Financial Advisor Marketing & Technology

Marketing & Technology For Independent Financial Advisors


Archive for the ‘Financial Planning’ Category

Six Marketing Ideas From A Guru

I recently called marketing genius, Harry Beckwith, to find out what he thinks advisors should be doing to respond to the terrible market drubbing.

Beckwith has authored several marketing classics, including “Selling The Invisible,” “The Invisible Touch,“ and “What Clients Love.” I’ve interviewed Beckwith before and he can be depended upon for common sense fundamentals. While brilliant, he admits that there are no cure-alls, no panaceas, no instant answers to succeeding in these tough times. But he does have sound advice for coping with the economic maelstrom.

1. Tell Your Story. Send clients articles written by third-party sources that explain there is no escaping the damage to your portfolio. “Take the opportunity to educate clients so they know there just has not been a safe asset class,” says Beckwith. “It’s all been battered.”

2. Publish. This is an important time to reinforce your status as an expert with clients. Write an article about the financial crisis for a trade publication, local business publication, or the local newspaper. Then distribute the clip to clients. Sure, you’re not a professional writer. But if you can get one article published every few months, It will enhance your credibility. Beckwith and I both agree that books by William Zinsser are the best primers written on writing. He suggests “Writing To Learn.” Beckwith also recommends contacting the local journalism school to find a student who can write articles for you.

3. Note This. Beckwith says sending a personal note to clients is a smart touch. If you’re mailing statements, articles, or newsletters to client, attach a handwritten note. Adding personal touches to client communications now is important.

4. Never Eat Lunch Alone. “This is a business where you need to be face to face with people,” says Beckwith, invoking the title of a successful book. “Ultimately, people are buying you.”

5. Set Expectations. Clients don’t expect you to pull off unnatural feats. “As long as you set realistic expectations about what you can do, people will be satisfied,” says Beckwith. Don’t promise too much. But deliver what you say you will.

6. Seize The Moment. Independent advisors are in an unusually strong position to capitalize on the crisis. “The biggest brands in financial services have been sullied,” says Beckwith. To take advantage of your competitive strengths, Beckwith says advisors must emphasize the personal nature of their relationships and their personal service.

Beckwith says he remains optimistic despite all the bad economic and financial news. “This is a historic confluence of unique factors that will require more work to dig out of,” says Beckwith. “We got out of Hooverville and we’ll get out of this."

Beckwith’s most recent book, "You, Inc.", was published in 2007. He is now writing his fifth book, which is about positioning and due for release in 18 months.

Finding More Meaning In Life

Texas Tech University opened a technology complex for financial planning students yesterday that was financed with a $1 million contribution from the Charles Schwab Foundation.

The building, which is part of the school's Division of Personal Financial Planning is undoubtedly the world's best collection of planning technology tools ever assembled to educate students. If you're studying to become a financial advisor, you get trained on applications you actually will use when you get a job.

While the movement to transform the job of giving financial advice into a profession has progressed over the last decade at a maddeningly slow pace, the lab is a leap forward.

  • It’s a way of providing real-life training for students
  • It sets a new standard in educating the next generation of advisors
  • It establishes a benchmark for other schools to meet or beat
  • It creates a baseline for software features to meet to be part of an educational curriculum
  • It establishes the types of tools will become part of an advisor’s desktop.

There are probably lots of other reasons why opening this lab is a significant event in the effort to shift the role of financial advisors from salesmen to professionals. The point of this post is to acknowledge how and why this lab opened.

  • How did a school in Lubbock, Texas pull this off?
  • Why did Charles Schwab, who received a BA and an MBA from Stanford University, donate $1 million to this school?
  • Who thought of this lab and followed through to get the building constructed?

The answer: Deena Katz.

Aside from waving hello at conferences, I haven’t caught up with Ms. Katz in several years. We did a series of speaking engagements together about five years ago and were in touch regularly for about two years back then, and I learned what a good person she is.

Ms. Katz was surely the one who tapped Charles Schwab for the money, a contribution to the profession that he, too, deserves being acknowledged for making.

