Financial Advisor Technology: 9 Apps to Improve Your Practice

This is a summary of panel discussion from the Tools and Technology Today (T3) Conference that took place February 11-13, 2013 in Miami, FL.

Moderator: Joel Bruckenstein, T3

Panelists:

This was probably one of the most popular sessions at T3. Unfortunately, the room was half the size it needed to be. People were standing and sitting all around and every seat was full of enthusiastic attendees. I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear that people were scalping tickets outside the door!

While it was crowded and started to get hot and stuffy towards the end, we certainly weren’t disappointed. Bill, Joel and Davis provided a smorgasbord of useful tech ideas that can improve efficiency and add value to many aspects of an advisors’ practice.

What tools can help improve client presentations?

idea FlightWinterberg and Janowski had a number of interesting suggestions in this area that would work both when your client is in your office and also when they are remote. There was also some discussion about whether to buy a large, flat panel monitor and hang it in the conference room or buy a bunch of iPads (or other tablets) instead.

Due to the explosion of tablets on the market, half of your clients under 50 probably have one already. So having meeting presentation software that supports mobile devices is not a bad idea. The many small screens option also frees you from conference room gridlock. You can hold presentations anywhere you like. Even outside, if it’s a nice day and your office has good WiFi range. These suggestions will work no matter which method you prefer.ideaFlight logo

Winterberg started off by recommending an app for sharing presentations on your iPad called Idea Flight. It uses aspects of an airline metaphor (i.e. pilot and passengers instead of presenter and audience) in their user interface. The “pilot” controls the presentation and up to 15 other iPads can be “passengers” and watch. The advantage of this form of presentation is that each participant has a high resolution, color screen only a few inches away. No straining to see the monitor or problem with viewing angles. The downside is that you need to have an iPad for everyone attending the meeting and your office needs to have wifi. With the price of technology dropping, this is probably not much of an obstacle. Second generation wifi-only iPads are available from Apple for only $399.

While their design is pleasant to look at and the app appears easy to use, there are some limitations. The biggest one is that it only supports sharing of PDF files. If all you need to do is walk clients through their performance reports or financial plans, then you probably won’t be bothered by this. However, if you would like to share your entire screen, other applications or video, then you should look at alternatives like join.me or Fuze Meeting (described below).

Idea Flight is a bargain at only $8 for the presenter and free for viewers.

You may want to wait before downloading this app since the most recent version appears to have introduced a number of bugs, which users are complaining about in the Review Section of the App Store.

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Which Financial Planning Software is Right For You?

This is a summary of panel discussion from the Tools and Technology Today (T3) Conference that took place February 11-13, 2013 in Miami, FL.

Moderator: Linda Brady, EnvestNet

Panelists:

I liked the composition of this particular panel.  Two of the well-established vendors that dominate the market matched with two upstarts looking to innovate their way to the top.  It made for a livelier discussion.

What is your firm’s approach to financial planning?

One of the goals of inStream Solutions is to amplify the ambitions of how software can help a wealth management firm, Murguia announced.  It’s difficult for advisors to justify their fees when they are always in a reactive mode, he claimed, so the inStream software can proactively guide clients through their life cycle to help them to make the right decisions in everything that intersects finance.

The investment-centric approach is dying on the vine, Murguia proclaimed, since building model portfolios has become a commoditized business.  Advisors who insist on staying investment-centric will probably succumb to LearnVest or someone similar, he said.  The advice industry has to  compete against retirement calculators and other free tools since advisors are using them on the side anyway.  Planning software should not only identify opportunities but also help coordinate them to keep advisors from having to go to a third party system, he said.

The folks at Zywave believe that there is both an art and science to financial planning, Strachan asserted.  They provide the science and the advisor provides the art.  Their software avoids complex optimization strategies in order to emphasize the advisor’s skills and their value added to the process, she stressed.

Tishkevich believes that the future of advice is in mobile since it can deliver effective engagement and improves client communication.  His firm released a mobile app called RetireLogix, which is available for both iOS and Android.  The app can be branded to become a sort of personal digital business card, he noted.

