If you're unfamiliar with the terms CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, a system designed for managing your relationship and marketing communications with your customers and perhaps more importantly your potential customers. A back office system is a term that we (financial advisers) use to refer to any system designed to process a client's work in a compliant way.
Not many financial advisers that I know run a CRM system although most have some sort of back office system many seem to believe that CRM is just a replication of the functionality offered in the CRM.
Now for adviser who have no interest in acquiring new clients I would say continue with just a back office and a notepad if you wish and you'll be fine.
However, for those interested in acquiring new clients I would certainly advise that you give serious consideration to taking on a CRM as well as your back office. The argument for a CRM in addition to a back office system can be a little muddied by the marketing of both systems, back office systems often imply that they offer all the functions of a CRM and visa versa but in my extensive experience they do not do it very well.
Before my network brought in a compulsory back office system I used to use Sage Act! (a CRM) which I had spent a massive amount of time customising to be a hybrid back office system and it worked OK, great for marketing and managing leads not so brilliant for the back office stuff. When we started using proper back office it became apparent that it's marketing functions were not great though as the focus is on compliance system, and because it's a back office system I do not find it useful for managing prospective clients or leads. - for a start it requires far more information just to create an entry than I usually have for an initial lead!
With my CRM system if anyone send me an enquiry via the internet they are automatically added to my CRM system, I can set up autoresponders and regular automated emails and communications that keep the contact going with prospects. I've created fields so I can quickly send emails to all clients who have something in common such as having a mortgage or not having life insurance etc, and I can see who opened the email, how many times they have opened it and if they clicked on the links helping me to determine which leads are hot and which are not! I've not found a back office system that can do any of that.
I went through a thorough search a little while ago to find a web based CRM to allow me to work anywhere easily, I ended up opting for Zoho CRM in the end but that may not be right for you if your a financial adviser or another typw of business - for example I use insightly for the web design business.
When I was looking for my ideal system I was also researching a blogging system called blogger on behalf of a client and I posted my findings there, if you wish to review them my posts are below.