Financial Advisor Marketing & Technology

Marketing & Technology For Independent Financial Advisors

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Archive for the ‘Practice Management’ Category

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.

 

Hardware For Protecting Client Data: A Highly Rated And Fun Webinar

Advisors who attended last Friday’s webinar on secure hardware generally gave the session very high ratings.

We managed to have some fun with this very serious topic when we raffled products provided by each of the vendors. Before the session, I wrote down a series of numbers between 1 and 100 and attendees chatted in guesses. (Though I momentarily feared the chat surge might crash the webinar, we averted disaster.)

Seagate donated a Dell Latitude D620 Notebook with a self-encrypting hard drive, which was won by Ross Heart of Heart Capital.

IronKey provided three of it 4 GB USB drives, which were won by Linda Cordoba of John Lyman Wealth Advisors, Mary Rose Sanger of Legacy Capital Partners, and Art Papale of QS, Inc.

Five one-year licenses to Lo-Jack For Laptops were awarded to Gene Gurley of Miller Equity Capital Advisors, Jason Kley of Vector Wealth Management, Susan Burns of Hall & Burns Wealth Management, Cheryl Morhauser of Cheryl Morhauser & Associates, and Adam Mosely of Charles Schwab.

While we normally try to avoid product pitches at the Financial Advisor Webinar Series, presenters were asked to talk about their products because that was the best way to tackle a topic so far afield from wealth management. Judging from the attendee comments, the direct approach worked just fine.

The three presenters each had a different security solution for advisors, but advisory firms probably need all three to begin to create a secure environment for client data.

Seagate’s Joni Clark talked about self-encrypting hard drives that come built into Dell, Lenovo, HP and other PCs and provide encryption without degrading performance. Hardware-based encryption is very different from drives secured by adding software and it is widely regarded as the strongest protection from traditional software attacks because the full drive is always encrypted and the encryption keys never leave the drive.

IronKey’s John Jefferies talked about his company’s secure USB drive that essentially self destructs if someone incorrectly enters a password repeatedly, and it also has a password management program, is waterproof, scans for malware, provides protection against key loggers, and other features.

Absolute Software’s Pam Seale spoke about LoJack for Laptops, a product that can be found at Best Buy and other retail outlets and that is an add-on option for many new computers. If your computer is lost or stolen, not only can police track it down but you can disable the drive remotely.

Join us this Friday, December 11 at 4 ET for our next webinar, when our presenter will be Ben Norquist of Convergent Retirement Plan Solutions. Ben specializes in teaching and training advisors about all aspects of the qualified retirement plan business and is focusing this session on how advisors can talk with clients and prospects about the Roth IRA conversion opportunity. This is the biggest strategic financial decision clients have had to make since the financial crisis. Norquist says that if you do not by the first of the year have a strategy for approaching and advising on a Roth conversion, you’ve probably missed the chance to get it right.

Below are the unedited comments submitted by attendees who were kind enough to fill in our survey and provide feedback about last week's session. Apart from one person who thought the session was “boring” and a couple of advisors who thought it was too technical, attendees appreciated our deep dive into a technology topic that does not get much attention in the trade press because it is so technical.

Here are the comments we received.

· Very good except for audio on the first speaker.

· Excellent. I will be purchasing each presenter's products in the near future.

· Improve it……make me a door prize winner :-)

· Very practical solutions to an important problem.

· It was great. Thanks for the opportunity to win things we can use in the office.

· Please create a compliance security checklist and the appropriate devices/software to implement compliance. Also cover using and securing Blackberrys and netbooks.

· Great information!

· Very Good

· Very good and informative to the risk and solutions in insurance and advisor maket.

· Very good, Needed more time to address all questions. Thanks

· Very timely info and very key to my needs of secure devices.

· Too long of commercial at the beginning.

· Good overview of a complicated subject. I didn't realize how much we were missing

· Would not accept access code when called in by phone.

· It was great!