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Which Portfolio Rebalancing Software is Right for You? (2/2)

This is part 2 of 2 of a summary from a panel discussion at the Tools and Technology Today (T3) Conference, which took place February 11-13, 2013 in Miami, FL.  You can read part 1 here.

Moderator: Tess Downing, Financial Advisor, Fox, Joss & Yankee, LLC

Panelists:

Does your product update portfolios using real time prices before rebalancing?

iRebal retrieves the latest pricing as soon as a rebalance is run, Fava stated.  All of the recommended trades are created using dollar amounts instead of number of shares, since they believe this provides a better picture of how the trades will impact cash levels.  They convert this to the number of shares when trades are approved and also refresh the pricing, she noted.

Tamarac also offers real-time pricing as part of their rebalance and also real-time execution reports for equities and ETFs, Rembe said.  Also, when you tell the system to update the cash positions, it evaluates T1 and T3 settlement to ensure that the accounts won’t be short cash.  If they are, then it provides an option to put those trades on hold and execute them on a later date, he said.

TradeWarrior receives real-time pricing from an external feed that can be used to update positions before running a rebalance, Evans said.

Rowling pointed out that TRX was designed to focus on trading of Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA) funds, so they haven’t previously had a need for real-time pricing.  However, in response to recent requests from clients, they plan to support real-time pricing in a release sometime in the second quarter of 2013, she said.

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Which Portfolio Rebalancing Software is Right for You?

This is a summary of panel discussion from the Tools and Technology Today (T3) Conference that took place February 11-13, 2013 in Miami, FL.

Update: Since this topic has been so popular, I launched a series of articles on portfolio rebalancing software. Here are links to a few that you might find interesting:
Is MyVest the Right Portfolio Rebalancing Software for You?
IAS Responds: Which Portfolio Rebalancing Software is Right for You?
FolioDynamix Response to Which Portfolio Rebalancing Software is Right for You?

Moderator: Tess Downing, Financial Advisor, Fox, Joss & Yankee, LLC

Panelists:

Overview

What do four vendors of rebalancing software have in common? Quite a lot! All four vendors are custodian-agnostic and have cloud-based versions of their software. Although, there were some notable differences in the product offerings, which could help sway you one way or the other. This is not an exhaustive list of top vendors, but should provide a good overview of whether one of these four would be a good fit for your firm.Top 5 Rebalancing Software

Most of the advisors in the audience indicated that they were already using automated rebalancing software, which was surprising, considering that a recent Investment News survey reported that over 70% of advisors still rebalance manually or not at all. Hopefully, this panel imparted some insight as to the many benefits automated portfolio rebalancing can bring their practice. Continue reading

Unified Managed Households: The Holy Grail of Wealth Management?

This is a summary from a session from the MMI Tech & Ops 2012 Conference held in Jersey City, NJ last December. The subject of this panel was the Unified Managed Household (UMH) and the challenges and issues around planning, implementation and support.

Moderator:

  • Gary Jones, Vice President for Industry Operations, MMI.

Panelists:

How do you define what UMH is?

UMH is a value proposition for advisors, Morris stated. It is an opportunity for advisors to demonstrate their value and make better decisions.  Fortigent is a “Super-RIA,” he commented, their average client size is between $10-12 million and they use a lot of alternative investments.

Some advisors are worried that technology will make them obsolete. UMH is really more of an aggregation and articulation tool rather than the be all and end all solution, he observed.

UMH is nothing new in the industry, Bracken claimed. It’s what good advisors have been doing for years. They’ve been providing a “manual” UMH using various technology and legal pads.

Investors have many different accounts that can’t be combined, such as Roth IRAs, SEP IRAs and Traditional IRAs, Bracken noted. But advisors still need a way to review and talk about all of their accounts with their clients. Whether UMH or another technology solution is used, it must be part of an efficient and replicable process that can support Ultra-High Net Worth (UHNW) as well as emerging High Net Worth and Mass Affluent clients. Fidelity is looking to their technology partners to help make their existing UMH more efficient, he said.

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