When Birmingham-based Reliance Financial Group realized their IT infrastructure lacked the scalability to sustain rapid business growth, the team decided to outsource their IT administration to TekLinks. To eliminate network latencies as well as an aging email server and phone platform, TekLinks implemented a comprehensive solution that included dedicated connectivity; managed cloud storage, email, encryption and archival services; and telepresence functionality with hosted VoIP.
Customization is Key
Reliance Financial Group, a registered investment advising firm established in 2003, provides strategies for financial and wealth management. Associated with LPL Financial, the nation’s largest independent broker/dealer,* RFG is known for its team’s expertise, customer centricity, and financial strategies, which are tailor-made for each client.
“What makes us so unique is that we cultivate a culture of open communication with the client,” said Bobby White, CEO of Reliance Financial Group. “We truly get to know the client. That personalization makes it imperative for us to be able to connect with our colleagues and clients at any time of the day.”
The Need for Scalable IT
“As we were expanding our footprint, we needed to grow our office space and add a second location. But we also needed to connect those offices as seamlessly as if we under one roof,” said Frank Vetrano, Controller, Reliance Financial Group. “So we began looking for solutions that would take the burden of IT management off our shoulders. That’s where TekLinks came in – what they offered was exactly what we were looking for.
Prior to partnering with TekLinks, RFG operated on a traditional PBX phone system that could not scale with the company as it grew to include a second location. Additionally, their on-site Exchange server was in constant need of maintenance, adding to the rigidity of an environ-ment they desperately needed to keep pace with their rapid expansion.
“RFG’s aggressive growth strategy exposed all the weaknesses of their on-premise infrastructure,” explained Brad Gutteridge, TekLinks Corporate Account Manager. “Their on-site servers, their old phone platform – they were severely limiting what they needed to do to remain successful. They simply outgrew their existing technology.
In addition, RFG’s connectivity was unreliable and lacking in redundancy. With regulatory compliance standards to meet, RFG knew they needed to improve the stability of the network and take steps toward achieving data security and business continuity. “If one of their offices went down, it would affect their entire network,” said Gutteridge. “Their network vulnerabilities posed a very real threat of unexpected downtime that would have negatively impacted the health of their business. They needed a centralized, redundant and protected environment that could still provide flexibility and scalability.”
Cloud-Powered and Fully Managed
Gutteridge drafted a comprehensive managed and cloud services solution that would address Reliance’s need for reliable connectivity, fully supported email and telecom systems, and increased data security for both office sites. “The reputation TekLinks already had was outstanding. Once we met with the TekLinks team, I was very comfort-able going in that direction,” said Vetrano.
With Sr. Project Manager Robert Banks coordinating their efforts, a group of TekLinks engineers worked together to move RFG’s on-premise infrastructure to a new cloud environment with data storage and backup. They installed a 10M metro-E fiber connection between offices, set up a robust Cisco VoIP phone platform, and implemented the email migration to Exchange 2013 and set up filtering, encryption, and archival services.
Gutteridge also recommended a telepresence solution powered by Cisco WebEx and LifeSize technologies as a collaboration tool for RFG’s employees. “With multiple offices, having meaningful, productive meetings via telepresence and remote call-in functionality was very important to them,” said Gutteridge. The solution’s video conferencing features would also enhance the personalized experience and thought leadership that characterizes the Reliance’s signature approach to client relationships.
Despite multiple moving pieces – and an unexpected snowstorm (The Birmingham “Snowpocalypse” of 2014) – the TekLinks team’s execution resulted in a smooth implementation and allowed RFG to restore business func-tionality as quickly as possible. “The engineers were all incredibly helpful and professional,” Vetrano said. “And the TekLinks help desk has continued to provide great service - everyone is really responsive and friendly."
Convenience, Continuity, and Availability
RFG’s new cloud infrastructure and connectivity, as well as their fully managed voice, email, telepresence, and backup solutions have boosted productivity, reduced costs, and created a synergy between offices that enhances the quality of service their clients receive.
“Because we are so dependent on our email and web-based applications to do our job every day, it’s very critical that we can stay connected with each other and our clients wherever we are,” Vetrano said. “And with users working in multiple locations, the cloud just made sense. With our new email and voice solution, anywhere we go we have immediate access to our voicemail, without needing to dial in each time. The convenience factor is huge.”
“Technology is extremely important to stay on top of the markets and new research reports from around the world,” said Wes Fleming, Chief Investment Officer, Reliance Financial Group. “As CIO, I’m responsible for creating investment strategies for account executives and clients. With our new video conferencing solution, I can now incorporate research reports and graphs during meetings with clients in California. In the past, I would have had to travel across the country to have a face-to-face meeting with them. This technology helps us use our time much more efficiently, and the cost savings on travel expenses are huge. I also appreciate how user-friendly it is. Everyone can use it.”
“What RFG has in common with so many other businesses is the need for increased IT functionality, but with reasonable, budget-friendly costs,” noted Gutteridge. “They’re in the financial business; they don’t want to be in the IT business. So when you form a partnership with a solution provider like TekLinks, it allows each business to excel at what they do best.”
“Taking the time and burden off of us to manage and oversee our technology has been invaluable to us,” says Vetrano. “Now, all those day-to-day issues I used to wrangle with are taken care of by TekLinks. Outsourcing our IT has improved collaboration and efficiency in our offices, and the cloud provides a kind of ‘plug-and-go’ scalability that advances our business growth each day.”
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*As reported by Financial Planning magazine, June 1996-2014, based on total revenue.
Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through RFG Advisory Group, LLC, a registered investment advisor. RFG Advisory Group, LLC and Reliance Financial Group are separate entities from LPL Financial.