· How can I think of any improvement when I hear my name winning a new laptop?! Fantastic! Seriously, it was a great topic that I have very little knowledge in but concerns with. (Guessing many other advisors as well.)

· Good but too technical. Not sure how the USB drive works. Do you put all your data on it? Just your secure data? Isn't that then easier to lose? Was really looking for a way to secure my existing data. The Seagate drive seemed to be the only automatic option.

· Great overview of three relevant products. I appreciate that the presenters offered lots of info while sticking to their allotted times.

· Improvement: put slides on AP website, not just a bit.ly link

· Lots of great information.

· Would have given 5s had there been more advisor-centric security discussions, such as responsibilities and notification requirements after security breaches and/or lost/stolen equipment.

· This was a great one. Highly relevant. Thank you.

· It was great, even though a lot of it went over my head. I'm not a techy.

· This was a very useful and informative webinar. Safety of client information is a top concern and this gave me some good info for follow-up

· This webinar seemed to be for IT folks who serve our industry or for advisors that really enjoy diving into the tech stuff. It was for the average advisor as I hoped it would be.

· Volume of the first presenter was very low. Everyone else was fine.

· I did not know that there were so many options for encryption

· Keep it simple -without the long speeches.

· It was not interesting – very boring.

· Excellent information, very eye-opening. Nice touch with the giveaways.

· Great info, rapidly communicated. Good speakers. Nice to have several speakers to fill the time!
These webinars are constantly improving. Many thanks.

· It was very good, but honestly over my head. I am going to share the information with our IT Manager.

New Features In AdvisorVault 2.5 Increase Advisory Firm Productivity

Increasing productivity at independent financial advisory firms, Advisor Products Inc. today released AdvisorVault 2.5.

AdvisorVault is an online platform for secure communications between advisors and their clients. It can be added on to any advisory firm website.

The free upgrade streamlines routine tasks to promote client service and increase efficiency. New features include:

Track Client Activities. An advisory firm can track files downloaded by clients from the vault system. When a client reads a PDF portfolio report, for example, an entry is created in the log.

Collaboration. An advisor can add an accountant, attorney, or other outside professional to the vault and enable access to all of his clients’ vaults, a single client’s vault, a specific folder in a client’s vault, or a single file in a client’s vault.

Document Search. An advisor can search for a file or folder by full or partial name of the file. For instance, if you name all clients’ third-quarter portfolio reports “3Q09_AccountNumber,” you can search all of your firm’s client vaults for “3Q09” to retrieve a list of all the third-quarter 2009 portfolio reports.

Help Videos. Clients can access video help for using the vault. A series of one- and two-minute videos show clients how to drag and drop documents from their desktop to the vault, enable access for other professionals or family members, and view portfolio reports. (A separate series of videos is also available to advisors showing how to administer AdvisorVault.)

Incremental Portfolio Uploads. An advisory firm using Advent Axys® or Schwab PortfolioCenter® can upload only the most recent portfolio data without affecting previously uploaded reports. For example, you can upload holdings and transactions daily, but performance data only quarterly. This reduces the size of the upload and speeds up the process of batch uploading reports.

Email Templates. A firm can now create and store customized template emails that notify clients when portfolio reports and other documents become available in their vault. Template emails for routine tasks, such as posting a performance report, provisioning a vault for a new client, and changing vault passwords can be sent in bulk or one client at a time. Text for many routine tasks are already written for advisors to use and can be edited. Each template merges the client’s name into the salutation and includes your firm’s branding.

Disclosures. Advisors can upload a disclosure that will appear on the bottom of every page of every client’s vault.

Client-Vault Audits. An advisory firm can export a list of client accounts associated with vaults. This makes it easy for firms to audit whether they have properly mapped each client’s portfolio reports to the correct vault.

AdvisorVault 2.5 can be added to any website, whether or not it’s hosted by Advisor Products, for $1,000 a year or purchased with an Advisor Products Platinum website for $2,100 a year.

