CEO/CFO Magazine, May 1st 2017
Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine.
CEOCFO: Mr. Koziel, what is the concept behind ProTrak International?
Mr. Koziel: ProTrak was founded over 25 years ago. Through the work that I did with a major global US bank prior to starting ProTrak, I realized at that time, that there were no technology solutions available that could handle the complex relationship management needs of the institutional investment managers. Since the inception of ProTrak, we have grown significantly over the years as we consistently respond to our users’ needs and the changing landscape of the financial markets. Today ProTrak is classified as a CRM software provider. CRM is a coined phrase that stands for Client Relationship Management. ProTrak CRM helps our clients manage their firm-wide relationships with clients, investors, prospective clients, consultants, intermediaries, managers and other 3rd parties. The investment management space is the only industry that we serve and it encompasses traditional long-only investment managers, hedge funds, fund-of-funds, private equity managers, pension plans, pension consultants, family offices and investment research teams.
CEOCFO: What are some of the challenges or needs for the industry that requires or benefits from a specialized CRM?
Mr. Koziel: There are many challenges, but one of the primary requirements is the need to manage many complex and intricate relationships on the company-to-company, contact-to-contact, accounts-to-investors level, and so on. This is especially important when you market and sell products/funds into the financial industry, where there are many stakeholders in a transaction. In addition to client contacts, there may be trustees, directors, outside consultants, custodians, attorneys and other influencers – creating a “web of relationships”. In fact, I consider this “a many-to-many relationships model”, where everyone is linked to provide a rounded view of who you are working with and how they relate to the other entities and contacts. Another key aspect is the regulatory landscape. Investment Managers have a very high compliance threshold. Typically, every interaction with a client or prospective client should be recorded. Each call, meeting note, sent and received emails, and all important documents should be attached to the client / contact profile for audit and review. Any changes to the data residing in the CRM should be audited, such as who added information; changed it or deleted it. The CRM system must provide the answers to the questions asked in this industry; this is an area where ProTrak excels. This leads to a business-critical reality. Since the financial industry deals with investments and confidential information, there is great emphasis on security. How secure is the data access i.e., who is allowed to see the numerous data items, or to print and export the data. On the client side, who has the permission to receive the various documents. To meet these challenges, ProTrak offers a comprehensive security matrix which is one of the fundamental pillars of our CRM solution.
CEOCFO: Do you offer different types of solutions for different types of firms or is it one solution and then depending on the type of company that is using it they will pick and choose the pieces they need?
Mr. Koziel: This is a very good point. When ProTrak was founded, we were predominantly focused on the institutional investment management space. Over the subsequent years, as alternative investment strategies arose, such as hedge funds, fund-of-funds, and private equity began, we quickly adapted our solution to the changing marketplace. We designed and built ProTrak as one would build a house. If the foundation is strong enough, then it is easy to add more floors and make structural changes. ProTrak is actually three user-defined CRM’s interacting with each other under one central ProTrak data warehouse. Depending on the type of the firm, you can configure it to fit to your unique needs. As an example, if you are a traditional manager, you would use one CRM for your clients / prospective client’s profiles and another CRM for the consultant / intermediary profiles. If you are a manager-of-managers or fund-of-funds, one CRM would be configured for managing your investor and prospective investor relationships, another for manager due-diligence and third for intermediary / 3rd party. If you were a private equity manager, one CRM would be configured for your investor LP / shareholder relationships, another for deal portfolio companies profiles and 3rd for the investment bank / other types of relationships. Today, you might have a hedge fund manager who also offers private equity funds or vice versa. ProTrak’ s multi-dimensional configuration model provides you with the flexibility to do just that, all in one platform, with the security that is applicable to your corporate philosophy.
CEOCFO: What is your geographic reach today?
Mr. Koziel: Due to the nature of the investment industry, as you would expect, our clients are for the most part located in global financial centers, with a majority in New York and London. We also have clients across the USA, Canada, Europe and Asia. Half of our prospective clients are located outside the USA. We are seeing interest coming from Europe, Asia, Middle East, South America and Africa and various emerging market countries.
CEOCFO: How do you help ease the implementation and switch over and how do you deal quickly with any glitches?
