A Quebec-based portfolio management software (PMS) company serving 7,000 Canadian advisors is coming to America. Croesus Finansoft, a nationally-known advisor technology company from Quebec, Canada, will set a new standard for value in performance reporting by U.S. RIAs.
For CFAs, CFPs, CPA/PFSs, CIMAs, CPWAs, and other investment advice professionals, Croesus, king of the ancient empire of Lydia from 560 to 547 BC and renowned for his wealth and notable gifts, is itself a gift to RIAs. In providing a highly sophisticated portfolio accounting, account reconciliation, and reporting for just $4,800 a year, Croesus is the lowest-priced PMS system for fiduciaries extent. It will push down the cost of technology and improve efficiency for RIAs.
Moreover, Croesus is breaking the pricing mechanism used by online PMS providers. Other online PMS systems charge based on the number of accounts an advisor put on the system. Not Croesus. It charges a flat fee per license for as many clients as you have.
For about $4,800 a year, a frugal RIA gets in Croesus an excellent PMS and performance reporting system with an iPad app for you and clients to view reports on demand. In addition, a CRM — that does not stack up against best of breed systems like Redtail but is built on a solid foundation for the future—comes with the package.
Croesus is a Microsoft .NET program. .NET is a popular development platform for building apps for Windows and allows developers to create sophisticated apps. Croesus uses a “smart client” that runs locally on your computer but is connected to an encrypted database on the Web. Smart Clients came about because businesses developing web applications to replace desktop applications saw productivity decrease because web-based user interfaces are typically slower than locally-run desktop apps. Smart Client applications bridge the gap between web applications and desktop applications. They provide the benefits of a web application, leveraging the internet and offering remote access to data, while also providing the look and feel in desktop applications.
At $4,800 a year, for a single license, an RIA gets a sophisticated PMS system. Croesus is GIPS-compliant (Global Investment Performance Standards), capable of multicurrency management and reporting, handles all methods of tax accounting (Actual, Average, FIFO, LIFO), and comes with an iPad client view with beautiful graphics. Croesus downloads and scrubs your data daily.
For many RIAs, price is the crucial factor in selecting a PMS system. Not only does Croesus provide excellent value for RIAs, but it supports an RIA adopting best of breed solutions, which is the lowest cost way for an advisor to create an integrated desktop. Croesus is likely to quickly become a serious contender. Croesus would not be so serious a new contender if it were a startup. It already has $350 billion of Canadian assets on its system.
The RIA Challenge
The biggest challenge to Croesus is that RIAs are much smaller than Croesus’ current client base. Croesus has 7,000 users but they are spread over just 60 firms. Croesus’ average client manages about $5.8 billion (with currencies at parity). Those are much larger firms than the average RIA managing private wealth. What could go wrong?
At $4,800, Croesus’ U.S. pricing will attract RIAs with $0 million to $5 billion AUM. RIAs at the low end of the AUM range require the most support, and Croesus could quickly acquire more low-end RIA-clients than it wants.
But—and this is a proverbial “big but”—Croesus is a 25-year old company. It’s doing the download and reconciliation for 7,000 advisors now. True, they’re not American RIAs, which indeed is a very special brand of customer to serve.
The $4,800 Question
For $4,800 a year, you get a single user license to Croesus. But an RIA can share a single license among multiple staff and professionals. Multiple users can log in with the same credential and use the app concurrently. Moreover, you can designate which advisor owns each client.
Guyaux volunteered none of this. However, knowing how incredibly cheap RIAs can be, I grilled him about how far one license could be stretched.
Guyaux said he would not recommend using one license across a firm with multiple advisors. You can do it, he admits reluctantly. Then, in a melodious French accent, Guyaux explains that an RIA sharing one login with multiple employees would lack an audit trail of each user’s activity on the system.
For an RIA, as a fiduciary, with two or three successful professionals, the single-license could indeed be unwise. The SEC or state might even regard it as a deficiency—if regulators had the attention span and resources to examine RIA systems in such depth. It’s safe to say that any list of best practices for private wealth advisors would not include using a single PMS system license for multiple IA reps or support staff. For liability reasons and just to keep everyone honest, everything a fiduciary does for clients should be transparent and trackable in a database. Another big negative in sharing one user name and password is that an RIA owner’s portfolio cannot be hidden from your staff and other advisors. Anyone with your login credentials can look at your portfolio and your client portfolios and generate orders.
