AGF adds sales force tools to BlackBerry rollout

An earlier attempt with laptops didn’t take off but, investment management company AGF thinks it has found the right mobile technology for its sales force: RIM BlackBerries along with software that ties directly into its corporate back end.


mobile sales team of 39 people, who work in the field meeting with stock brokers, financial planners and insurance agents, have been equipped with BlackBerries running mWholesaler and mReports from Pyxis Mobile. The software is designed specifically for the financial services industry.

“It allows our sales force a window in on our corporate data from a mobile location,” said Stephen Elioff, AGF’s senior vice president for CRM. “In the field through their BlackBerry, they have access to all the information they need to manage a customer relationship.”

AGF is also running a CRM system from PeopleSoft in its back end that contains all its client information. Elioff says the solution from Pyxis took 13 weeks to install. All that had to be done was map AGF’s CRM data into the appropriate fields in the Pyxis system.

“We looked around at a lot of mobile solutions and quite frankly, you can’t overlook having that connectivity back into your back-end systems,” said Elioff. “It’s quite a challenge to line up the information you want from your systems and deliver it in a coherent format to a mobile device.”

Another plus, Elioff said, was that the Pyxis solution was designed specifically for the financial services industry. Since they understood their business paradigm and business model, everything they needed was already there. It also drove adoption within the company.

“The adoption rate among our sales people was extremely high, and sales people are usually a challenging group to introduce new technologies to,” said Elioff. “Because it was written specifically for the way they work, we’ve heard nothing but praise all around.”

AGF had tried to go mobile earlier, having its sales teams carry around a subset of corporate data on laptops. But the size, weight and battery limitations of laptops meant they weren’t being effectively used in the field, creating more work time before and after the workday at the office or hotel, he said.

“The compact size of a Blackberry and the ability to pull information down in real time really makes the device useful at the point of contact with the customer,” said Elioff.

While the AGF implementation is a fairly typical example of Pyxis Mobile’s work, president and CEO Shane Hughes said it is also significant because it is the first sale by its Canada-dedicated sales team.

With its customization for the financial services industry, Hughes said mWholesaler and mReports have already proved popular in the US, with companies like Manulife and AIM.

“We’re presenting to these firms an option already tailored to their business day to day,” said Hughes. “It has their terminology, it has their screen layouts, and it has their business process flow already built into the application.”

Hughes said they also recognize each of their customers will want something slightly different for their own business, so they’ve built in the ability for their customers to configure the application to meet their specific needs. He added it is also designed to be scaleable, and the architecture is built to connect to multiple back-end systems.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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