Archive for August, 2011
Advisor Products staff worked from their homes Monday, accessing company systems online, after Hurricane Irene knocked out power throughout Long Island and at the company’s Jericho, N.Y. office.
Though Advisor Products is not an advisory firm, its recovery from the hurricane provides a model for advisory firms to prepare for a disaster.
An estimated half million Long Island residents—270,264 homes and businesses, according to Long Island Power Authority—remained without power as of noon Tuesday. Advisor Products operations, however, were back to normal.
Advisor Products websites were unaffected by Hurricane Irene. Advisor Products hosts about 1,100 financial advisor websites as well as secure client communications systems, like AdvisorVault, at an SAS 70 datacenter. The hosting facility never lost power and did not even need to resort to using its backup power systems.
However, internal systems for managing the staff and tracking client service requests had to be reconfigured Monday morning as the company implemented its disaster recovery plan and went virtual to service customers.
The professionalism and dedication of the Advisor Products staff has been remarkable:
- Nipun Manglik, an engineer on the advisor websites Help Desk, says that despite the disruption in power he has ensured all customer services requests made by Advisor Products are responded to within 24-hours by phone.
- IT Manager Jason Fogelson, whose wife is expecting a baby imminently, provided a desk and electric power to three Advisor Products staffers who do not have power in their homes.
While Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it struck Long Island overnight Saturday, it hit the 125- by 25-mile swath of land in its power grid. By the time the wind and rain stopped on Sunday afternoon, widespread power outages had befallen the dense- populated suburban towns across the Island. Trees weakened by a rain-soaked August fell throughout Nassau and Suffolk County.
At 9 a.m., Monday, the company’s phone and email systems had been restored, enabling staff to answer client calls and emails, and the company’s CRM system was back online at 5 p.m., allowing project managers, HTML specialists, and technical support staff access notes about open cases and track client website development projects.
I’m proud of the way our team has performed.
Hurricane Irene, the biggest storm to hit the New York metropolitan area in 25 years, battered Long Island with 65 mile an hour winds and gusts of 85, but service to Advisor Products websites and customers was uninterrupted.
Long Island, a peninsula-shaped stretch of land jutting east 125 miles from Manhattan into the Atlantic and the home of Advisor Products in Jericho, N.Y., was hit right in its power grid. On Monday morning, 24 hours after the rain and winded ended, a half-million Long Islanders reportedly remained without electric power (including the CEO’s home.)
At Advisor Products headquarters, where no advisor websites are hosted but internal management information systems are maintained, IT managers Steve Gordonson and Jason Fogelson elected late Saturday night in preparation for the hurricane to shut down all internal operations systems. The decision proved wise. Power to the Jericho area turned off and on many times overnight Saturday but by 9 a.m. power outages in the suburban hamlet of 13,045 were widespread.
Fallen trees and power poles can be seen all over Long Island Monday morning. A map on the website of the local utility, Long Island Power Authority, on Monday morning showed widespread power-outages still affected almost every town on Long Island.
By 7 a.m. Monday, when it was clear the power would not be restored in time for business by 9.m., Advisor Products went virtual, relying solely on web-based apps to service advisory firms. By 9 a.m., Advisor Products VOIP phone system was relocated and restored, enabling customers to call the company.
Advisor Products’ 14 employees were all able to run internal company systems from their homes using the Internet and were available to help customers.
A senior member of the service staff located in Florida and another staffer in California were unaffected by the hurricane. In addition, contractors worldwide work for the company by accessing Advisor Product’s internal applications online. For Advisor Products, “going virtual” and shutting down its Jericho office, takes a few hours.
While some disruption to daily operations was expected Monday morning, all systems supporting service to Advisor Products clients–including the company’s CRM–are expected to be fully operational by mid-afternoon Monday afternoon.
While the company’s engineering team was well-prepared and responded quickly to Hurricane Irene, Advisor Products recently made a significant new investment in new hardware configuration enabling virtual server technology. It’s expected to be launched by the end of 2011 and will make disaster recovery simpler.