For additional information, please call our sales department at 888-274-5755.

What Advisors Said About Last Friday’s Privacy Law Webinar

The Financial Advisor Webinar Series has been a lot of fun for me and now I am going to start sharing the comments advisors make every week about each session.

The comments are not always flattering. In fact, they're often humbling for me. But I appreciate that you care enough about what we're doing to give us feedback.

Below you'll find the comments advisors gave us after last Friday's presentation, "Privacy Law, Data Security & Advisors," featuring Brendon Tavelli, a privacy law expert at Proshauer Rose LLP.

Before reading the comments advisors gave us, here's some background.

The Financial Advisor Webinar Series started in early October 2006 when advisors—along with just about everyone else—feared the world financial system might collapse.

Advisors were gracious in their thanks and we've kept doing it every Friday at 4 ET.

We've now produced about 55 sessions. Almost all of them are available for replay, and CFPs are eligible to receive CE credit for replays of many sessions.

The success of the series was a key factor in my decision to start Advisors4Advisors (A4A).

At the end of every webinar, I ask attendees to fill in a survey to give us feedback.

We plan to automatically feed the ratings and comments into the A4A Event Center but have not yet attacked that project. Until we do, I'll publish the comments from the exit surveys here in my blog every week.

You can view the replay of the session on privacy law and advisors and receive get CFP® CE credit for viewing this session if you’re a member of advisors4advisors.

If you don't care about the CE credit, you can see it for free at Advisor Products.

Please also join us for the next session on Secure Hardware For Advisors on Friday, Dec. 4 at 4 ET. Our presenters will be product managers from IronKey, LoJack For Laptops, and Seagate. Registering for that webinar lets you receive a free six-month membership in A4A.

  • Interesting topic with lots of information that was new to me.
  • Brendon was very knowledgeable and well prepared. Great presentation. I like the way Andrew approaches the seminars; he is easy going and professional. No sales here!
  • Excellent as always!
  • Very useful information.
  • Excellent presentation.
  • I found it very informative and the takeaway slides are completed in a manner that will allow me to remember what was said during the webinar as I reference them now and in the future.
  • This was a clear, articulate guy. Good delivery, good information, and willingness to disclose when not certain.
  • EXCELLENT – EXTREMELY WELL PRESENTED. VERY HELPFUL.
  • Excellent and timely information.
  • It was very informational. The changes in technology happen faster than any one person can keep track of them so the enforcement follows right behind.
  • I enjoyed this one. It didn't end "right on time" when there were questions & other items to discuss.
  • All good. Maybe include a few practical examples (in some detail) of actions firms are taking to comply with the new rules.
  • Very good. We have a good privacy program in place although the info on Nevada regs was new to me.
  • Audio sometimes fades out.
  • I found it had timely, relevant information and was able to take away some good bits to share with my office. It would be great to have those slides if they are available.
  • Very good.
  • Great webinar – thanks!
  • Recommendations for software solutions.
  • Need more live examples of how to implement these new laws. Being an attorney, Brandon went for the max. In the real world, there has to be a reasonable method.
  • Thank you – I had no idea about these requirements in Massachussetts and Nevada. Keep up the good work.
  • Great! Things we'd not thought of before.
  • Very good.
  • Good, but left with more questions than I had before the webinar. To some extent it sounds like it is still fluid in terms of the ongoing evolution of regulations.
  • More specific references on how implement security measures.
  • More specific actionable items for advisors, less overview, particularly first half of the call.
  • Very generic. I was hoping for more specific information and best practices advice.
  • More Q+A.
  • Too technical. Boring presentation.

Troubling That More Advisors Did Not Attend Webinar About Privacy Law & Data Security

Call me nerdy, but I was excited to get an attorney from a national law firm who specializes in privacy law to present an overview on this topic geared to advisors. So I’m a little troubled that more advisors did not attend yesterday’s privacy law webinar.