In addition to the annual software and reconciliation fee of $4,800, Croesus levies a setup fee, of $2,275 for on-boarding, training, and customizing your reports to your branding. To convert your data from another PMS system, a separate fee would be levied that is determined on a case-by-case basis and can vary depending on how many accounts are being converted, the amount of historical data that must be converted, and whether your database is logically structured.
The $4,800 a year price applies to an RIAs first five users. Adding six to 49 users costs $3,360 each per year. These prices are discounted by 5%, however, for TD Ameritrade Institutional. TDAI is the first custodian so far to integrate its brokerage system with Croesus. Guyaux says that, as advisors using other custodians seek to adopt Croesus, the company will build additional interfaces. “We’d love to integrate with Schwab,” says David Mastroberardino, a Croesus product manager. Adding an interface will cost an advisors 10% more than their annual license fee. So if you’re paying $4800 a year, it would be an additional $480 annually for each additional interface.
Other Notable Features
Advisors can change security prices if they see an error in a report. That’s important, since some online apps don’t allow advisors to touch their data.
A rebalancing function is included that allows as an advisor to create model portfolios and rebalance against the model.
Total Rebalance Expert (TRX) today announced an integration with Morningstar Office, a portfolio management platform that includes Morningstar's research and analytics on mutual funds, stocks and other investment products.
With integration of Morningstar's portfolio management software system, TRX is positioned to become a major player in portfolio rebalancing for advisors because it is an independent rebalancing program not connected to any single portfolio management software system, CRM or planning application. Because TRX is a standalone rebalancing app, with no CRM, PMS or financial planning app to sell, it costs much less than most other rebalancing systems. It supports allowing advisors to choose best of breed apps.
Other rebalancing apps are tied to a CRM system or are offered as an all-in-one app, and advisors often don't like one aspect of the application, or being reliant on a single company or custodian for their technology platform.
Because TRX is a standalone app, it can be added to a many PMS systems. It frees an advisors to choose a CRM or planning system separately. While all-one-apps often are easier to set up, integration of independent web-based apps provides the same or more features, allows RIAs to choose best of breed apps, and costsan RIA much less.
With higher tax rates expected in 2013, tax rebalancing of portfolios is becoming increasingly important.
TRX allows RIAs to find the best tax lots to trade out of across their entire client base while using a modern portfolio theory approach to rebalance tax-efficiently across a client’s entire portfolio. To differentiate themselves from online apps offering portfolio advice and to have a competitive advantage against less rigorous advisors, wealth managers increasingly are junder pressure to provide advanced tax rebalancing capabilities.
When TRX was founded in 2008, it only integrated with PortfolioCenter. TRX's integration with Morningstar's PMS system comes just weeks after the company announced integration with Orion Advisor Services. The founder of TRX, Sheryl Rowling, is a CPA who runs an RIA and she is a blogger on A4A.
Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) recently released a study looking at wealthy investor’s attitudes about how they use technology and how they engage with their financial advisors. The FPA recently released their 2012-2013 compensation study. Here are highlights from both studies.
Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) Wealth Management Study
This is the second annual report from Cisco’s IBSG highlighting findings from their study on wealthy investor’s attitudes regarding investing, their relationship with their financial advisor, and how they prefer to interact with their financial advisor. For the study, Cisco IBSG interviewed more than 1,200 wealthy investors in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany.These investors had $500,000 or greater in investable assets.
Some of the key findings highlighted in the report include:
More than 27 percent of wealth U.S. investors don’t have a financial advisor. More than two-thirds of these said they would consider hiring an advisor under the right circumstances.
Of wealthy investors in the U.S, 77 percent have assets at more than one firm and 36 percent have assets with four or more firms.
Only 29 percent of the investors under age 55 trust the financial advice they receive from their advisors more than that of fellow investors.
Investors under 55 have a strong interest in services that incorporate visual, virtual, social, mobile, blog, and webinar activities and 57 percent of U.S. investors are willing to move assets to firms that provide technology-based services.
According to industry figures, as much as 98 percent of client assets leave the advisor when the second spouse passes away. To retain clients and the wealth this represents, financial advisors should increase their interactions with the families of clients, particularly the next generation by using video and collaboration technologies.
More than 20 percent of wealth investors in the U.S. and U.K. live more than 50 miles from their financial advisor, resulting in less face-to-face meetings.