An Associate Professor at Texas Tech, Ms. Katz is mentioned in the last paragraph of yesterday’s press release about the opening of the lab for her role as “coordinator of the initiative.” While I'm sure when she reads this post, she will say that so many other people were responsible for it, this complex started with Deena Katz.

In one of those 60-second conversations that we all have with colleagues at conferences, Ms. Katz told me two or three years ago that she was trying to build a financial planning technology lab for students at the school.

The last time we had a chance to talk at any length was when we shared a taxicab to an airport somewhere about four years ago. Ms. Katz told me she was going to pull back from practicing as an advisor to become an educator at Texas Tech. I was mystified about why she would shift her life from being one of the best known advisors in the nation with a lucrative practice to become a teacher.

She yearned for more meaning in her life, she told me. She said teaching the next generation of advisors could be a way to make her life more meaningful.

Clearly, it has been.

CNBC Poll: Clients Have Lost Faith In Advisors

I'm not a big fan of CNBC and other financial TV channels. They're great at covering live news and breaking stories, but they are not so good at covering the deeper issues.

Print reporters covering the same issues at great publications, like Financial Times, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal will always do a better job because they have more time to think, they can choose from experts all over the world and not rely solely on sources that are close to a studio and who are colorful, and they can organize their thoughts better because they use the written word.

Fraud Outbreak Makes Posting Form ADV A Must

The Securities and Exchange Commission took emergency action Wednesday to charge Nashville, Tenn.-based investment advisor Gordon B. Grigg, 46, and his firm, ProTrust Management, Inc., with securities fraud, and the agency obtained a court order freezing their assets.

“The Complaint alleges that ProTrust, a Tennessee corporation with offices in Nashville, is engaged in ongoing securities fraud,” according to the litigation release posted on the SEC’s website earlier today. “The Complaint further alleges that Grigg is a purported financial planner and an investment adviser who controls ProTrust.”

The SEC alleges that Grigg and ProTrust defrauded at least 27 clients out of at least $6.5 million and misrepresented that their money was invested in the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and other securities that, in reality, do not exist. The SEC alleges that Grigg bilked investors by selling them private placements and then fabricated account statements for the non-existent U.S. Government-guaranteed commercial paper and bank debt.

Grigg and ProTrust consented to the emergency relief sought by the SEC. William J. Haynes, Jr., a U.S. District Court Judge for the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division, issued a temporary restraining order to prevent Grigg and his firm from further violations and froze their assets. While the ProTrust website is no longer online, the image to the right obtained by from WayBack Machine was previously on the firm's home page.

Grigg's scheme begain in 2003, according to the SEC complaint. In August 2007, the says charges, Grigg recommended that a client in North Carolina and a client in California, each of whom was a retired U.S. Air Force pilot, invest in “Private Placements.” Grigg “falsely and fraudulently” told the two piltos that the Private Placements were not available to individual investors but were available to his clients through the pooling of their funds. One client wired $237,000 and the sent $100,000 in cash.

Grigg, from approximately January 2008 through December 2008, faked monthly account statements to the North Carolina client, reporting positions in a $100,000 “Jumbo Corporate Debenture” with an 8.15% fixed annual return and a $132,000 “Kohlberg Kravis Roberts” investment product with a 14% fixed annual return. “In fact, no such investment products had been purchased by the Defendant,” says the SEC complaint, and no such KKR investment product exists.

Last month, the scheme took a new turn when, according to the SEC, Grigg mailed correspondence to the two pilots saying his firm “had access to debt guaranteed by the U.S. government through the government’s TARP program.”

ProTrust Management has been a very small participant in a partnership that is headed up by Berkshire Hathaway and Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts, or KKR,” Griggs reportedly wrote in a letter to both of pilots. “Via the partnership, ProTrust has purchased over eight million dollars worth of banking debt and commercial bank paper over the last five years with interest rates from 7.5% to14%. ProTrust was offered to participate in the latest offerings with Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sacks [sic] through investments and loans.”

Added Griggs, “I agreed with the partnerships and committed to over $5 million dollars of commercial paper offering 12.5% in government-guaranteed commercial paper and bank debt. Griggs, in the portion of the letter provided by the SEC, declared: “This is an amazing opportunity as we now have a U.S. government guaranteed 12.5% bank debt. If you do not want to participate in the 12.5% government guaranteed fund please send me the enclosed liquidation form.” An additional 25 clients were told a very similar story by Griggs, the SEC alleges.