Data Show Advisors Deeply Integrating AdvisorVault’s Secure Document Sharing Into Their Daily Routine
An analysis of logins by advisors using AdvisorVault, a secure application for sharing documents with clients and allied professionals, shows that more than 100 advisors averaged two logins into AdvisorVault every business day over the past year.
The data show that 25 advisors have logged in an average of 12 times every business day in the past year, and 50 advisors have averaged five logins every business day over the past year.
One advisor logged in about 8,000 times in the past year, according to the data.
About 700 independent advisory firms now use AdvisorVault to deliver documents securely to clients and other professionals, and a new advisory firm is signing up daily.
One firm is using AdvisorVault to distribute Advent Axys reports daily to 400 advisors, but most RIAs use it to distribute reports and other documents securely to retail clients.
AdviorVault is highly scalable and contains many features unavailable on other systems for secure document sharing with clients.
AdvisorVault Desktop Connector, which is now being beta tested and is expected to be released at the end of September, increases usability dramatically. It allows an advisor to drag and drop documents into a client’s vault without opening a browser. You don’t have to open a browser log in, browse to a client vault, and then select the document to be uploaded.
Desktop Connector, which works on Mac and Windows operating systems, provides a desktop interface for accessing a secure web-based drive in the cloud. It’s as easy to use as Box.net for secure document sharing but includes integrations with portfolio reporting and document management apps advisors need as well as specialized client communications tools and content.
With markets swooning, Advisor Products last week released nine articles for immediate use by advisors who subscribing to our website and client newsletter services. Breaking news coverage from our team of experienced financial reporters, along with interviews with investment strategist Fritz Meyer, were included in the special content release.
It was a week in which the Dow Jones Industrial Average swung 400-points up or down four days in a row. Whipsawed advisors began emailing us Wednesday requesting articles to distribute to their clients. The downgrade of the U.S. Government by Standard & Poor’s and worries about the debt crisis spreading to Europe had sparked uncertainty and panic selling.
Wednesday night, Advisor Products responded by providing an article based on research from investment strategist Fritz Meyer entitled, “Focus On Economic Fundamentals That Drive Securities Prices Long Term, And Don’t Succumb To The Hysteria In The Markets.”
On Friday evening, we released another eight articles:
- The U.S. Downgrade Was Bad, But Default Would’ve Been Worse
- Money Market Funds Should Shrug Off U.S. Downgrade
- Economic Measures Signal Solid Rebound Even As Stocks Fall
- Take Advantage Of Fed’s Low-Rate Pledge
- Don’t Panic: The Economy Is Signaling A Recovery
- European Politicians Can Still Come Back From Vacation And Save The Euro
- What Does The Downgrade Of U.S. Debt Really Mean?
- Short-Term Correction Creates Long-Term Buying Opportunity
The content release contained a note disclosing that the articles were not FINRA reviewed and advising advisors to consult their compliance officers before sending them to clients. The articles were for use in emails. They are now being submitted to FINRA.
Sending out breaking news articles is a departure from our usual editorial process. Advisor Products, which has produced client newsletters for advisors since 1996, has a team of financial editors and writers that produce our content. In addition, an Editorial Advisory Board comprised of leading financial advisors review content for technical accuracy, and then the articles are submitted to FINRA for regulatory review. With markets so erratic, however, we truncated our editorial process and released copy without FINRA review.
Would appreciate any feedback on how we did.
With the downgrade of America’s credit rating by Standard & Poor’s, clients have yet another reason to be jittery. Telling clients to stay the course is no longer enough to prevent them from abandoning long-term investment plans in difficult times. The financial crisis and subsequent market meltdown have made it more difficult to convince clients to stick with their investment policies.
Here’s a brilliant solution: Fritz Meyer’s slideshows contain 60-plus slides filled with the latest economic data. Meyer presents the case for broad diversification and buy-and-hold investing based on analysis of economic data. Updated monthly, Meyer’s slideshows explains key economic fundamentals driving investment markets, and is a voice of reason. Here are four ways to use Fritz Meyer’s slideshows to calm clients and assure prospects, who now more than ever value unemotional advice and analysis framed by a long-term perspective.
