Why intelligent CRMs are replacing spreadsheets for mandate management

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Why spreadsheets are no longer enough for successful investment bankers

There are a few experts, with a career’s worth of experience, who have figured out how to manipulate, manage, process, import, export, and analyze the data in spreadsheets. But there are otherwise few people armed with more than entry-level knowledge of a spreadsheet’s potential, and Excel’s familiar rows and columns are not sufficient for deal teams managing previously unfathomable amounts of information.

Business networks number in the tens of thousands, industry news is accessible 24/7, and company hiring trends are as carefully watched as the stock market. This data is not just numbers—it’s data about people, and it has to be evaluated, not just tabulated. Traditional CRM software is a slightly better for this data, but legacy CRM solutions are still dependent on manually managed data, are often inflexible, and can take months to deploy and train on.


Teams that have switched to legacy CRM solutions, like Mark Rainbird’s team at Funding Strategies, a Brisbane-based capital markets firm, have found them a better fit for deal and contact management than spreadsheets:

“Essentially we were managing each client using spreadsheets and, often, we would have one investor looking at multiple investment opportunities. This was really messy to track. We'd be in meetings with investors and, because the information was scattered across multiple sheets, we didn't have a good visual of everything they were interested in…”

Spreadsheets may be a global standard, but complex work requires specialized tools, and dealmakers are seeing cracks in the spreadsheet’s facade: they are tedious to manage, error-prone, and keep information siloed.

Tedious data entry wastes your experts’ time

The most apparent damage spreadsheets cause investment banking teams is the cumulative hours spent manually managing their data. Teams that depend on spreadsheets to manage their contacts waste hours per week entering data, hoping that it’s accurate when it comes time to use it or burning even more time verifying that it’s correct. Spreadsheets aren’t capturing email or calendar information; they’re dependent on dealmakers interrupting their relationship and deal work to key data into cells. 


Error-prone data entry leads to error-prone business development

Manual data management not only wastes hundreds of hours of your team’s time, it’s also much more prone to human error. A single typo can turn into a misspelled name in an email or a contact unretrievable via a document-wide search—small errors that can lead to lost opportunities. 


This issue is so widespread that entire organizations, like the European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group, exist to address this widespread issue. “Few would publish a book or article without having it edited first, [but] spreadsheets often get put into use in first-draft form,” says the group’s chairman, Patrick O’Beirne. That rough-draft data can mean losing track of a lead that might have won your next mandate.


Siloed data fosters redundant work and delays deals

As Rainbird mentioned above, when your data is split across multiple sources you may not be able to easily identify it when you need it. Data silos are created when team members record duplicate or conflicting data in different places, and this lack of transparency makes it almost impossible to know which information is correct. Teams then take action based on the data they have on hand. That can lead to overlapping rather than complementary work.

Cloud-based spreadsheets like Google Sheets or Office 365’s version of Excel that have become core to the M&A tech stack offer a partial solution to this issue by allowing teams to edit in real-time, but they can’t solve for users creating their own files. Creating a single system still requires everyone to actively share new documents or upload them to the proper shared folder for others to make efficient use of them—effectively placing your team back at square one.

Introducing a smarter, sleeker spreadsheet alternative

A new generation of relationship-oriented CRMs are building on the spreadsheet. These platforms have adopted only those features that IBs need: they’re easy-to-use, and most users are already familiar with their functionality, and these “relationship intelligence platforms” go beyond the limitations of spreadsheets. Intelligent CRM platforms:

  • Automate data capture for new and existing accounts so your team can spend their time on people, not data entry.
  • Provide relationship intelligence—insights into your team’s network and business connections that help find, manage, and close deals—and validate your data alongside enriched datasets so your information is more accurate.
  • Make finding and presenting your data faster and easier so the right details are always at your fingertips.

Move beyond Excel. Accelerate your dealmaking pipeline with a purpose-built investment banking platform that provides the relationship intelligence you need to build better business relationships, manage your most important connections, and close your biggest opportunities. Learn what a relationship intelligence CRM like Affinity can do for your business—talk to our sales team today.


Dyllan Thweatt
Content Marketing Manager
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