Perhaps most disturbing is that Grigg was terminated as a registered representative of a broker-dealer on April 25, 2002 for multiple compliance violations. In addition, on June 28, 2006 Grigg and ProTrust were the subjects of an administrative cease-and-desist order issued by the North Dakota Securities Department. North Dakota ordered them to pay restitution and a civil penalty of $570,000 for falsely representing to a client that her funds had been invested in certificates of deposit and other securities. The state authorities found that Griggs and ProTrust had violated registration and anti-fraud provisions of the state’s securities laws.

The 2002 and 2006 charges raise questions about why regulators at FINRA and the SEC did not discover Grigg’s alleged scheme earlier. If the SEC charges are true, Grigg brashly continued his fraudulent ways two and a half years after the North Dakota securities regulators identified him as a repeat securities offender.

Grigg’s case is the latest in a series of frauds that have unraveled after the market fallout, when nervous investors began trying to redeem their money only to learn that it was gone. None of the recent fraud cases compare to the $50 billion Ponzi scheme allegedly perpetrated by broker-dealer Madoff Securities and its disgraced founder Bernard Madoff, but the number fraud cases involving investment advisors in recent weeks has suddenly escalated to what appears to be an unprecedented level.

On Monday, Nicholas Cosmo, a Long Island, N.Y. investment-firm owner, surrendered to federal authorities. Mr. Cosmo allegedly raised more than $370 million between 2006 and 2008 by promising investors 48% annual returns from funding commercial loans, according to a federal affidavit in support of his arrest. On Tuesday, authorities arrested Arthur Nadel, the missing Florida hedge-fund adviser, who was accused by federal authorities of defrauding clients of millions of dollars. Less than two weeks ago, A Hamilton County Indiana Superior Court judge froze financial advisor Marcus Schrenker's assets and those of his wife after Schrenker reportedly parachuted out of his company-owned plane over Alabama Sunday while the plane continued flying on autopilot before crashing into Florida swampland two hours later. After a manhunt, Schrenker was apprehended and is now in custody.

As of today, Advisor Products, a leading developer of websites for for financial advisors, is recommending that all Registered Investment Advisers it serves post a Form ADV on their website, or a link to the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website where consumers can view the Form ADV. In both the Cosmo and Grigg cases, prosecutors allege the advisory firms were unregistered. So a Form ADV provides assurance to clients and prospects that you are properly registered and subject to SEC inspections.

Latest news about the Grigg case.

Latest news about the Cosmo case.

Latest news about the Schrenker case.

Latest about the Nadel case.

Putting The Macarena, Charles Barkley & 10-Year Stock Returns In Perspective

Ten years ago, Will Smith was a rapper, Wikipedia did not exist, Charles Barkley—now running for Governor of Alabama—pleaded no-contest after allegedly throwing a bar patron through a plate-glass door, and many of us were still dancing the Macarena. A lot can happen in 10 years. Hey Macarena!

That’s why, in financial circles, 10 years means a lot. Ten-year returns have a ring of authority, bestowing an imprimatur of long-term success or failure on an investment manager or strategy. Ten years would seem to be long enough to smooth market bumps. It would seem to be long enough to include all kinds of weird market events. It would seem to be long enough to use as a predictor of future events.

It’s not. I hate to burst your bubble—after all, so many bubbles have been bursting lately—but a recent report from The Vanguard Group shows the follyCharles Barkley Mug Shot of relying on the predictive value of 10-year returns . The report, “The ‘Lost Decade’: Rational Expectations in Uncertain Markets,” is co-authored by Fran Kinniry, who happens to be the featured speaker at this Friday’s Financial Crisis Webinar.

Kinniry, along with co-author Christopher B. Philips, says in the report that the beauty of 10-year returns can be fleeting. For the decade that ended June 30, 2008, the broad U.S. stock market returned just 3.53% a year—and that, of course, was before the recent market rout. (Stocks in this period under-performed bonds, which had an average annual gain of 5.68%.)

