3 ways intelligent CRMs are building on the spreadsheet model

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Spreadsheets have been the standard for contact and mandate management at investment banks for decades, but in the time since their invention, investment bankers’ business networks have grown exponentially. Mandates are no longer found only in your own backyard; deals and connections have grown more and more global. 

Finding these mandates is directly connected to and informed by relationship intelligence—insights into your team’s collective network and business connections that help find, manage, and close mandates faster and more reliably than the familiar but uninformed cells of Excel.

Let’s take a look at three ways a new breed of customer relationship management (CRM)—relationship intelligence platforms—are supplanting the spreadsheet to meet the needs of modern investment bankers.


Do you have the right technology for relationship-focused dealmaking?

Microsoft Excel is a single, generalized tool that serves a wide variety of teams and contains functions that aren’t necessary for managing a mandate pipeline. A comprehensive, deal-focused solution requires a specialized set of tools and features on a platform designed specifically for investment banking. This makes it lightweight, easy to integrate, easy to use, and increases adoption. Intelligent CRM platforms are consolidating features like automated data capture, relationship intelligence, and enhanced security to support the dealmaking process.

Automated data capture frees you from manually managed cells

In the decades of spreadsheet dominance, the information tied to these relationships (contact information, role and industry-related information, or even notes about their favorite cocktails) were manually keyed into cells spread across multiple spreadsheet files. These details were easily mistyped or altogether misplaced—lost to data silos inaccessible by anyone but the creator—and that data loss could damage relationships. 

Intelligent CRM platforms automatically capture your team’s “data exhaust”—details pulled from email communications, meetings, and contact information such as names, roles, industry, and source of introduction—so every contact is documented in your CRM. 

This also ensures accuracy, so you never have to worry about misspelling a client’s name or creating a duplicate account. Information that, for many teams, was (or is currently) spread across separate browser tabs, platforms, and spreadsheets is now automatically captured, processed, enriched, and turned into insights that inform successful business decisions.

Relationship intelligence (not relationship management) informs more data-driven decisions

When you meet a new acquaintance on a Zoom call or for a cup of coffee, you may be opening the door to a new connection—and possibly a new business relationship. Maybe you’ll never see them again; maybe they’ll be instrumental to the biggest deal of your career. 

Spreadsheets are, first and foremost, number-crunching tools, and the people-focused information you get from these interactions isn’t at home in spreadsheets. When the key details about this relationship (and others like it) are tracked in several places, identifying trends in your dealmaking becomes nearly impossible. 


With all of your relevant contact data automatically secured in a single place, however, an intelligent CRM can surface information on how well your teammates know their contacts and what kind of deals your team should be pursuing. With that, you can expand your team’s insights further by enriching your data and gaining additional context beyond their own network.

With a relationship intelligence platform, the people and organizations in your CRM can be enriched by both proprietary internal datasets and datasets from external data partners. This data fills in gaps in your team’s knowledge about all their business relationships. With all of this information at your fingertips, your team can take action confidently, knowing that you’re speaking to the right decision-maker at a potential client or buyer organization, or that a new opportunity is similar in its anatomy to previously successful deals. 

Protected, proprietary data managed by heightened security

Investment banking firms manage high volumes of sensitive, valuable contact information alongside proprietary financial data. Spreadsheets are still limited by rudimentary security technology: locking them with an encrypted password and hoping they remain safe. Unfortunately, much like spreadsheets themselves, password management is prone to human error and can lead to data vulnerabilities. 

The platforms supplanting the spreadsheet, however, comply with the highest-level security protocols available—including SOC2 Type II and CCPA—in order to keep your data safe, and remaining in compliance with GDPR requirements. 

These relationship intelligence platforms also provide custom privacy settings to filter your “data exhaust” and prevent the most sensitive details from being captured. And easy-to-use, granular privacy controls limit who can view the details of a meeting or access a file. These settings simultaneously break down communication barriers while retaining privacy screens, so you can manage your team’s access to confidential details.

Choosing a platform that works the way you do

Legacy CRM platforms can take months to deploy and train on, in part because these platforms require that teams uproot old processes and relearn new ones. Intelligent CRM platforms like Affinity are built with a spreadsheet’s functionality at their core. The familiar, spreadsheet-like interface is elevated by features designed for dealmakers. 

With cleaner, more complete data, insights into that data, and the knowledge that all of your information is secure, you can trust a relationship intelligence CRM to help you find, manage, and close more deals without spending months relearning an entirely new way of doing things.


Dyllan Thweatt
Content Marketing Manager
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