Since starting the Financial Advisor Webinar Series in October 2008, in the throes of a world economic calamity, attendance to the live sessions has held steady. We attract 150 to 225 attendees to each webinar (and another 250 or 300 view replays every week). But yesterday’s live session attracted only about 140 attendees.

Massachusetts and Nevada recently enacted new privacy laws and advisors face growing responsibilities to protect personal data about their clients. Meanwhile, security breaches now occur daily. (The New York Times featured a front-page story about a data breach today.)

Data security, or lack thereof, is a dirty little secret right now among independent advisors. My guess is the problem is already quietly stinging advisors. Hackers are rampant and employees can pretty easily steal client data to set up their own practices. But admitting you had a data breach is kind of like confessing you had an STD. You just don’t hear about it.

I’m not saying the sky is falling and don’t mean to sound alarmist. I’m just saying it’s an important issue that advisors need to learn about.

Advisors commonly carry laptops with client data and use unencrypted VPNs to connect to their offices from their homes. And these are just a couple of the obvious ways advisors are exposed.

I’ve been trying to include reports of security breaches in the Advisors4Advisors Daily Digest to keep members informed and will redouble my effort in the months ahead.

My disappointment that more attendees did not show up at yesterday’s webinar should not diminish the value of the information imparted by the presenter, Brendon Tavelli of Proskauer Rose LLP.

Please view the replay of this session. You can get CFP® CE credit for viewing this session if you’re a member of advisors4advisors. If not, you can see it for free at Advisor Products.

And sign up to attend the next session, which deals with a related issue–Secure Hardware Systems For Advisors, on Friday, Dec. 4 at 4 ET. Our presenters will be product managers from IronKey, LoJack For Laptops, and Seagate.

Schwab PorfolioCenter On A4A

Schwab PortfollioCenter, a leading portfolio accounting and reporting application used by about 3,500 independent advisory firms, has posted its specifications to the Advisor Software Database at advisorsforadvisors (A4A).

A4A is a new practice management portal for independent advisors. A4A features an Advisor Software Database that allows advisors to compare the most popular professional software applications side-by-side and feature-by-feature. Just about all of the major software vendors in the industry are now participating in the Advisor Software Database by posting detailed specifications of their products. Advisors can write reviews and rate all of the software packages.

I’ve wanted to create the Advisor Software Database for about 10 years. It’s a totally unique tool that is not available anywhere else. It summarizes in minutes everything you need to know about different practice management applications. Basically, If you like my magazine column or this blog, you’ll find A4A helpful.

PortfolioCenter, a desktop application, owns a major share of the portfolio management software market among advisors serving high-net-worth individuals. According to the specifications Schwab filled in the Advisor Software Database, PortfolioCenter has 70 reports, including 10 graphical reports. You can run a report showing a client’s current asset allocation versus the target allocation, and you can report on Treasurys, corporates, zeroes, and mortgage-backs but not TIPS.

Schwab executives are going to be showing enhanced client reporting tools at the upcoming Schwab conference. We’ll keep you updated on details.

If you click on the screen shots in this post you’ll see an enlarged view of the Advisor Software Database showing you a comparison of PortfolioCenter, InterActive Advisory Software, and Portfolio Director. A4A is still in beta and we’re giving advisors a 30-day free trial right now.

Changes In My Blog

Those of you who regularly read this blog know that I cover a mix of news for independent advisors—technology, compliance, marketing and a wide range of other topics. I also write about what's new at my company, Advisor Products, which makes websites, newsletters, and brochures for about 1,800 advisory firms.

Apropos of my schizophrenic role as reporter and service provider to advisors, I am splitting this blog in two.

This blog will now only cover what's new at Advisor Products. Articles I write about industry issues will now be posted in my blog at advisorsforadvisors.

advisorsforadvisors is a new practice management website. It's in beta, but you can sign up now for a 30-day free trial. (Advisor Products clients will receive an email next week about how to sign up for a free one-year subscription.)