Just a few years ago, stock performance looked much better. Kinniry, who runs Vanguard’s Investment Strategy Group, says that at the end of 2002, coming out of the most punishing bear market in 70 years, the 10-year average annual return for stocks was a perfectly respectable 8.74%. As the end of 2004, the 10-year average annual return on the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index, was a very healthy 11.92%. And the average annual stock market return for the decade that ended in 1999 was an astonishing 18.11%.

Rearview mirrors, known for making objects appear bigger than they are, distort our view of the future as well as of the past. “The challenge for advisors will be to put the historical results in perspective, presenting them as one somewhat unlikely path that stocks can follow, not as a reasonable basis for expectations of future performance,” says Kinniry.

To learn more, you are welcome to attend this Friday’s session. If you’re thinking of voting for Barkley or want to brush up on your Macarena moves, you definitely want to attend.

Surprise! Account Aggregation Works!

I’m shocked that it works so well, surprised it was not more complicated to set up, and amazed at how useful it is. I’ve got to admit that account aggregation from Advisor Exchange is good! It may even be on the way to becoming great!

The reason why I was so surprised is that account aggregation has taken so long to come of age that I began to think it might never really work. You see, when account aggregation first appeared a little over a decade ago, I was one of the first people to write about how great it was. I never thought it would take 10 years to get it right!

What happened? Like so many Web wonders, the excitement surrounding account aggregation in the heady dot-com days of the late 1990s gave way to real world problems. Formidable obstacles to adoption had to be overcome before aggregation could be used in an advisor’s practice.

One obstacle was that it was complicated to implement. A decade ago, no one had online accounts and almost nobody felt comfortable putting personal information online. Yet advisors had to convince clients to set up online accounts with brokerages, banks, mortgage companies, credit card issuers, and insurers, and then they had to pass on their user IDs and passwords to your firm. Or advisors had to do all of the paperwork and set up their clients.

Another obstacle to adoption was the increasing complexity over the last 10 years in online security. A second layer of authentication, known as “site keys,” was installed by banks, and institutions began automatically suggesting clients change their passwords every six months. With log-in parameters constantly changing, an account aggregation application might work one day and fail the next.

After the dot-com bust, funding for development of aggregation applications dried up. Many advisors gave up trying to make the troubled systems work. I, too, gave up on it and don’t recall writing about account aggregation in my magazine column more than once in the past 10 years.

So it was with great skepticism that I tried again recently. I acquiesced to requests from Advisor Exchange to create an interface displaying aggregated account data on our Personal Client Portal Platform. Whenever a client logs into his Personal Client Portal, a single sign-on with Advisor Exchange pulls in snapshot of all his accounts from brokerages, insurers, banks, credit card companies, mortgage banks, 529 Plans, 401(k) providers, and the full range of other financial product providers.

Following several months of development, the interface was finally completed two months ago. All I had to do was set up my own accounts to test the interface. It took me two months to do this! Which brings me to the main problem with account aggregation: the hassle involved with inputting your accounts passwords.

Truth is, I delayed inputting my account data for weeks because I assumed it would be a giant hassle. I assumed nothing much had changed with account aggregation. I was wrong. It was actually pretty easy. Take a look at the screen shots and you’ll see how the handful of real accounts—ranging from stocks held at Schwab, a 401(k) held at T. Rowe Price, and bank accounts are being aggregated. It took me about an hour to set up an aggregated view of six accounts.

Like I said, I am amazed that it works, that the data are useful, and that it was easy. Surprise! Account aggregation works!

For more information about the Advisor Products Account Aggregation interface with Advisor Exchange, call Barry Weinstein at Advisor Products at (888) 274-5755.

Thank You For Making My Life More Meaningful

In running Advisor Products Inc. for over 12 years, I’ve seen some wild market cycles. There was the roaring bull market of the mid-1990s, when large-cap growth stocks led the way for so long and by so much that some professional investors declared small-cap value stocks forever dead. Then, there was the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, followed by the dot-com bust of 2000, and the post-9/11 bear market. Then came the Bush bull market, which gave way in recent months to a collapse of confidence in America’s financial institutions and triggered a global economic crisis.