- Webinars. The Fritz Meyer slideshows can be used by you to create your own webinars. Every month, Meyer conducts a webinar explaining the latest economic data and outlook, and the webinars are available for you to replay 24/7 if you are a member of Advisors4Advisors. After replaying the webinar and hearing Meyer explain the latest data, you can pretty easily use the research in the slides as a script for your own webinar. Post your webinar on YouTube and embed it in your website.
- Blogs. People consumer information in different ways. Some prefer viewing a video, while others want to read ideas. The more ways you present information, the more likely your message will be heard. You can pull out a slide or two from any Fritz Meyer slideshow and use it to write a blog entry explaining a particular aspect of the economy or markets.
- Newsletters. Your blog entry may not be read by clients who don’t use the Internet. For them, refashion a blog entry for use in a newsletter. A chart showing a recovery in manufacturing or autos, for example, could tell a story about hopeful signs, and your words of reassurance are thus backed by research grounded in facts.
- 4. SlideShare. I’ve written previously about this social media application for sharing presentations. The quickest, easiest and coolest way to use the Fritz Meyer’s research with Slideshare is to create your own “Slidecast.” Simply select three or five slides from the latest monthly installment. Then, create an MP3 recording explaining each slide. If you’re not technically inclined, buy an MP3 recorder that plugs into a USB port, or use your smartphone to make the recording. Then, email slides and recording to be uploaded by your staff or virtual assistant.
The Fritz Meyer slideshows are an inexpensive way for advisors to create their own content, which will help you with search engines and prospects as well as with clients. Fritz is beloved for the his common-sense approach and easy to understand analysis.
Fritz Meyer will be addressing the U.S. credit downgrade Tuesday at 4 EST in a free monthly webinar. Please join us.
Advisors are often stumped about what to post to increase their social media and online presence. So here are some ideas about how you can use Advisor Products articles for status updates and tweets.
Not only will these ideas boost communication with clients and prospects, but they’ll also boost your search engine rankings.
Leverage Our Articles. Advisor Products content is FINRA-reviewed and top-quality. If you are a Platinum-level client with Financial Briefs or Featured News on your website, post status updates linked to those articles to bring traffic to your website.
Target It. Advisor Products content has three high-net-worth targets: retirees, pre-retired executives, and owners of business and professional corporations. Target updates to your prospects.
Comment. Find blogs and forums discussing topics related to wealth management and financial planning and link to articles on your website discussing those topics. For instance, a question about converting to a Roth IRA was posted on Mint.com recently. You could post a response and link to this article about Roth IRA conversion on your website. Since links to your website, link popularity, is the most important factor in search engine optimization, this can be powerful.
Distribute Market Data Bank. Advisor Products Platinum provides you with three quarterly FINRA-reviewed features: Market Data Bank, Economy Watch and Quarterly Market Summary. Post status updates referencing this content. Each of these features has a unique URL on your website that you should link to in your updates.
Tweet About Your Videos. Advisor Products Platinum also gives you access to our FINRA-reviewed video library. Just as you update your status using our articles, you can provide links in your status updates to videos like this one about Intentionally Defective Grantor Trusts, which we create for your website.
Fritz Meyer Slideshows. These slideshows include about 60 slides each month with the latest data about the economy and is based on research by investment strategist Fritz Meyer. You can post the entire slide show to your website. But it would be wiser to pick a one or two of the slides and post a blog about them with your analysis about the data. (The Fritz Meyer slides are not FINRA-reviewed.)
If you’re tweeting out headlines from the financial news, that’s not valuable. You’ll need original ideas and insightful content. We’re making that easy for advisors.
If you’re not regularly updating your social media, there’s less reason to follow you. Advisor Products Platinum provides you with more than enough content to update your status every day— a few times a day if you want.
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