Be More Like Your Customer To Win Your Customer
Adrian Johnstone is the Co-founder and President of Practifi, a performance optimization platform that transforms data into insights, action, and excellence at scale. Practifi helps wealth management firms go beyond traditional CRMs and redefine what’s possible.
Adrian has over 20 years of experience in wealth management as a consultant and tech company founder, advising businesses on their technology, client experience, and regulation. He is a consistent presenter at industry events in Australia and the United States.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
How Practifi helps people
Why Adrian Johnstone got into the wealth management industry
Adrian explains how Practifi got their first customer
Why Practifi came to the US from Australia
The success of their customers
How has entrepreneurship changed Adrian personally and professionally?
AI’s effect on Practifi and the wealth management industry
Adrian’s advice for companies on how to win more customers
In this episode…
As a wealth management firm, how can you get the visibility and oversight you need to drive your organization forward? How do you identify the drivers of your success and amplify them?
Achieving success in the wealth management industry can be challenging. For companies to thrive in this industry, they need someone who can offer a simple solution for their complex challenges to improve their client relationships and interactions. Adrian Johnstone shares how his company help firms go beyond traditional CRMs and redefine what’s possible.
In this episode of The Customer Wins, Richard Walker sits down with Adrian Johnstone, Co-founder and President of Practifi, to discuss how wealth management firms can become market leaders in the industry. Adrian explains how Practifi they got their first customer, how AI will affect Practifi and the wealth management industry in the next two years, and advice for companies on how to win more customers.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Sponsor for this episode...
This is brought to you by Quik!
At Quik!, we provide forms automation and management solutions for companies seeking to maximize their potential productivity.
Our vision is to become the leading forms automation company by making paperwork the easiest part of every transaction.
Meanwhile, our mission is to help the top firms in the financial industry raise their bottom line by streamlining the customer experience with automated, convenient solutions.
Go to www.quickforms.com to learn more, or contact us with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome to The Customer Wins podcast where business leaders discuss their secrets and techniques for helping their customers succeed and in turn grow their business.
Richard Walker 0:16
Hi, I'm Rich Walker, the host of The Customer Wins where I talked to business leaders about how they help their customers win, and how their focus on customer experience leads to growth. Today I'm speaking with Adrian Johnstone, the President and co-founder of Practifi, a platform that helps wealth management firms go beyond traditional CRMs. Today's episode is brought to you by Quik! the leader in enterprise forms automation. If your sales process depends on filling out forms, especially when your data is already in a CRM, including Practifi, then you should be using Quik! we make filling out forms the easiest part of your transaction visit quikforms.com to get started. Before introducing today's guest, I want to give a big thank you to Tim Hyland, who first introduced me to Adrian when he joined the Practifiteam and just couldn't stop telling me how great it is to work there. So now I'd like to introduce you to Adrian with over three decades in wealth management as a consultant and tech company founder, Adrian has seen and heard a lot. He's advised firms at the intersection of technology, client experience and regulation, and cares deeply about helping firms run efficient and profitable businesses. As an Australian living and working in the US, Adrian has witnessed firsthand what happens when regulators overreach and the negative impact this has on investors, advisors, and ultimately the industry at large. Adrian, welcome to The Customer Wins.
Adrian Johnstone 1:39
Thanks Rich, it's awesome to be here. And yes. It's great to have people like Tim connect great people like you and I.
Richard Walker 1:48
Yeah, I'm excited for this. I've been looking forward to talking to you about this. Now, if our listeners haven't heard this podcast before, I talk with business leaders about what they're doing to help their customers win, how they built and deliver a great customer experience and how they grow their own company. So Adrian, I want to start by understanding your business a little better. How does your company help people?
Adrian Johnstone 2:09
So, really kind of the core essence of it is whether kind of the system of truth that orchestrates every client experience that you have. So whether it's preparing for a proposal or a pitch to a major new prospect that your firm has got, whether you're just answering a phone call, we're there to serve up the information to create actionable insights from the data you already had. And to make it seamless for you to capture and then pass through that data from every other part in the process, including through to people like Quik!.
Richard Walker 2:45
Yeah, and I mean, it's incredible when we talk about forms, forms, just one little tiny component of the overall business and the workflow. And your product is very robust. It manages a huge part of that workflow for wealth advisement firms, right?
Adrian Johnstone 2:58
Yeah, we teach everything from the very first point where you've met someone at a social mixer or golf club, or wherever you've been all the way through to running very complex multifamily office structures and understanding the intertwined entities and generations of families, including tracking and really comprehensively managing how everyone met and how everyone knows each other. Because of course, that network effect is actually what everyone in the firm spends all day every day trying to manage.
