FinSwitch is an electronic trading bureau for South Africa’s unit trust industry, providing a transaction switch linking bulked investors and collective investment scheme managers.

The FinSwitch platform allows users to securely and reliably exchange transaction instructions, transaction confirmations, electronic price information, income distributions and retail institutional split reports.
Bulked investors upload their unit trust transactions daily onto the FinSwitch system, which consolidates the information into a single file for each management company. The management companies download and process these files, generating in their turn daily confirmation files to enable bulked investors to do reconciliations.
In addition to providing a central hub for all information transfer between bulked investors and management companies, FinSwitch has recently begun to switch information within individual companies.
FinSwitch is an industry initiative jointly owned by 10 shareholders, with just over 40 major customers and a large number of smaller customers.
Customers interact with the FinSwitch system daily and it is an essential element of their operations, so any problems need to be resolved quickly and effectively.  A large part of FinSwitch’s contact with customers consists of system support and help desk activities. Customers are also consulted about ongoing system development as well as receiving regular sales and review calls.
With frequent employee turnover at their client companies, FinSwitch found that its existing system of maintaining the client database and managing support cases in Excel spreadsheets was increasingly ineffective. Each member of the customer team kept his or her own Outlook contact list in addition to the Excel client database, leading to fragmentation of information.
Each of MD Tim Holmes’s 2 500 contacts, for example, needed to be maintained in Outlook, in the client database, on his mobile phone and in the helpdesk system – a recipe for duplications, omissions and outdated contacts. Email communications and case histories were difficult to track and team members did not have easy access to each others’ information.
FinSwitch needed a CRM solution that was easy to use and customise, fully integrated with email, had a web interface to facilitate remote working and came with an affordable price tag.
Liquid Thought recommended Microsoft Dynamics CRM and FinSwitch opted for a rapid implementation approach in April 2006. The entire process took just five days of intermittent work to customise the interface, import existing information and train the users.
Since then, FinSwitch has found that Microsoft CRM lends itself to flexible use: “You can pretty much bend it to your will,” says Holmes.
During the past year the team has made several custom changes to the system without needing to call in specialist expertise. By contrast, says Holmes, “You need to go on a three-week technical course to make a single change in other CRM systems I’ve seen.”
One of the biggest benefits, says Holmes, is the ability to get a single consolidated view of interactions with each customer.
“We used to sort and archive all our email by company, with help desk case records kept in a separate Excel spreadsheet,” he says. “If a query came up we’d have to search our email archives to find emails around a particular case, which was time-consuming and not always successful. With Microsoft CRM we can just generate email from within the system, which means it’s automatically linked to a case record.
"If we create an email within Outlook, it’s just as simple to attach it to an existing case. Then all we have to do is search on a case number to get the full history of communication around it.”
With the help desk logging up to 100 cases a month, this has saved FinSwitch many hours of work and much frustration.
Microsoft CRM’s sophisticated reporting functionality has also made life easier, says Holmes.  “It’s very easy to create custom queries against any field and do our own reports. For example, we quite often want reports of the form ‘Which clients are X’, where X can be any field or combination of field. These are very easy to generate.”
Holmes is also able to review a full report on each client before going to meet them, enabling him to be better prepared for annual reviews and sales calls. “I need to know what the issues and events for each individual company have been,” he says.
For the help desk, it has become much easier to analyse and report on trends: “A simple query against help desk query category can tell us a great deal about which queries are most frequent and which ones take most of our time,” says Holmes.
This not only helps to pinpoint problems with third parties such as internet service providers, it also contributes to the ongoing development of FinSwitch itself.
The system has also improved workflow within the team. “We have it set up so that the first screen we see is a list of all open cases and their status,” says Holmes. “It’s easy for all of us to see what’s going on, where any delays might be and to transfer cases between people – even when, as often happens, we’re not working from the same office.”
The team also values Microsoft CRM’s easy customisability and the fact that they can administer the database and make changes themselves, from changing screen layouts to adding custom fields.
“It’s very quick and easy to reconfigure,” says Holmes. “At our weekly team meetings we discuss any changes or additions we want, and from there implementing them is easy.”