Practifi: Intercontinental Business Management for the Modern Advisor

Site: practifi.com
Founded: 2013
Clients: Financial advisors, broker-dealers, family offices
Value proposition: Business management solutions
The executive team: Adrian Johnstone, Founder and Chief Commercial Officer


Practifi is a business management platform (BMP) designed to simplify and improve financial services businesses. Built on top of Salesforce, the world’s leading enterprise CRM platform, Practifi allows clients to automate processes, integrate point solutions, cover compliance, and grow their businesses.

Adrian Johnstone, PractifiPractifi was founded in Australia and recently expanded to the US market, where 30% of its current client base is located.

To learn more about how the company elevates advisors, I spoke with Adrian Johnstone, founder and chief commercial officer of Practifi. Adrian has over 25 years’ experience consulting and working with wealth management firms in Australia. At Practifi, his main responsibility is to deliver a product that fits the market needs in the future, not just what they need today.

What Practifi has to offer

Practifi has the power and flexibility required by complex business structures like wealth management practices but can also be used by independent advisors. A complex practice will have multiple service lines, like estate planning, accounting, and so on. Adrian made a point to say that the platform is in its element for closely held companies and trusts that manage a variety of client relationships, as opposed to the flatter relationships of a typical CRM. More specifically, Practifi is ideal for the family office environment, for wealth and even asset managers (where the client has multiple entities holding the assets, but they want to get a single view of that client).

What I found interesting about Practifi is that it doesn’t target any particular advisor process or part of advice. Instead, it drives the client record, all the client relation workflows, and, in addition, the non-client-related processes like compliance and risk management.

“We’re a business technology, so we’re agnostic—whether you’re estate planning, portfolio management, or financial planning, it’s all the same from a Practifi perspective.”


Integration strategy and open API

Practifi’s strategy is to integrate with the best providers on the market, ones that clients request most often. It integrates with all major document storage, email management, digital signature providers, and other core business tools. Practifi has live integration with the four major portfolio account platforms: Orion, Addepar, Black Diamond, and Tamarac.

“We constantly integrate, so our approach to integration is: find what’s best, find what’s emerging, and integrate it.”

Adrian said his team is working on new integrations with platforms like MoneyGuidePro to expand their end-to-end solution. The company also makes it easy for clients to use integrations with its knowledge base, Practifi Success.

Practifi has an open API, and, as Adrian said, it will integrate with everyone whenever possible. The key with integrations is to follow the market. Thankfully, Practifi’s suite of integrations has adapted to new markets quite well.

“The integrations required for US and Australian clients are very similar on a business tool level but very different from a portfolio or an advice tool perspective.”


Managing regulations on different continents

The objective of regulations and the agencies that enforce them are the same in both the US and Australian markets: ensure the best interests of the end customer are being met with integrity. Adrian said that Australian regulations are heavy-handed—an enormous amount of documentation is required for every advice exchange—whereas the US model offers more discretion.

Practifi isn’t an advice tool, so it doesn’t store any tax tables; instead, it relies on integration partners. All interactions are stored in real-time, and, from a compliance perspective, advisors see that record in one place.

“The role of Practifi in regulation management is to build the most compliant record with the least burden for the firm. Whether you’re looking to hold the firm to the Australian standard, the US standard, or the UK standard, all the information is in one place.”

Software development process

Adrian explained that the team runs on an Agile continuous development basis, with three major releases a year. These releases include client requests, minor releases in between, and integrations. Its team structure is traditional, with a CTO, update manager, and engineers. The team members work closely with each other, which Adrian says provides a better environment—one that promotes knowledge sharing.

The SalesForce infrastructure provides an advantage when it comes to development because it makes the process easier and allows the team to focus on other aspects.

“We inherit all this great stuff from SalesForce, so there’s a whole portion of development we don’t need to be concerned about.”

Client-driven product management

Adrian has a deep background in finance, and Practifi is his brainchild. In the early stages of putting together Practifi, the founders made a decision to deliver a rich feature set that clients could rely on. However, the team also decided that the client’s voice is the driving factor for implementing changes and new features.

Across the three major releases, clients initiate 70–80% of the product enhancements. The team has an advantage of being in multiple markets, so by updating a single codebase new features deliver to clients across the world.

With clients drawing the bulk of the product roadmap, Adrian told me that the company won’t be a single provider but rather a hub. Hubs put together a pool of best-in-class integrations and enable functionality and insights across those tools.


Business and tech challenges

Adrian said that, from a tech point of view, the platform has everything nailed down and taken care of. Smart practices and a strong architecture = no outstanding technical debt. I chuckled pretty hard when Adrian told me that the biggest tech challenge for their CTO is Adrian himself!

“Our CTO would say that his biggest challenge is me—I want everything yesterday. That’s on the tech side.”

Adrian wants everything done fast, which is tempered by the CTO’s desire for work done well. Granted, Adrian also wants to deliver a great product just like the CTO wants it done fast, so they have to find a middle ground they’re both happy with.

“We’re impatient. We’re a very driven firm, so we can see things that we want to do, and you have to prioritize.”

From the business angle, the company is shifting to a marketing-led organization. This ties in with their recent expansion to the US market, and Adrian pointed out that the challenge is to get the messaging right.

WealthTech Club takeaways

Practifi goes beyond the boundaries of a standard CRM. It’s not a pile of tools in an uninspiring shed; it is a business management solution for managing existing clients better, onboarding new clients more efficiently, and growing an advisory firm strategically. Adrian and his team were successful in Australia and New Zealand, and much like the British Invasion (The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, among others), Practifi has broken new ground in the US market.


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