investment has topped $20,000. Jones uses Bill Good's Gorilla marketing system and a stand-alone Compaq computer stocked with research software. He has a full-time technology assistant who designed a Web page, now awaiting compliance approval. Jones also is one of the first subscribers to the MS-Dalbar Directory of Financial Professionals, an Internet service debuting this month that links investors with brokers who meet customized search criteria.
Jones provides retirement and estate planning to investors with at least $100,000. About half of his business comes from fee-based managed money, through wrap-fee programs and individual money managers.
By delegating tasks, Jones makes good use of technology. A service assistant is in charge of Gorilla, handling the 3,000 seminar invitations and follow-up letters that go out each month. The technology assistant, Alex Hartman, handles all Internet tools. He mans the stand-alone PC, overseeing e-mail communications with clients and stock and mutual fund research through ValueLine and Morningstar subscriptions. Hartman will be the webmaster when Jones gets his page on the Internet.
Jones relies on Dain Rauscher's Custom Portfolio Plan system, a custom version of AllocationMaster from Frontier Analytics. He has added analytical tools from Wiesenberger that enable him to track historical performance for the universe of mutual funds and break out hypotheticals for financial plans.
Last year, Jones decided to put the capabilities of his financial planning software on display for clients. He upgraded to a 19-inch monitor and moved it from a credenza behind him to the center of his desk. "When I do portfolio planning with a client, it makes all the difference to turn that screen around and walk the client through the program, to see all the components broken out in different colors," Jones says.
E-mail is becoming an essential internal and external communication tool, Jones says. Within his firm, Jones can request a money manager search from headquarters via e-mail and get the results back online in a professional, client-ready report. And more customers want to do business electronically. "Clients increasingly are asking for trade confirms, scheduling appointments and looking for research through e-mail," Jones says. "We have a handful of clients who can be contacted only by e-mail."
Jones' commitment to technology is giving him access to a client market he didn't set out to target: high-tech businesses. "Because there are a lot of high-tech start-ups here, it's been said there are more people using the Internet in Austin daily than anywhere else in the country."
Assets have grown 70% a year to $50 million. Jones says he's on track to produce nearly $1 million this year.
"Consistency is what technology delivers to me," Jones says. "It's the consistency of seeing high-quality reports. We look more professional than other brokers around here."
Interaction is the name of the game on Chris Jones' Web page. Once Dain Rauscher's compliance department approves the site, users will be able to search 11 investment topics or read the monthly posts of Jones' newsletter on the markets. They can search past newsletters or click on a list of 48 frequently asked retirement questions. To help users do their own research, Jones provides links to top consumer financial magazines, Morningstar and Bloomberg's Business News.
Prospects interested in working with Jones can take a look at his bio, get information about his team members and their responsibilities, and sign up for Dain Rauscher's online account access service. They can also look at client testimonials and seminar schedules.
Investors will be able to contact him via e-mail and fill out an information request form on a wide range of financial planning topics, including estate planning, private money managers, college funding and high-tech stocks. An "Important Disclosures" section takes investors to Dain Rauscher's Web site for information about the firm.