While I much prefer the ups to the downs, I have to admit to gaining some special satisfaction from this most recent flight from equities. It’s perhaps borne of the maturity that comes to us all in our 50s. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve been through so many market crises since I began covering Wall Street in the mid-1980s at The New York Daily News that this meltdown is somehow easier to bear. For whatever the reason, Advisor Products was better prepared than ever to help advisors manage the financial crisis.

I have to give some credit to my good friend, financial advisor Tom Connelly of Versant Capital Management. Tom scared the heck out of me last spring by telling me that there was about a 30% chance of a systemic problem occuring in the American economy. Tom is obviously a very smart guy and one of the more influential members of API’s Editorial Advisory Board. And when he told me in April 2008 that he was watching the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet, I for the first time understood the serious nature of the subprime mortgage problem. I began assigning our writers stories warning of the possibility of systemic financial problems and a bear market. By late spring, we were publishing articles on advisor websites and in their newsletters warning of a weakening Fed balance sheet and tempering client expectations for portfolio returns.

When the subprime problem erupted into a full-blown financial crisis and stock market collapse in October, we were prepared. We were ready with articles for advisor newsletters and websites that would help advisors communicate with their clients honestly, calmly, intelligently, and in a timely manner. Some of the titles of articles included:

  • How The Fed Played A Key Role In The Credit Crisis
  • Lessons Of The Auction-Rate Securities Crisis
  • How Will We Know When The Credit Crisis Is Over?
  • Fed’s Actions Are Swift And Unprecedented
  • In A Recession, Keep An Eye On Small-Cap Stocks
  • Regulators Won’t Regain Confidence Without Total Truth
  • SEC Concedes It Failed To Police Wall Street Properly
  • After Wall Street Failures, A New Order
  • Opportunities Amid The Wreckage

In early December, we expect the following articles to be back from FINRA review and released for use in our newsletters and websites:

  • Investment Implications Of The Federal Bailout Plan
  • Key Mechanisms Of The Federal Bailout Law
  • How The Bailout Law Changes The AMT
  • Lessons From The Wall Street Giants’ Fall
  • Managing Cash Flow In Tight Times
  • Don’t Make The Economy’s Crisis Your Crisis
  • Retirement Plans Changing Due To Financial Crisis
  • Your Referrals Are Appreciated Now More Than Ever

Like I said, I prefer bull markets to bear markets, but the work we’ve done to help advisors cope with the crisis has been incredibly fulfilling to me. You see, I had chosen a career in journalism because I wanted to help people. I wanted to do something to make the world better. But by the mid-1990s, when I was covering investing as senior writer at Worth, I had become cynical about my work. Covering personal finance for high-net-worth individuals had begun to make me feel like I was just making the world safe for wealthy people. By 1996, the year I founded Advisor Products, I had gotten married, started a family, and given up on elping people and making the world better. I wanted to just make a good living and take care of my family.

Lately, though, I’ve begun to feel like I am helping people again. If I can help you, Mr. and Mrs. Advisor, inform a retiree about how to avoid panicking in favor of planning, then I am one lucky guy. If we can together educate a pre-retired couple about how they can pull together college financing while still putting away enough to fund their retirement goals, then I can feel good about my work.

So, thanks. Thank you for putting me in a position where I can help you help your clients, thank you for making my company more successful than I had ever dreamed possible when I started it 12 years ago, and thank you for making my life more meaningful.

When A Rose Is Not A Rose

When writer Gertrude Stein said that “a rose is a rose is a rose,” she meant that things are what they are.

But sometimes that’s just plain untrue, as in the case of technology companies marketing client portals to advisors.

Many tech vendors serving advisors are marketing client-facing pages and calling them client portals, but they are using the term all too loosely. Portals are supposed to present information from a variety of sources on a single site. Search engine companies created the first portals by presenting email, news, stock prices, as well as search engine access, on a single page.

When a portfolio reporting application displays performance data on a page for an advisor’s client and calls it a client portal, that’s using the term inaccurately. When a financial planning system enables displaying planning data to clients and littl else, and calls the client-facing pages a "Client Portal," that is also using the term inaccurately. Same is true with CRM systems offering some client-facing features.

I've seen tactics like this before. In 1997, one of the big vendors that made websites marketed to advisors "Custom Sites" that were really little more than template sites with a few small fix-ups. It succeeded in confusing advisors. It's sad to see the same sort fo confusion all over again with financial portals for clients.

