Thrive Wealth Management provides financial planning services for their clients in Saskatchewan, Canada. A spin-off of Conexus and Cornerstone Credit Unions, Thrive is a brand new business that leverages decades of experience in helping their clients plan and project for their future and manage their investment portfolios.
When it came time to establish IT and Operations at Thrive, Matt Welykholowa, Vice President of Operations, wanted to make sure that they were setting themselves up for success. “We were deeply rooted in the credit union technology which is primarily on-premise based foundation stuff: the typical file servers, an office environment, some different published applications, and things like that. Yet most of our business on the wealth management side in terms of our main systems are held at our dealer, which is already cloud-based”, says Matt.
Thrive leveraged their existing relationship with Encore, and engaged in a workshop with Encore to plan for adoption of the cloud. “What Encore and Brad from CloudFirst did was they got all of our technology stakeholders in a room, and we put ‘the way that we used to do it’ on the backburner”, says Matt. We took it from the perspective of, as we’re building our new business, how can we benefit from moving to the cloud?”.
Based on these sessions, a plan was established to adopt Microsoft Azure for foundational infrastructure, and Encore’s “Surface-as-a-Service” packages for hardware, software, and desktop support. “Encore bringing that Surface offer to Canada allows us to not have to focus on building out all the infrastructure and support on our side. We don’t have to manage assets or anything like that”, says Matt.
Moving to a managed-services model for their IT support has proved to be very beneficial for Thrive. “It’s turned our IT into a commodity where we’re able to turn IT into an operational expense”, says Matt. “We have all the support that we need from Microsoft, CloudFirst, and Encore as a part of that package; we don’t have to hire a big IT team. And the relationship between Encore and CloudFirst feels very seamless to me – you guys seem like one”
It’s turned our IT into a commodity where we’re able to turn IT into an operational expense.
“I have a pretty strong IT background in terms of support; I’ve worked in call centers before and I’ve been at the credit union for 18 years – much of that was in IT and project management so I understand the back end of supporting groups. I don’t think there’s been a support case – and we’ve had quite a few – that hasn’t been answered in less than two minutes from an expert resource. Usually in our world, you make a phone call, you sit on hold, and then you get a Tier 1 resource that doesn’t know what they’re doing. Then your case goes to Tier 2, and two days later you might get a response. Whereas our experience with Encore and CloudFirst has been that their Tier 2 experts are the ones taking that call, and within a couple minutes either they can fix it, or they have a direct escalation path to Microsoft to look after it for you. So it’s been fantastic.”
Another one of the biggest benefits for Thrive has been the integration between Microsoft Office, Microsoft EMS, their Surface Devices, and third-party solutions. “We’ve integrated many of our external applications – we use Concur for expense management, Domo for Business Intelligence, and GoToMeeting for some of our bigger meetings – with the single sign-on service in Microsoft EMS. From an employee standpoint, it’s a seamless integration: all they have to manage is one user ID and password. But they really only have to set that up once because we’re using Windows Hello’s facial recognition login. It’s leapfrogged us from where we were”, says Matt.
In addition, the move to the cloud has allowed Thrive’s employees to get current – and stay current – with the latest version of Microsoft Office. “Going forward, we have a plan in place where we’re always up to date; we’re never lagging behind. We went from Office 2010 to the newest version overnight, and now we will never lag behind because we’re continually taking the Office 365 updates”, says Matt.