Forty-nine percent of wealthy investors consider themselves to be “early adopters” of technology or in the “early majority” of those who use new devices and services.
Seventy-one percent use a PC to check or manage their investments at least once per month and 28 percent use smartphones and 24 percent use tablets
About 50 percent of wealthy investors have used some type of video to communicate with friends, family, or colleagues in the past year.
Sixty-one percent of under-55 investors want the option of having video meetings with advisors (in addition to in-person meetings).
The last seven bullet points all refer to technology trends affecting investors and their relationship with their advisor. Advisors should consider these shifting trends as they build out their technology portfolio to communicate with clients.
There is also becoming less need to have as many face-to-face meetings. Video chatting, video calling, meeting online, and collaborating online are all fast becoming requested preferences, particularly among younger clients. For clients that are farther from your office, or live out of state full-time or part of the year, video meetings make a lot of sense.
Although Cisco has a vested interest in making a connection between their solutions with some of these findings, I believe this study, as well as others, clearly shows there is a shifting trend in how advisors should communicate with clients. This is becoming increasingly evident as we look at how the next generation of clients prefers to communicate- shorter, more frequent contact as opposed to longer, but more infrequent communication.
In a future post, I will take a look at the options available to advisors for communicating and collaborating with clients.
2012-2013 Financial Planning Compensation Study
The Financial Planning Association (FPA) released its compensation study, including information on compensation, incentive, and benefit data for positions including financial planner, technical specialties, and support staff.
The study breaks down the information by firm size, region of the country, and job position, among other criteria.
Key information included in the report:
Average salaries, bonuses, and incentives for your region of the country.
Compensation by various firm and individual characteristics.
Benefits and incentive info regarding how many firms provide which specific benefits and incentives.
Amount and time off type provided by firms
If you are not an FPA member or are an academic industry participant (students and instructors), you can still order the study. It is only available in electronic format.
The number of applications needed to run a successful advisory business is extensive. In addition, the highly competitive nature of the business requires advisors to invest in software that allows you to create efficiencies, and more importantly to provide superior and more specialized client service. To accomplish these, you must implement software that reduces the number and types of manual processes (work) done in your business.
In my last post, I discussed the importance of developing a technology plan as part of your strategic plan.Since we are fast approaching year-end and many of you are looking at strategic planning and budgeting for 2013, consider implementing the software solutions discussed below.The cost of these is sometime viewed as being “expensive” but the payoff of each nearly always makes them a wise purchase. This is particularly true when considering staff time spent running these processes manually. By implementing this software, their time could be shifted to more client-centric and higher-margin activities.
My list below doesn’t consider the more widely used, and typically high ROI software cited as being used in financial advisory firms such as customer relationship management (CRM), financial planning, or portfolio management software. Rather, the list below looks at software that isn’t as widely used in advisory firms.
The 2011 technology survey in Financial Planning magazine pointed out that the top responses to the question “What is the single greatest business challenge you would like technology to solve for you?”
1.Improved workflow 40%
2.Time management 20%
3.Client communication 17%
4.Locating data within the organization 6%
5.Locating data outside the organization 5%
Each of these responses clearly indicates that advisors know what they want and need their software to accomplish.Depending upon the specific challenge faced by advisors, these responses point to the need for firms to adopt the software highlighted below.
Another question in the survey asked “What type of technology investment has yielded a significant ROI?”
The top two responses, not surprisingly, were CRM and financial planning software.However, just down the list were document management software and rebalancing software. Evidence is beginning to show that advisors are seeing a high return from implementing this software.
Further supporting the need for advisors to utilize these software tools are the responses given in the Investment News Tech Survey. It looked at the types of software and the vendors most often used and also highlighted the percentage of firms not using each type of software. Here is the percentage of firms not using the following software: Rebalancing (70.7%), Account Aggregation (65.4%), and Document Management (47.8%).No breakdown was given for Reporting software. There are a high number of firms not using software that can help solve the challenges listed above!
From conversations I have had with advisors and vendors, as well as from additional research conducted by some vendors, there is strong evidence that firms are seeing a high ROI from using this software.
Here are four software additions to your firm that help solve the challenges reported above and also have a high ROI.
REPORTING (REPORT ASSEMBLY)
Why It Is Important: Reporting software is software that allows advisors to create reports from information housed in multiple sources.This is most often done when creating quarterly performance reporting for clients.You probably send a client letter and/or market summary from Word, portfolio statistics or graphs from Excel or another analytics program, and performance reports from a portfolio management system.