Richard Walker 3:33
Yeah, exactly. I remember when I started with my mentor in his business, his idea was, hey, Rich, I'll work with the clients I'm working with you get their children, let's get them all to work with us. I know that is a fundamental challenge in wealth management business, that's really interesting that you guys are able to do that.
Adrian Johnstone 3:50
Yeah, we've heard about it for years, the intergenerational wealth transfer problem. And of course, there's any number of statistics about how the next generation will in huge percentages, choose a different advisor. I think what people need to remember is that doesn't necessarily need to mean a different thought. It can be about getting ahead of that and introducing people to actively manage those relationships. So perhaps so your mentor back when that kicked into play was doing this the right way around?
Richard Walker 4:26
Right. So let's go back to the early days. I mean, you have a lot of experience in financial services, Wealth Management, obviously you saw some pain, did the world need another CRM? Why did you do this? What made you want to do this?
Adrian Johnstone 4:39
I guess the content what would we do the world all the wealth management? Well did a good one. If you want a contentious statement. Look, when we were putting the business together, the original concept was way back in 2011. We kind of entered the market in 2013,14. And the world didn't need and now They're example of what a CRM was at that time. Too often, they were particularly in more vertically oriented systems, a little more than a Rolodex and a very basic log of tasks. And of course, business has evolved and the client experience and expectation has evolved. But those platforms didn't. The opposite end of the spectrum, you had these huge platforms that have Salesforce as the Microsoft's of the world, that for pretty much anyone other than a major enterprise, the total cost of ownership equation for those systems over time was just never going to make sense. And so what we wanted to do is, was really, to an extent, democratize enterprise grade technology into the RAA Space, and its equivalents in the other markets that we operate in your five countries around the world. So everyone has a different acronym, but they all do the same thing.
Richard Walker 5:59
Yeah, that RAA space it's a very diverse group, right? You've got a lot of solopreneurs, small offices, medium, large, and you have a product that actually spans that entire universe at a good price point with a high value.
Adrian Johnstone 6:15
Thank you. Yeah, look, what we're conscious of is, technology has to work for you. It's not the other way around. If you feel like you're battling it, then then something's not right. And that needs addressing. And we know that particularly when a firm gets to being a handful of advisors and their support staff, the complexities of running that business can really start to increase, whether it's compliance, whether it's the type of customers they're serving. And so once you get into that kind of 20 30 40 50, people, you really need to run the business, not only talk to the clients, and then when you're a solopreneur, those lines are blurring. It's all wanting the same thing. So we wanted to make sure that every role in the business, or every process in the business for every piece of data in the business have one central repository, just like you would see in a medical.
Richard Walker 7:15
Yeah. So let's talk about running your business, you are a co-founder in it. How did you get your first customer?
Adrian Johnstone 7:20
Look, like pretty much most technology companies, we took some flashy PowerPoints and tell people what was technology and convince them to come on the journey. But for us, it was an interesting inflection point, we were in Australia, we've been talking to a lot of Australian firms and building some great interest. And there was a lot of unity around the problem that we wanted to solve. That actually our first client came to us out of New Zealand, just desperate for a solution. And they reached out and said, you guys sound like you're doing something interesting. People keep talking about you. Can we fly over to Australia and see what you've built? So we of course, said yes. And then we proceeded to try and take some of that PowerPoint and really turn it very rapidly into technology. So those first few customers, I mean, they're fantastic. They were fundamental and instrumental in the business becoming what it is because they really guided the early product evolution.
Richard Walker 8:24
Yeah, there's nothing more validating than a customer. And when they are seeking you out, that's just even better, especially in those early days. What size customer was it? I mean, was it very entry level? Or was it a major enterprise?
Adrian Johnstone 8:39
They were when they started with us then like a 15, 20 person, RAA equivalent out of New Zealand. Heavy an insurance and retirement as well as wealth advisor.
Richard Walker 8:57
Yeah. Okay. And what made you decide to come to the US? When was that decision made?
Adrian Johnstone 9:02
Why would you not? The decision to come to the US was actually made in the core design of the business. We took the decision early on, Australia is an incredibly complex market. It's the most regulated device market in the world. But it's not a very large market. And so whilst it's in an excellent research and development laboratory, and we love working with our clients in Australia, and we love bringing more on, it's never going to be a big enough market to realize the full potential by the business. We were incredibly fortunate, again to be sought out by an incredibly wonderful US based executive who I won't name because I haven't asked for her permission but she sorted out in Australia when she was down doing some business And we're at the time pointed at the UK, we were doing the typically Australian thing. And going from Australia to the UK and sticking in the Commonwealth where the rules are a little bit the same. And she was like, no, no, no, no, going the wrong direction. So we headed over to the US and kind of accelerated that plan, she made an introduction, that firm became our first client, they made an introduction. A few days later, the firm they introduced, became our second client. And what was a discovery tour with a few meet and greets became the founding of the business where we had clients. In those early clients were incredibly inspirational, in that they were even willing to sign our Australian agreement on the promise that we would repeat that once we had a US entity.
