For the first time, Redtail Technology is making its text messaging service available for non-Redtail CRM users, according to the firm. Called Redtail Speak, the “compliance-approved, real-time communication platform” first introduced in 2017 is operating as a stand-alone product. In addition to making the technology service available to a larger group of users, Redtail is adding features such as the ability to set up message templates for commonly sent messages, message scheduling for future dates and times, the ability to configure out-of-office replies and deploying a new version of Speak for mobile devices.
“People now expect seamless experiences with almost immediate response times in every aspect of their lives, including financial advisory services,” Redtail CEO Brian McLaughlin said in a statement. “We’re happy to be able to help advisors connect with their clients, and vice versa, whenever they want and in a compliant manner.”
Redtail cited “high demand” for its text messaging services and floated the possibility that Speak could eventually integrate with other CRM providers. “We likely will look to allow integration with other CRM providers in the future,” according to a company spokesperson.
The service is not being explicitly used as an introduction to Redtail’s CRM software, the spokesperson added, but the firm “welcome[s] any new users who subscribe first to Speak [and] express an interest in seeing what we offer in terms of CRM, document storage, and/or email hosting/archiving.” Redtail offers its CRM, document storage, email hosting and archiving—and now text messaging—as stand-alone products.
Speak users who also use Redtail’s CRM have a “Speak History” tab that pulls in text messages, making them available on the advisor dashboard alongside notes, emails and tasks.
Speak will come with three pricing tiers, all of which have unlimited internal messaging. A “Starter” package, priced at $20 per month, comes with a charge off $0.10 per text message sent. It is ideal for advisors new to text messaging or who don’t plan to send a lot of texts, according to Redtail’s spokesperson. The firm’s “Basic” package is priced at $30 per month and includes 500 text messages, with a charge of $0.10 for each message over the initial 500. A “Pro” package expands the included message count to 1,000, with a charge of $0.08 per message after that.
New Speak users will have to sign up for a new phone number from Redtail to use the service, which is shared across a firm’s Speak users. Each user will have his or her own log-in credentials.
The workflow for Speak, with its shared phone number, represents an obstacle for some advisors. “It's one more thing that you have to change if you ever choose to switch your CRM,” said Ernest Lacroix, founder and financial planner at recently launched Achieve Financial Solutions in North Kingstown, R.I.
“That is just another phone number for the client to keep in their Rolodex for how to contact their advisor,” he added, noting that a better client experience would allow an advisor to use her or his existing phone number to support text messaging and rolling it into an advisor’s CRM. “Implementing a compliant texting solution is not necessarily hard, it just takes time and a willingness to engage with a vendor who supports one of the solutions available on the market.”
Lacroix doesn’t have a large enough client base to support text messaging capabilities, he said, but plans to add the service once he has a sufficient volume of client requests.
Advisors currently shopping for text messaging services, however, are keeping a close eye on price and accessibility. Chris Diodato, founder and chief compliance officer of WELLth Financial Planning, an RIA founded in mid-2020 and based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is about to buy a text messaging package from MyRepChat, at $12 a user per month. He called the service “a mainstay of the industry right now.”
“I don’t text my clients, but it’s becoming very clear that my clients—especially younger ones—want to text me,” said Diodato. “I’m shopping mainly on ease of use and price. No bells and whistles necessary; just make me compliant.”
He decided to purchase a text messaging service after clients started using social media direct messages to maintain contact.
“Some of my more clever clients have started ‘texting’ me via Facebook or Instagram, instead of SMS text, and that scares me,” Diodato said. “I’m dreading the day someone sends me a trade request via Facebook and I miss it—I check my texts much more than my social media pages.”
The availability and support for texting in the independent channel is “a breath of fresh air,” said Brandon Gregg, a financial advisor at BBK Wealth, a $1.9 million AUM firm in Fishers, Ind. Gregg recently left the wealth management group of a bank, where he said “ texting is completely forbidden.”
“The ability to text is a huge opportunity in my current practice,” he said. “I work with folks in their 20s, 30s and 40s [who] don't want to take the time to use email to communicate. I've found that I can call and email over and over with no response, but very quickly get responses when texting is used.”
Despite positive results from some, others are avoiding the “big can of worms” that texting represents.
“Sometimes simplicity in business is best,” said Scott Alan Turner, an advisor at Rock Star Financial Planning in Hudson Oaks, Texas. He has chosen not to introduce text messaging because there are better forms of communication, he said.
“There is a layer of complexity when tracking text communications that don’t exist with email,” Turner said. “Email is easy to archive and go back in and search. Everyone checks email, everyone keeps email. Texts? It depends.”
“I run a lifestyle business,” he added. “Why would I want clients interrupting my free/family time whenever the mood strikes them? I'm here to serve them completely and to the best of my ability, but I'm not on call 24/7 like an [emergency room] surgeon.”