At Advisor Products, we’ve been offering a Personal Client Portals platform to fnancial advisors for a year now, and what we have is truly a financial portal for advisor clients. We use XML feeds to programatically import data from a long list of finanial advisor technology solutions including:

· Advisor Exchange

· Albridge Solutions

· AssetBook

· Black Diamond Reporting

· FinanceLogix

· Laser App

· Money Tree

· MoneyGuide Pro

· Orion Advisor Services

· PortfolioCenter

· XLR8

Advisor Products is actively developing interfaces to also enable display of data from By All Accounts and EZ-Data Smart Office, and we are in discussions with several other vendors to add them to the list.

Advisor Products, moreover, is developing client portals with RSS feeds from hundreds of website–feeds about health, sports, technology, science, the economy, and much more. Plus, Advisor Products content experts filter RSS feeds from personal finance websites to categorize them and ensure they are aligned with an advisor's perspective.

Financial content produced by Advisor Products deals with wealth management issues high-net-worth individuals care about and is personalized to each client’s interests.

Advisors can securely store clients' personal documents in an online vault that is integrated into the portal patform.

Financial advisors can post blogs to communicate with clients and expose blogs on heir public marketing website.

Advisors can assign or receive tasks in the To-Do Manager.

Outside professionals, such as an estate planning attorney or tax accountant, can also be permissioned to assign and receive to dos.

Feeds of market indexes, stock prices, and useful calculators are also provided as resources to clients.

The Advisor Products client portal platform provides real portals to the clients' of financial advisors. Advisor Products is not making CRM. Advisor Products is not making portfolio managment software. Advisor Products is not making a financial planning application.

Advisor Products wants to do one thing great: make the most flexible, complete, and fully integrated client portal system offered to advisors.

So, be skeptical when vendors tell you they have a client portal.

Some roses are not roses at all, but are every bit as thorny. Don’t get stuck.

Tell Vendors What You Think About Integration

Financial advisors for years have clamored for an all-in-one solution combining portfolio management, customer relationship management, and financial planning software into a single platform. Combining these three functions, which are essential to any advisory firm that wants to adhere to best industry practices, has been an elusive goal. Years ago, I branded the long-sought breakthrough application “The Silver Bullet,” evoking the legendary powers of the only weapon capable of killing a werewolf.

But the all-in-one application has proved elusive. So persnickety is the typical independent advisor (IA), he couldn’t work for anyone but himself. That’s why he chose to be an independent advisor. No single application incorporating portfolio management software (PMS), financial planning software (FPS), and customer relationship management (CRM) could ever be widely adopted. Uncompromising entrepreneurs don’t want a Veg-O-Matic—the kitchen appliance that sliced, diced, broiled, and boiled. A Swiss-Army-knife approach would be unacceptable.

Advisors want to choose each tool in their practice because they’re managing other people’s money. When your clients’ wealth is at risk, not to mention your livelihood and reputation, you understandably want the tools that work best for you. No wonder the typical advisor insists on individually picking his favorite PMS, CRM, and FPS applications. No wonder that advisors won’t settle for a CRM solution that’s “pretty good” even if it is integrated with a PMS system that’s great. You want things your way. You want technology tailored to you.

Getting that was basically impossible and the quest for the Silver Bullet didn’t get very far. Until now.

Web Services are now enabling advisor applications to talk with each other. These Web Services, which allow your PC to call data from a Web server—empower you to build your own Silver Bullet. If you purchase applications from vendors who are investing in Web Services, integration suddenly becomes easier. Your portfolio management application can feed data to your financial planning application. Your financial planning application can feed your website. And your website can feed your client relationship management software.

Just as the Veg-O-Matic gave way to blenders, juicers, and food processors, the one-size-fits-all Silver Bullet is giving way to new solutions using Web Services to create a new kind of Silver Bullet. eMoney Advisor, a financial planning application, uses a Web service to stream data from Cash Edge’s account aggregation application. Redtail Technology, a CRM system, uses a Web service to pull in contact data from Albridge Solutions. MoneyGuide Pro offers a Web service to pull in holdings data from BlackDiamond Reporting. The list could go on and on. Technology vendors of Web-based applications are typically able to build XML interfaces in 50 to 200 man-hours, which is not that big a commitment considering that it opens up each application to another’s user base.