Richard Walker 10:51
That's great. That says a lot about the report, you were building the trust or rebuilding those clients. Adrian, tell us a story about one of your favorite customer success is like, how did you help them win? What was their outcome? How did you transform them with your products and services?
Adrian Johnstone 11:06
We mean, there were so many, it's a little bit like doing a, an award ceremony speech. And you think did I thank everyone. And they said all of our clients who eventually tune into this, we love all of you. But one that really sticks in my mind is a firm in California called EP Wealth. They moved to Practifi, and they've really, really excelled at making the most of technology that are actually really driving adoption of really pushing the envelope in what's possible. And in turn, there are now a very highly acquisitive, rapidly growing firm, the triple more than triple the size they were when they started with us back in 2018. So that growth has been phenomenal. And we've had feedback from them in the past that it was actually bringing in and standardizing and getting the efficiency gains have gone out of Practifi that enabled them visually as well as capital and capable people. But that's what really enabled them to accelerate that growth was that they could feel comfortable with the technology that they had selected to grow with them. They'd no longer had the scale problem. They didn't need to keep considering how are we going to outgrow this system or this system, this system? So yeah, whenever I'm sitting there thinking, who's the poster child for who's using practice by the best across the world? It would be the thing that you.
Richard Walker 12:51
Yeah, nice. I feel that most companies that are growing are also focused on excellent customer experiences for their customers and clients. How do you feel that your product has enabled their customer experience to be improved? And therefore get those efficiencies out to their end clients? Does it have that impact?
Adrian Johnstone 13:10
Yeah, incredibly, so. And in fact, it's one of those questions that often comes up, why did you start Practifi? Was at a technology problem we wanted to solve and my background before rectifiers as a consultant, in the same industry space. And my reason for founding my consultancy fluid through into becoming a founder of Practifi, which is, I have a deep interest in making sure that end investors when, because if the wealth advisor is helping an end investors experience go up and their outcomes improve, then those people are spending more employing more doing those things and all that drives. And I see the role of an advisor as being fundamental to lifting the breadth of wealth across the globe. And so for me, it was very informative to say, well, when we bring in a piece of technology, how are we making that experience better? What are we doing to enable an advisor to deliver a better experience so that trust in their service goes up and there's more referral, that we're also enabling them to genuinely improve that outcome. And we do that by making them more efficient. And they can work on the things that at the highest value and not have to battle the technology. And so from everything from the way that we design user interface to the types of integrations that we do, or the automation that we bring in within the platform or the data insights that we serve up. All of them are designed to either free the time of the team to focus on the client experience, or to more directly impact that client outcomes, that end investor. And so we do that of course we're not talking into the end investor. So we do that by working through the firm to give them the tools to do that, though.
Richard Walker 15:08
That's awesome. One of the things that happens to entrepreneurs and founders is, this journey of building your company causes you to go through a lot of change. So in helping your customers win, how did you personally change? Or did it impact your product design? And did you pivot? Or even your entire company? Maybe your company culture change? What changed during this time period?
Adrian Johnstone 15:29
So much, and being an entrepreneur. I mean, if it's not changing, it's dead. That's just life. I mean, it's such an excellent question Rich, there's so many ways to answer but when we first came to the US, there was an expectation that we would follow a pattern that was the same pattern that pretty much every technology company follows when it enters a new market. Spend big on marketing, hire a bunch of salespeople promise the world and hope for the best. And we've learned through my years of consulting, and the experience that I was just talking about with what we want to achieve that that is the ROI right around. So actually, we were informed by our clients. In that we run Practifi, kind of a lot like you would run a multifamily office, we think of our clients as the client families. And so when we entered the US, we actually hired clients success people, before sales people and technical people and investing we didn't invest in marketing for ages. So for us, it was all that client success, because that's the model that our clients delivered to their investors. And the experience that they value, if you're referring who wants to get a white glove experience to your investors, and then interpersonal relationship and that level of servicing is what you think is important enough to give your clients, then your technology partner. And it's really fundamental that we want to be a partner that it is not a provider to it, it's really fundamental that they should match that level of service to you. And it's interesting, some of those early clients. That was one of the biggest standouts, yes, we solved a great technical problem. But actually, they just wanted to do business with and we were very fortunate that today, that continues to be the case, there are many within our client groups that many of our team would count as friends. We've had lots of baby photos, and wedding photos, and all those kinds of things over the years, where we really want to be a part of their business and help drive their outcome.