Two veteran financial journalists have teamed up with me to create advisorsforadvisors. Mary Rowland is a former columnist at The New York Times who now writes a monthly column for Financial Advisor, and Bob Casey started up and ran Bloomberg Wealth Manager and is now a managing director of the Family Wealth Alliance.

advisorsforadvisors has strong social networking and provides crucial information to run an advisory business, including:

· Links to all important market and economic news stories by 8:30 a.m. EDT every business day
· A way to objectively compare advisor software applications feature-by-feature, side-by-side
· Social networking features that connect advisors who practice the same way as each other
· Advisor reviews of software applications
· User groups for software applications
· Daily analysis of industry and financial news by veteran reporters and industry experts
· Free access to weekly webinars with CE credit for many sessions and replays of all webinars 24/7

Earlier today, I posted about a new integration of Interactive Advisory Software (IAS) with MoneyGuide Pro. You don't need to be a member of advisorsforadvisors to read to my blog. But you will need to become a member to get most of the site’s other benefits. I’m pretty sure you’ll find that it’s worth the $60 a year subscription cost, and you can cancel in the next 30 days if you don’t think so.

Read my post about the integration of Interactive Advisory Software (IAS) with MoneyGuide Pro.

Financial Planning Coalition Gets It Right

The Financial Planning Coalition (FPC) released a statement this morning clarifying its position on the Obama Administration regulatory reform proposal.

The FPC applauded the Obama Administration proposal to require a fiduciary standard of care to brokers, repeating a position first articulated in its release of June 18, the day after the Obama Administration’s white paper on regulatory reform was released. However, the FPC now also expressed concern that the fiduciary standard would be “watered down” by the proposal.

The FPC is a recently created group comprised of the Financial Planning Association, National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, and the CFP Board of Standards. Please note that my blog of June 18 swiped at FPC for not mentioning that the fiduciary standard could be watered down by the Obama proposal.

Apart from qualifying its support for the Obama Administration proposal, today’s FPC statement, which I’ve highlighted for quick scanning, clears up an important part of the Obama Administration’s June 17 white paper. The 88-page white paper called for establishment of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) to help protect consumers from bad financial advice. Some observers interpreted this to mean an entirely new regulatory regime would replace the current regulatory framework. Not so.

FPC explained that the CFPA’s jurisdiction “would cover consumer financial products such as credit cards, savings accounts, and mortgages, and possibly insurance, but notably leaving securities transactions and investment advice to the SEC.”

This makes a lot of sense. While coverage in the trade press would have led you to believe that the CFPA was taking over responsibility for regulation and enforcement of advisors, it’s clearly not. Point is, wrangling over regulatory reform is going on behind closed doors and we know little about the structure of what’s to come, much less who the winners and losers will be.

With that qualification, I’ll speculate that our government bodies and existing institutions are likely to be relied on more heavily as reform is implemented. My guess is FINRA will gain power to regulate RIAs advising consumers.

FPC’s effort to prevent the watering down of the fiduciary standard of care for clients is important. If brokers are fiduciaries but can continue to be compensated on commissions, then the fiduciary standard of care has no teeth. And if the U.S. government bans commission compensation of independent financial advisors, as was done last week by Great Britain’s Financial Services Authority, an extremely unlikely reform, then telling the difference between fiduciaries will be difficult.

Clearly, once the fiduciary standard of care is defined under a new regulatory regime, it could be watered down as to be almost meaningless. The reform measures may not make it easier for a consumer to know the difference between an advisor who puts a client’s interest above his own and one who does not.

The FPC’s release today is laudable for pointing this out and for giving advisors tools to speak out. The bottom of the FPC release contains “message points” advisors can borrow to write letters to legislators.

Building Client Loyalty

We’ve made it very easy for you to remind clients why they need you.

All the tasks you’ve completed for a client over the past 12 months are now conspicuosuly displayed on each client’s home page.