Printing, collating, and mailing reports for each client every quarter is extremely labor intensive, even if the process has been automated a little using a script or macro. Quite a few firms spend days or many hours manually creating and collating these reports.
How It Offers a High ROI:Although there are not any studies that I’m aware of that have specifically focused on reporting software ROI, I have spoken to many of the vendors in this space.They have provided anecdotal evidence from working with clients.What typically occurs in the firm is that the time spent on reporting is drastically reduced, from days to hours or from many hours to minutes. Less time and fewer employee hours are needed to complete the reporting process after implementing this software. Employee(s) responsible for completing the task can be shifted other higher-margin tasks after implementing Reporting software.
The cost of this product only runs a few thousand dollars per year. The software is quickly set up and the payoff is immediate when creating your next quarterly report.
Why It Is Important:Rebalancing provides many advantages to the advisor in addition to moving between asset classes or holdings easily and swiftly. A few of the advantages include:
·Ability to add scale and capacity without adding staff
·Increased allocation and trading capacity
·Improved quality control
·Improved client service
·Less worry about portfolio oversight
Not only does implementing rebalancing software offer the advantages, and others, listed above. Performing the rebalancing process manually, or even semi-manually using spreadsheets, is a process is fraught with potential keying errors.
How It Offers a High ROI:Many of the vendors and advisors I have worked withhave examples from clients on how the software has paid for itself, often many times over in a short amount of time.Typically, the advisors rebalancing process time has been reduced from days to hours, or from many hours to a few hours. Again, your employees can shift their activities to those that offer a higher margin and are more client focused.
Total Rebalance Expert (TRX) put out a white paper last year titled Measuring the Return on Technology Investment Total Rebalance Expert.The paper details evidence on how TRX has provided a high ROI for their clients.Although the paper is focused on TRX, the same process applies to implementing any rebalancing software.
Why It Is Important:Document management software allows firms to more efficiently manage workflow, organize client documents, and retrieve documents in an efficient and timely manner.
Advisory firms need to effectively develop processes and workflows and manage and retrieve large volumes of documents to offer improved client service and satisfy increased compliance demands. In order to manage all the client and firm documents, this software is rapidly becoming a requirement for growing advisory firms seeking to operate efficiently and effectively.
How It Offers a High ROI:As a firm movesaway from generating so much paper and moving toward using document management software, the result is a huge reduction in employee time spent dealing with paper documents. When paper isn’t being generated, copied, collated, stapled, filed and delivered, employee’s time is reduced dramatically resulting in needing less employees or shifting of tasks.
One of the leading document management companies, Laserfiche, put out a white paper titled ROI for RIAs: The bottom line impact of enterprise content management for independent registered investment advisors. In the paper, they detail the key areas that impact ROI for advisory firms and how those translate into a high ROI.Although the report specifically focuses on Laserfiche, the results can be similarly applied to other document management systems.
Why It Is Important:Aggregation software allows advisors to gather asset information from assets not under their direct custody, providing advisors with a total view of their client’s assets. Client’s sometime don’t realize the importance of having their entire portfolio monitored by their advisor. Providing this service for clients can set your firm apart from the service offering of other advisors. Advisors can also generate additional revenue by charging a fee for managing these held-away assets.
How It Offers a High ROI:Although it is a little more difficult to make a case for aggregation software having a high ROI, I would argue that utilizing the software does provide a high ROI. By offering the service for your clients, you are providing a service not offered by less than half of all firms based on the statistics stated above. Since you can also charge a fee for managing these assets, you can easily recoup what you spend on implementing and managing the aggregation process.
As you begin to consider your technology budget for 2013, consider adding each of these software tools to your technology portfolio.Consider all the benefits and weigh them against the costs. You will find that each software tool provides a high ROI.
Free Samples: Take This Risk Tolerance Questionnaire And Let Us Know What You Think Of It
Thursday, November 29, 2012 20:19
Geoff Davey, founder of FinaMetrica, has advanced the field of risk profiling worldwide. His web-based system is used by advisors in 16 countries in six languages. More than 400,000 risk profiles have been completed since 1999. He's given A4A a link to a free sample of his risk profiling system.
Please take the free risk tolerance questionnaire and then share your thoughts about it here. Post a comment letting us know what you think of it.