Richard Walker 17:48
What an incredibly good way to put that, in marketing, you try to understand the persona of the type of customer you're working with you try to identify their ideal customer, you try to understand how to talk to them, how to work with them, so that they want to work with you. And what you've just said also says, you have to be like them, yourself. You can't just be a vendor, you got to be like them. So they feel like they're working with you as part of their own team. I love that.
Adrian Johnstone 18:11
Yeah, rings very hollow if you're looking to say, well, this person is this persona type and therefore their buying triggers are these. I'm a firm believer that being empathetic, because Rich you're an entrepreneur, we don't always get it right now, companies fail all the time, we do the wrong thing. We break stuff, we don't deliver exactly what we said we would when we said we would. And all of those things are true, of course and an advisor. There are commitments made to clients that are missed, there are meetings that slipped, there's account openings that got delayed because someone forgot, and all those kinds of things happen. If you've built a partnership, then yes, the emotions will run higher at different points in time. But you can always fall back to the partnership, you can go back and say do we have a shared objective here? And if the answer is yes, then all those things, it's a relationship, all those things will come and go. If you are a vendor, and your answer is, well, the contract says I'll do this, and I did. And there's a clause here in the contract that says maybe I won't, and this time I didn't. Sorry, then it's gonna be a fairly short relationship. And unfortunately, I think the industry they've had that experience from too many vendors for too long. And so we want to be really part of that change journey that says, expectation should be changed. I say it every time I get on a stage, if the expectations that you have all your technology providers is that they're just a provider and they're not a part of your business, then you need to change providers. You need to step back and think I'm sitting around a table all of the core information to my business, my client experience, all everything I know about my clients is locked in a piece of technology. If I don't like the people I'm doing business with, that's a problem.
Richard Walker 20:12
Yeah, I can't agree more. It's all about partnership. It's about the ability to have a conversation when things are tough. To me, that is actually the definition of strength is how you go through a difficult situation. Hey, I want to switch gears really quickly here. And I don't want to open too big of a can of worms. But I know many tech founders, like yourself and myself are very interested in AI, artificial intelligence and how it's going to start transforming things. So I'm really curious, how do you think AI is going to affect your product, your customer experience and maybe even the industry in the next one to two years?
Adrian Johnstone 20:43
Look, it's a really interesting space, and it is a can of worms, I don't think there's any way of touching into it without ripping that top off that. But the means inches on quizzes, there's so many points, where people think of it and getting a common understanding that if people what are we actually talking about? We're talking about chatbots and we’re talking about sentiment analysis and predictive insights and where are we on the spectrum of things? And so I guess the, for us, I mean, we're all that human interaction, we're all about enabling the client experience from advisor to client. I've been on the record many times saying, algorithmic advice or Robo advice, or whatever you want to call it, it's a great modeling calculator that the end investor ultimately, in most instances still wants to look someone in the eye and say, is this a good idea? And so the, the role of the advisor is fundamental. So for me, I think, where AI is likely to play a role is looking across big set of data and helping firms to understand some of those elements of client relationships that maybe do work well for them. And to see the signs of ones that don't, it's things like doing predictive analysis for churn, where when might you lose a key client relationship? What are the upstream indicators that that's coming along? Services, like chat and those sorts of things. From our technology perspective, I see great roles within an industry. From a Practifi perspective, that's just going to be a piece of data that gets written into the system. So it doesn't change our world. Perhaps we will deliver one, but it doesn't really change much. To me, it's all about the actionable insights that we can bring through that data. There's a lot of power, there's a lot of industry and regulatory question to get over there first. Those big engines are owned by the likes of Google or Microsoft, how happy is everyone to punch all that data out into that and have that world looking at one of the regulatory pitfalls that are bad, of course, you can build it and do smaller scale execution. But then you've got to feed it and teach it. And I've used the analogy in years past, people like I was going to run my business in two years’ time is right, so you're happy for a toddler to run your business. In two years’ time, you don't have enough data points to affect it, to have it run your business. You've got to think upstream of that. And so for us, right now, in our business, it's a lot about how do we help clients capture enough data, such that when that capability is there, and the use cases are clear, and the regulatory runway for them is very clear that the data is already in place? So that it can work.
Richard Walker 23:55
Yeah, and you also have to consider all the security requirements, we're talking about people's data. So it's a lot for tech firms and wealth management service providers, like yourself to think through. So I appreciate you telling me about that. So we're getting close to the end here. And I have a couple more questions. First is given three decades of experience and founding a tech company and serving so many different clients, is there a secret that you have found or a key lesson that you want to share with other business leaders to help them win more customers?