For advisors, the Web Services provide significant improvement in efficiency and savings. They free advisory firms from re-keying client data into multiple applications, which saves labor and reduces errors. Service to clients is also improved because you no longer have to input all of the holdings every time you do analytics on a portfolio. If your analytics program, say Morningstar Principia, can take a Web Service from your portfolio accounting application or get it directly from your custodian, you are likely to run your analytics program more often.

A handful of technology vendors are leading the way by integrating with each other using Web Services. Please let me know which applications would you like to see integrated? Which integrations have been working well for you? Which have not worked well? Please comment. Vendors need to know what you’re thinking.

Albridge-Portals Alliance May Transform Financial Planning

The recent integration of Albridge Solutions’ portfolio performance reporting application and Advisor Products Inc.’s Personal Client Portals™ system makes any advisory firm more scalable, efficient, and client-centric. But what’s more exciting is that it will promote financial planning to millions of American households by making it easier for them to understand, measure, and manage their progress toward achieving long-term financial goals. Personal Portal Tour

Since the early 1980s, thought leaders, professional membership associations, and governing bodies have strived to professionalize personal financial planning so it can be embraced by the mass affluent. The elusive but irresistible goal has been to deliver financial planning advice within a prescribed, systematic, and ethical framework to the masses. The challenge has been that providing financial planning services while adhering to best practices articulated by the FPA, CFP Board, NAPFA, Fiduciary 360, and other such groups is extremely labor intensive.

Integration of API’s Personal Client Portals™ with Albridge Solutions has potential to support, engage, and communicate the entire financial planning process to millions of Americans who could never before receive such a full perspective on managing their money. Albridge’s web-based application is by far the most widely used portfolio accounting system for independent advisors. API’s client portals system provides each individual client of an advisor a secure personal financial portal and promotes collaborative, transparent, and trusting relationships between advisors and investors. Integration of these two applications brings together all of the necessary ingredients to enable financial planning to be fully embraced by the mass affluent.

Albridge calculates daily the value of positions and transactions on more than $1 trillion in assets invested by more than 1 million households. More than 100,000 financial advisors utilize Albridge, which has relationships with more than 150 independent broker-dealers. More than any other technology company serving independent advisors, Albridge touches the mass affluent—the families most in need of financial planning services.

With API’s system, each client experiences a totally personalized website. Data streamed into each client’s secure personal website from an advisory firm’s financial planning application, CRM system, and content provider shows each client’s portfolio performance in the context of his or her financial plans. The achievement of a client’s long-term financial goals, articles personalized to the client’s financial situation, and details about work the advisor performs for the client are the focus of each portal.

“To-Do Manager,” a feature of Personal Client Portals™, allows an advisor to remind a client about tasks that must be completed, such as “send in your account form,” or “create an automatic transfer from your checking account to your investment account.” To-Do Manager not only allows an advisor to assign a client a task and track its progress, it also allows the client to assign tasks to the advisor. (This feature can be disabled by advisors.) Allied professionals, such as an estate planning attorney, can also be enabled on the To-Do Manager. All To Dos are tracked as a discussion thread, allowing discussion of any action item and leaving a trail of communication until an action item is completed. To-Do Manager creates a viewable archive of completed tasks, creating a record for the client that shows all of the work an advisor has performed on his behalf, which supports a transparent, collaborative, and trusting relationship.

Integration of Albridge Solutions portfolio accounting data into API’s Personal Client Portals™ platform provides an opportunity for clients to see their portfolio statements alongside personalized information that is constantly being updated, thus deeply engaging clients in their financial plans. Investment performance is shown to be just one aspect of an advisory firm’s services. A client’s focus stays on long-term issues, and the patience, collaboration, and commitment needed from clients for successful financial planning are supported.

Opening up this new technology-backed style of collaborative financial planning to the 100,000 advisors using Albridge Solutions, and to their clients, provides a real step forward for the financial planning profession as well as a clear view into the future of advisor technology.

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