Case Study | Financial Services Firm

16/05/24 12:43 Comment(s)

Financial Services Firm

The Company

A South African, globally operated, Financial Services firm, which specialises in employee benefits and financial planning. The organisation's areas of specialisation include: healthcare, retirement, investment, short-term insurance, personal finances, and actuarial services.

Their expert team assists employers, employees, and retirees in finding effective ways to administer and manage employee benefits. The firm boasts a strong foundation in actuarial knowledge and an extensive understanding of financial services, positioning them as leaders in providing cost-effective and innovative solutions that cater to their clients' diverse requirements.

The Challenge

In establishing a new Financial Planning division, the Financial Services Firm strategically designed a centralised and integrated digital platform that would minimise the typical operational inefficiencies that plaque the financial planning sector. These include a lack of standardised sales processes for risk, medical and investment products. Financial Advisors were also typically burdened with the task of navigating fragmented systems to manage leads and business opportunities.

The transition for most of the newly formed team was from disparate CRM platforms and, for some, manual tracking of data via Excel spreadsheets. Financial Advisors and their Support Teams were often faced with the responsibility of manually recording client interactions, scheduling meetings and managing physical meeting notes. This approach not only consumed excessive time and resources but also led to inconsistent and unreliable data capturing and performance reporting.

Financial Advisors handle high volumes of appointments, which makes the efficient creation and management of meetings a crucial touch point in both writing new business, maintaining and growing existing business. The typical process of setting up meetings proved to be cumbersome, often necessitating manual intervention and consuming valuable time. Advisors utilised a range of systems to handle e-signature documents, with some still reliant on manual processes. This diversity in document management systems in the industry led to inconsistencies and complexities within the workflow, further impacting overall operational efficiency.

The Solution

Data Privacy & Role Structure

The Financial Planning division has a complex role hierarchy where Financial Advisors need to maintain data privacy amongst their peers. Each Advisor is assisted by a Support Team. These Support Teams are often shared among different Advisors. In Zoho CRM, the role-based hierarchy feature was used to restrict data access. This was designed to mirror the company's role structure, while maintaining compliance with legislative industry requirements such as POPIA.

The newly-implemented permission structure in Zoho CRM was aimed at limiting data access on an individual level (i.e. users only have access to their own client data). The issue with this design was that it also restricted data access for the Advisor's Support Team. When an Advisor created a new lead or client, he/she had to use the share record feature, to grant individuals within their Support Team access to that record manually. This was deemed inefficient due to the large amount of data that was handled on a daily basis.

Zoho CRM offers a sharing rules feature that allows the system to automatically share records based on defined criteria. Using the sharing groups feature, groups were created for each Advisor and their Support Team. The sharing rules feature was then used to share all records owned by a particular Advisor to members belonging to their Support Team. However, as the firm employed more Advisors, the limit for criteria-based sharing rules had been reached. Fortunately, Zoho provides extensive API documentation and herein lies the solution to this limitation. The workflow rules feature was used to trigger custom functions, with APIs, to share a record whenever an Advisor created a new record in Zoho CRM. As an example, when an Advisor creates a new lead, the workflow rule triggers a custom function. The function then fetches the Advisors' group and shares the record using the provided API endpoints.

Process Orchestration

The core business of the Financial Planning division is to sell financial planning services as well as risk, healthcare and investment products. The sales process of each product requires specific steps to be completed. This is to ensure that Financial Advisors are compliant with the relevant regulations. Before onboarding onto Zoho, each Advisor deployed their own method of executing sales. The firm wanted to standardise these processes, with their main goal being to provide "a uniform client experience".

To achieve this, Zoho CRM was chosen as the main platform for client management within the financial planning division. The versatility of the blueprint feature in Zoho CRM made it easy to streamline their sales process.

Blueprints provide a step-by-step guide for users to follow, ensuring that they emulate a consistent and efficient workflow. The user interface is intuitive and contains buttons which progress the lead, client or deal from stage to stage. Each click of a button auto-actions tasks, checklists, and sending of emails. The Blueprints facilitate structured steps for each distinct financial service product or service, according to compliance and regulations. Thus, the firm has the assurance that all relevant compliance activities are completed and recorded, whilst ensuring that their clients experience a standardised financial planning journey.

Due to the complex role structure, Blueprints could not auto-assign tasks to the relevant roles within a particular Advisor's Support Team. By default, all the tasks generated by Blueprints were assigned to the Advisors. By leveraging custom modules and functions, this limitation could effectively be bypassed.

Advanced automation was ultimately achieved, with the system identifying the Advisor's Support Team and auto-assigning the Blueprint tasks to the appropriate roles within the relevant teams.

On the Periphery

To drive the initiative of uniform client experience, the following Zoho One applications were integrated into Zoho CRM:

    • Zoho Desk for handling and tracking all non-sales related client queries such as claims on insurance, changing of banking details, and cessions.
    • Zoho Sign for auto-populating and e-signing documents.
    • Zoho Bookings for appointment management.
    • Zoho Forms for lead capturing and information gathering.
    • Zoho Analytics for building advanced reports that were embedded within Zoho CRM.

Zoho CRM offers a range of pre-built integrations with other services, and the firm leveraged the Microsoft 365 integrations. This integration seamlessly connected Microsoft (MS) Outlook emails to Zoho CRM, ensuring that emails sent from either system were automatically tracked in both systems. The calendar integration additionally facilitated a bi-directional synchronisation of meetings between MS Outlook and Zoho CRM.


Finally, the Financial Services Firm harnessed the native reporting capabilities of Zoho CRM via the Reports and Analytics modules. These are used to track, manage, and oversee a multitude of critical business aspects, including both leading and lagging indicators. From monitoring deals and meetings, to the assessment of lead generation channels at both, an employee and company level.

Looking Ahead

Zoho One's dynamic evolution, marked by the continuous expansion of its features, promises ongoing innovation at an exceptional price point.

The Financial Services Firm is committed to exploring additional Zoho One products, seamlessly integrating them into its existing system to enhance and optimise its operational workflows. It is actively considering the prospect of extending Zoho CRM's benefits to its other divisions, fostering a unified and efficient approach across the organisation.