Ditching the spreadsheet: Tech-savvy investment bankers are switching to CRMs

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Spreadsheets are the dated-yet-still-dominant tool for contact and deal data management at investment banks. Though they have long been the standard, leading teams are making the transition from a tool designed for number crunching to a new breed of purpose-built customer relationship management (CRM) platform. 

The current generation of CRMs outclass spreadsheets in some aspects, but they can be costly and bloated with features that your team will never use. They are built, first and foremost, for sales teams that rely on linear sales funnels, not relationship-oriented deal teams. And firms that do adopt them still struggle with siloed information, inaccurate data, and lost opportunities.

M&A project management platforms have digitized and simplified the way due diligence is conducted and projects are managed across your organization. Virtual data rooms make huge volumes of data more easily accessible than was possible with paper files and filing cabinets. But even as they’ve adopted other state-of-the-art financial services technologies, many investment banks have clung to spreadsheets to track and manage their contacts and their deals. Let’s look at the downside of doing so.


Taking the right steps toward making the change

If a spreadsheet is the comfortable family jalopy, dealmaking platforms are a new generation of sleek electric sports cars; you can get from point A to point B in your wood-paneled sedan, but the journey will be slow and uncomfortable at best. Intelligent CRM platforms still get you from A to Z, but they get you there faster and more reliably. And they make more information available to you about the journey and your destination.

Implementing a traditional CRM can take months and distract your team with extraneous bells and whistles that provide little useful function and make the platform harder to use. The result: your team can fall behind tech-savvy competitors that choose to use purpose-built dealmaking platforms.

Some firms opt to design and deploy their own (perhaps jerry-rigged) relationship and deal management solution from scratch. Unfortunately, these platforms are often and expensive to build and maintain—and disruptive to implement.

How leading firms switching to purpose-built solutions

Leading investment banks are turning away from these outdated solutions and toward dealmaking platforms that borrow from spreadsheets only those features that investment bankers need: they’re therefore easy-to-use, and most users are already familiar with their functionality. 

Choose an intuitive, user-oriented platform to encourage adoption

Why do workgroups often resist adopting traditional CRMs? A new platform or set of tools can be intimidating and slow teams down until they’re over the learning curve. If the curve is especially steep and the technology complex and “user-unfriendly,” fewer team members use the new platform, and its power goes to waste. And the disuse feeds on itself. A lack of adoption means less data stored in the CRM, and less data means fewer people refer to the platform.

Fortunately, relationship intelligence dealmaking platforms are built on the spreadsheet model; they look and feel familiar to spreadsheet novices and gurus alike. An intuitive platform encourages firmwide adoption, eliminating the data silos created by individually managed spreadsheets.

Automated data capture obviates manually updating contact records, which traditional CRM platforms require. And anyone who can navigate rows and columns can now just as easily build custom reporting and analytics dashboards and explore all of your team’s shared data.

Transition smoothly to a lightweight platform that works the way you do

Because the best dealmaking platforms are as lightweight as they are sophisticated, deployment is nearly frictionless. While some legacy CRM solutions can take months to properly launch and integrate into your business, intelligent CRM platforms can be up and running quickly—sometimes in just a few days. 

To ensure the right fit between platform and firm, leading solutions also offer a free trial. This trial period helps shorten the deployment for a firmwide launch because some of your data will have already been migrated. It also ensures your team is comfortable with the platform and confident it is the right choice.

Choose a platform purpose-built for dealmaking

Traditional, sales-focused CRM platforms have struggled to supplant the spreadsheet as the primary tool for dealmakers. Much of that struggle lies in the rigidity and complexity of traditional CRMs. While they do offer some improvements over spreadsheets, such as sales pipeline management or better integrations with other software, their weaknesses overlap with those of spreadsheets. Users of traditional CRMs will also recognize these challenges:

  • They require manual contact data entry to keep records updated.
  • They lack features specific to and needed by investment bankers.
  • They have extended implementation and training periods that hinder adoption.

Dealmaking platforms like Affinity borrow the best features of spreadsheets and combine them with an easily managed infrastructure and CRM features specific to investment banks. Like spreadsheets, they are lightweight, intuitive, and easy to use. As CRMs they are designed specifically to manage complex deal flow, make it easy to store a variety of data types, and can serve as the foundation for all of your other dealmaking software tools. 

In addition, the best purpose-built CRMs also: 

  • Captures data accurately and automatically from your email and calendar
  • Turns that data into relationship intelligence—insights into your team’s collective network, business connections, and client communications that help find, manage, and close deals
  • Scores your relationships by measuring the volume and type of connections between your team and your contacts to lead you to warmer introductions
  • Improves transparency to make cross-team communication easy
  • Provides easy-to-access, in-depth reporting and analytics
  • Protects your data and comply with the highest-level data security protocols, including SOC2 Type II, GDPR, and CCPA

Learn more about how firms are making the change today by talking to the Affinity team.


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