Mr. Koziel: I can honestly say that one of the key benefits for our clients when they subscribe to our service is the depth of our professional services team that, on average, has 15+ years’ experience working at ProTrak. We are fully committed to our clients’ success and we pride ourselves on providing outstanding consulting, implementation, training and support services. We consistently receive the highest commendation from our clients such as: “Amazing technical support 10/10” or “ProTrak’s top-notch client support and engineering staff helped us to integrate our systems and CRM very quickly”. Our clients typically fall into three categories. They are either established firms, those who have been around for a few years and startups. Typically, the longer the firm has been around, the more intricate the implementation process, mostly due to their legacy data. The ProTrak team is familiar with migrating data from a wide variety of platforms, including Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics, and many other proprietary solutions. We work with our clients to ensure that the process is completed in a timely and effective manner. Our team will discuss all aspects of the migration process to ensure a successful and smooth transition. Once the implementation is complete, we will provide a high-quality training and on-going support. Our support services staff located in New York, Denver and London will respond to any questions regarding ProTrak’s use via phone, email or remote communications services and will troubleshoot any unexpected glitches that might be caused by a variety of reasons. Most of the questions and issues reported by our clients are addressed instantly.
CEOCFO: What is the competitive landscape? Are there many or any CRMs that specialize the way you do?
Mr. Koziel: Absolutely. As you would expect, the landscape changed quite a bit in the past decade. There are now general purpose CRM providers and industry focused solutions. By general I mean out-of-the-box solutions that provide basic CRM functionalities that are not tailored to the financial industry and where the firm will need to customize it to fit their user’s unique needs. Some of the solution providers customized their offerings to the industry they serve. They are based on general purpose CRM provider’s architecture. The investment industry focused CRM technology providers, like ProTrak, built their platforms from the ground up to specifically address the various needs of the financial industry. In our case, we built our solution to serve the needs of traditional asset managers, hedge funds and private equity funds. Others specialize in one or more of the same pillars of the investment landscape. If you recall, we are proud of our platform’s architecture which allowed us to build an elegant and easy-to-use CRM platform based on the complex relationships model. However, when you have different competitive solutions in a mature marketplace, the questions is not what you do, it’s how you do it. Our clients, who manage different strategies, all have competition. We have competition. How do you distinguish yourself? In our case, it’s the staying power of over 25 years’ experience serving the industry, continuous re-investment in utilizing new technology, and addressing the ever changing regulatory landscape in the financial markets. For example, many common functions are found across the different CRM providers, but that doesn’t mean that these functions work efficiently. ProTrak emphasizes quick processes. Our clients will tell you that our methods are much easier to learn and more productive. When users are engaged in the process, they’ll use the system. If it’s frustrating or non-intuitive, the CRM will languish.
CEOCFO: You have received a CIO Review award among others – HFM, and US Technology Awards. Would you tell us about the recognition and why that is important for you?
Mr. Koziel: Any recognition is better than no recognition. Indeed, it is very flattering to be acknowledged by the industry we serve. Every award addresses a unique aspect of technology that supports the investment management industry.As it happens, we were recently recognized by the hedge fund management industry which is one of the main segments of the investment industry we serve. We currently have some of the largest global hedge funds as our clients. In fact, 3 of the 10 largest global hedge funds are ProTrak clients.I have to say that the award for “Best Data Base Management Product” was very special to me. It acknowledged our efforts over the past many years to design and build a truly comprehensive CRM solution based on the open database architecture, the intricate relationships model and an enterprise query / reporting engine.
CEOCFO: Why ProTrak International?
Mr. Koziel: I can think of a few things. We have been serving the global investment industry from our New York and London offices for over 25 years and are proud of our staying power. ProTrak CRM is our only product. It encapsulates a wealth of functions such as personalization of the user interface, email marketing / tracking automation, simplified search / report generation, comprehensive workflow manager and interfaces with portfolio / accounting and administrative platforms to name a few. Our management team has an average of over 15 years with ProTrak. Our Client Services team has over 10 years with ProTrak. With our staff’s in-depth industry knowledge, we truly understand the business. We continuously get great testimonials such as “First and foremost, ProTrak understands our business because they have been in the game for a long time” or “Your support team has been very knowledgeable and responsive to our needs,” or “We have come to appreciate the open architecture of ProTrak and ability to manipulate our data as needed”. This is why you should put your trust in ProTrak.
To read the whole interview, click here: