Top 10 Most Popular Posts from 2013

What were the most popular WM Today posts from 2013?  Portfolio rebalancing, financial planning and anything mobile were big draws last year.  Here are the top 10 according to stats from WordPress:

10. 5 Ways a Web Portal Can Excite Your ClientsJunxure logo

This summary from the fantastic Technology, Tools & Today (T3) conference highlights how software vendors need to continuously expand and evolve their product offerings in order to stay relevant.  Junxure CRM has done this by building their ClientViewLive portal, which acts as central integration hub for all other wealth management products.  Through it, clients can access their account holdings, performance reporting, online statements even financial planning tools via a single sign on and a well-designed user interface.

9. Which Portfolio Rebalancing Software is Right for You? Smartleaf’s ResponseSmartLeaf logo

Part of an ongoing series of articles focusing on automated software rebalancers, I thought it would be interesting to interview different vendors and compare their products and their approaches to portfolio management. Continue reading

Financial Planning in 10 Minutes or Less with goalgamiPro

Origami is the Japanese traditional art of paper folding and is made up of two smaller words; “ori”, meaning to fold and “gami” meaning paper.

goalgamiPro (which starts with a lowercase ‘g’) is not an ancient art form, but the name of a software product developed by Advisor Software Inc. (ASI).  It is designed to be a “lite” financial planning tool that enables advisors to create financial plans in as little as ten minutes.

I recently spoke with Neal Ringquist, President and COO of Advisor Software Inc. about their software and how ASI is planning on revolutionizing the financial planning process.

While origami began sometime in the 6th century C.E., goalgamiPro has a more recent origin.  It was launched 12 months ago and was designed to fill the gap between calculators and widgets on the low end and comprehensive planning software on the high end.  goalgamiPro is a quick planning solution and already has around 500 users. It produces modular, single page reports that have questions as the title, such as “What is my plan” and “How do I pay for retirement?” And take just ten minutes to produce. Continue reading

Adventures in Rebalancing: The Last Frontier

FA Magazine recently published a good primer on automated solutions for portfolio rebalancing. The article is titled The Last Frontier and was written by James Picerno and it is definitely well-researched. He managed to obtain quotes from industry experts such as Bill Winterberg, Joel Bruckenstein and Michael Kitces, all of whom I have tremendous respect for. The article is certainly a useful resource for any RIA or advisor interested in the basics of rebalancing.

Besides discussing the basic functions of rebalancing, Picerno also gets into some of the more esoteric features that make rebalancing software so incredibly useful. Here is a quote from a lesser-known industry expert:

Technology circa 2013 offers a better way, for reasons that go beyond easing your workload. “You’re also going to provide better service for clients,” says Craig Iskowitz of the Ezra Group, a financial technology consultancy. Rebalancing software, he explains, makes it easier to build and manage custom investment strategies, such as a socially responsible portfolio that closely matches an investor’s preferences.

Portfolio customization has been available for more than a decade on systems such as Fiserv’s Unified Wealth Platform, which is still based on what was formerly known as Checkfree\APL. While it’s true that most of the top vendors in the space offer this feature now, you didn’t have to wait until “technology circa 2013” in order to take advantage of it. Continue reading

Inside the Minds of Barron’s Top Financial Advisors

This is a summary of a panel from the Fiserv Client Conference Spring 2012, which was held in Las Vegas, NV.


Sterling Shea, Managing Director, Head of Advisory & Wealth Management Programs, Barron’s.


Ed Dollinger, Edward Jones, 26 years – manages $500 mm

Theresa Chicopolos, CFP, Wells Fargo, Scottsdale, AZ, 26 years – manages $1.16 bil in Ultra-HNW and Institutional assets, she was the #1 ranked advisor in Arizona in both 2010 and 2011.

John Waldron, CFP, Founder and CEO of Waldron Investments, $2.2 bil AUM, HNW individual and institutional clients, #1 ranked advisor in Pennsylvania.

What functions are you allocating more time to now than you did five years ago?

net new flow of money is concentrated in a small number of advisors, these advisors adapted their methods of communication and internal processes to the evolving consumer needs.

Chicopolos has been steadily reducing the number of client relationships over the past ten years in order to concentrate the firm’s focus on fewer while still increasing the overall AUM. 10 years ago, she had 3,500 clients and it was mostly transactional business. 5 years ago she was down to 280 clients, and today she has just 75. She spends more time now looking at her client’s entire balance sheet and making sure that they execute the plans as they are designed.

Waldron Investments is a consulting firm with 26 employees that has an independent asset management offering that integrates with the other seven financial disciplines. Five years ago they were mostly doing the same things as today, which is understanding the client’s entire balance sheet and implementing financial strategies. What has changed significantly is their client’s psyche, he said. More clients are doing due diligence on them than five years ago.

Previously, Dollinger’s firm focused more on portfolio construction, but now they’re focusing more on strengthening client relationships. Over the past five years they’ve been trying to reduce the number of client relationships and increase the amount of assets at the ones they have, he said.

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Empowering Consumers in the Digital Age – Part 2

This is a summary of a panel session from the Fiserv Spring 2012 Client Conference and is part 2 of a two part series.  You can read Part 1 here.

Don MacDonald, Executive VP & Chief Marketing Officer, Fiserv

Benny Higgins, CEO, Tesco Bank
Jonathan Carson, CEO Digital Nielsen – leads their digital business since they acquired his company, BuzzMetrics, in 2007.
Debra Hopkins, Chief Innovation Officer, Citi – has been CIO since 2008.

What can the financial industry learn from the transformational changes driven by the Internet?

The big thing that drives success in transformations is a relentless focus on the consumer, Carson argued.  Industry leaders that subsequently failed ignored this concept.  For example, the music industry was in love with their business model that relied on consumers having to repurchase their music with each change in media format.  They used technological innovation to extract more money from their customers without corresponding improvements in the quality of their products, he noted.

The digital age taught consumers that they could have any music they wanted on any of their devices through peer-to-peer networks, Carson reminded us.  It became a valid distribution model in their eyes because the industry didn’t provide a viable alternative.  The television industry learned from these mistakes and decided not to be greedy.  Instead they are experimenting with multiple distribution models in order to provide the “dream” scenario to the consumer, which is “I want to access any content, in any format, on any of my devices, at any time I choose”. Continue reading

Empowering Consumers in the Digital Age – Part 1

This is a summary of a panel session from the Fiserv Spring 2012 Client Conference and is part 1 of a two part series.

Don MacDonald, Executive VP & Chief Marketing Officer, Fiserv

Benny Higgins, CEO, Tesco Bank
Jonathan Carson, CEO Digital Nielsen – leads their digital business since they acquired his company, BuzzMetrics, in 2007.
Debra Hopkins, Chief Innovation Officer, Citi – has been CIO since 2008.

How is your company dealing with the changes happening in the industry?

The panel started off with Higgins reciting a line from Echoes of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which was written in 1931 about the Great Depression:

It ended two years ago, because the utter confidence which was its essential prop received an enormous jolt, and it didn’t take long for the flimsy structure to settle earthward.

He related how he thought this quote could have easily been written in 2010 about the Financial Meltdown.  People think that the change they’re experiencing in their lives is unique, but the concept of change has been with us since the beginning of human civilization.

A company is defined by the decisions made by its leaders, Higgins continued.  Unfortunately, the financial industry in the United Kingdom tends to punish customers for their loyalty, rather than rewarding them, he said.  This statement is validated in a 2011 study of the UK banking system by Bain & Co:

Retail banks have long been more preoccupied, appropriately, with countering threats of fraud and satisfying regulators than focusing on the damage that their me-too products, hidden fees and indifferent service have done to undermine consumer trust. They now face unprecedented customer unrest at a time when regulatory scrutiny is ramping up under the aegis of the newly created Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

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Operational Hurdles for Advisory Solutions – Part 1

How does the regulatory environment look from a technology and operations perspective?  Recently, there was a surprise SEC ruling on uniform fiduciary standards that’s caused a lot of concern on the broker-dealer side about what it means for their reps to be fiduciaries. Also, RIAs will have some of the same requirements for data retention and collection as broker-dealers. What do regulatory standards mean for us as an industry? 

This post is a summary of a session from the MMI 2011 Fall Solutions Conference that was held in NYC.  It is part 1 of a 2 part series.

Heeren Pathak – CTO, Vestmark, Inc. Responsible for continued development and direction for the wealth management platform.

John Ashefski – Senior VP & Managing Director, Investment Management Services, SEI Investments. John is responsible for SEI global outsourcing services.
Cheryl Nash – President, Investment Services, Fiserv. Cheryl is responsible for driving strategic vision and direction for Fiserv’s managed accounts platform solution.
Chandresh Iyer – Managing Director, Head of Global Custody & Investment, Citi Global Transaction Services. Chandresh is responsible for P&L, including product strategy, business management and client franchise development across investor client segments including fund managers, hedge funds, banks, insurance, wealth managers.
Roger Paradiso – President and Chief Investment Officer, Private Portfolio Group, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. Roger was the originator of the unified managed account and is responsible for the UMA platform at MSSB, driving technology direction, product development and investment policy.

What can firms do now to prepare for upcoming SEC regulation changes, even though theyhaven’t been finalized?

Cheryl was at the Tiburon conference last week and there was lots of discussion around the SEC ruling.  The consensus was that the Uniform Fiduciary Standards won’t be implemented until after the election.  From Fiserv’s perspective, a lot has to do with transparency, understanding what’s in your investment models and how visible it is to the end investor.

Fiserv has invested a lot to ensure transparency in their solutions, Cheryl noted. Starting with important front office functions such as planning and investment policy statements and making sure they translate through to trading and reporting to support execution of an investor’s household plan.

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