This important new feature in the Advisor Products Client Portal is integrated with Redtail Technology’s CRM. So when you input an Activity in Redtail, it shows up automatically in a client’s portal.

With advisory firms under financial pressure because asset values have plunged in the past year, showing each client a list of tasks you’ve completed is a way of building loyalty. In light of the bear market and advisor Ponzi-scheme scandals, it is critical to regularly include this information in client communciations.

Many tasks advisory firms handle for clients go unnoticed or are quickly forgotten. Clients may not know when you’ve spent hours rebalancing their accounts, updating their financial plans, or researching a problem by speaking with their attorneys or accountants.

The Advisor Products Client Portal Platform—the only advisor system dedicated solely to advisor-client communcation—makes it easy for you to remind clients of all the work you’re doing for them. It also provides a plethora of other information designed to strengthen your relationships with clients.

Redtail costs $600 a year and portals for 100 clients costs $2,200 a year. Together, these two best-of-breed applications form the solid core of any advisory firm’s practice management system. And they’re each integrated with almost all of the leading PMS and financial planning applications used by advisors.

Reducing The Rate Of Client Failure


Why do some advisors annually get fired by 10% of their clients or more while other advisors consistently lose just 2% or 3%?

With the impact of the financial crisis hitting advisory firms and clients alike, the answer to this question is critical and may not be that complex.

Clients fire you because they feel disconnected from you and your firm. They leave when you lose credibility, when you fail to touch them in meaningful ways, when you fail to confront their crucial financial issues with them.

Clients don’t fire you because of investment performance. They fire you because they feel you let them down and do not provide enough value.

When a client fires you, it’s not just you who loses. They, too, often lose. Clients that fire you may hire an advisor who is not as devoted or competent. Or they may try to manage their money on their own, which may lead to failure. When a client fires you, it’s often not just you who has failed. They also fail.

What can you do about it? How can you stem your attrition rate and help more people by giving them good financial advice?

The answer doesn’t lie in a new financial product; we have enough products. The answer is not in a new market-timing strategy; we all know diversification is the wise course because no one can predict the future.

The answer is in your communication with clients. It’s in your ability to draw people out, to make it safe for them to share with you their greatest fears, and your desire to actively listen and then meet their demons head-on with reason and intelligent solutions. The way to retain clients is to be deeply engaged in ongoing financial conversation with them about their greatest fears and dreams.

So I asked one of the world’s foremost experts on crucial conversations for help—the authors of The New York Times bestseller, Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When The Stakes Are High. To my amazement, the authors were intrigued and have designed a way for financial advisors to better understand how to conduct crucial financial conversations with clients.

Published in 2002, Crucial Conversations, has influenced millions of business leaders. “This is a breakthrough book,” said Stephen R. Covey, author, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “I found myself being deeply influenced, motivated, and even inspired.”

The authors of Crucial Conversations, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler, established a consulting firm, VitalSmarts, which has developed dozens of corporate training programs for dozens of Fortune 500 companies.

David Maxfield, a respected academic, was named head of research at VitalSmarts. Maxfield has taught at Stanford University and the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University. He is the recipient of Motorola University’s Distinguished Teaching Award and Stanford University’s Dean’s Award for Innovative Industrial Education. Maxfield is also the author of the 2007, Influencer: The Power To Change Anything.

Maxfield has been working with me to research how well financial advisors handle crucial conversations with clients. On July 10, at what promises to be a special session, Maxfield will lead a presentation at The Financial Crisis Webinar Series in which he will teach advisors the basic skills needed to conduct crucial conversations with clients. You can reserve a place at this free webinar now by taking a 10-minute survey designed to measure financial advisors’ ability to conduct crucial conversations with clients.

The full impact of the financial crisis has not yet been felt by advisors. Investors have been paralyzed by fear. Many advisors are likely to be fired in coming months as the shock of the crisis subsides. Please take the survey and join us as we all heal the wounds of the meltdown and try to learn from it.


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