Quarterly Market Summary Makes Performance Reporting Easier

Quarterly portfolio reporting can be stressful enough for financial advisors — dealing with delivery of the reports electronically or in the mail is a major hassle — but the task is even more difficult when you must write a market commentary to accompany your quarterly client reports.



Next time you need a quarterly market update to send with your portfolio reports to clients, take a
free trial of Quarterly Market Summary from Advisor Products.



Quarterly Portfolio Reporting

Quarterly portfolio reporting is a major hassle for RIAs. Printing, collating, and stuffing is time-consuming, and everything must be absolutely perfect.



When quarterly portfolio reporting is further complicated by having to research and write a quarterly commentary, the project becomes downright stressful.



Making matters worse, the trailing 10-year total return on the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index shows an annualized 1.6% loss! Long-term investors have been slammed!



Getting help with writing about what’s happening in the markets makes quarterly portfolio reporting easier.



Quarterly Market Update

There is no substitute for your own words in explaining portfolio performance to your clients. So Quarterly Market Summary enables you to personalize your message to your clients.



Most of the content you need to write to accompany your performance reports is comprised of facts about the economy and markets. Quarterly Market Summary provides you with that text. You simply personalize it.



Outsource To Financial Writers

Why reinvent the wheel? Is it smart to spend your time or assign staff to compile statistics summarizing performance of stocks, bonds, industries, interest rates, foreign markets, GDP, inflation, employment, currencies, and other key data? Are you professional writers? Will you proofread everything?



Quarterly Market Summary is written by a seasoned financial journalist. A financial editor with 30 years of experience re-works it. It’s then proofread by yet another financial writer and sent for review to several financial advisors.



Quarterly Market Summary is delivered in a Microsoft Word document so that you can rewrite and repurpose it easily.



Quarterly Market Summary Free Trial

To take advantage of our no risk, free trial offer,
register with Advisor Products. Registration also gives you access to replays of our educational webinars and our MarketingSmart e-newsletter for advisors.



If you are already registered with Advisor Products,
log in here for your free trial of Quarterly Market Summary.



To see a sample and get more information about Quarterly Market Summary, visit
our site.








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Bug Fix Coming For Collaboration With Outside Professionals In AdvisorVault


A fix is on the way for a bug in AdvisorVault that will enable advisors to share a single file with an allied professional.



AdvisorVault was developed principally to enable financial advisors to securely store files they want to share with clients, but it also enables advisors to collaborate with professionals outside your firm--CPAs, attorneys, geriatric care managers, personal coaches, business consultants and other professionals with which clients work.



You can enable an allied professional to have permission to view and upload a client's entire vault or just a single folder in a client's vault. You can also enable an allied professional to access his or her own vault and only see what you post in that vault. These collaboration features are working fine.



However, we have discovered a bug in the app that is preventing advisors from sharing a single file in a vault. We expect that bug to be fixed in the next upgrade release at the end of July.



We've been releasing upgrades and bug fixes monthly and just last week issued the latest release. That last release cleaned up a problem with moving an advisor's clients.



Now, if an advisor leaves your firm or if you want to switch the advisor for a client, it works smoothly.



We also fixed sporadic problems with creating a folder structure for firms using our online reporting solution for Advent Axys and Schwab PortfolioCenter.



While these are minor bugs, we know they are annoying and we apologize for the inconvenience.

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Just Got This Angry Email Message Firing My Company

“Please cancel my subscription immediately,” said the email message. “I am requesting a one-month refund due to the very poor service that I received. In fact, I sent emails and phone messages with no response and a one week delayed response to a phone call message that I sent.”



Advisor Products is not perfect. We can always do better. But this was over the top! What did we do?



Even though it was 7:30 p.m. on a Friday night, I had to get to the bottom of this right away.



I checked our CRM and could find no notes about her calls this past week or anything about her company.



I called her right away and left a voicemail message.



“Whatever we did, I'm sorry,” I said on the voicemail. “I can’t find any record about this project we’re doing for you. So please call me back and let me know what happened.”



She called back thirty-minutes later.



“I’m sorry,” she said, “You don’t host my website. It’s a competitor of yours but I called you back because you sounded upset about my complaint.”



I thanked her for calling back and couldn’t resist:



“You can see the difference between us and our competitors," I said. "On a Friday night at 8 p.m., you have the owner of the company calling you back to respond to you.”



Advisor Products service is good. We're not perfect, but we return your calls promptly--almost always the same day that you call us.



We're the No. 1 choice for financial advisor websites and secure client communications that is integrated with your CRM, portfolio management and financial planning software.










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Content Management System Passwords Expired


To improve security, Advisor Products today killed passwords advisors use to access our content management system.



The next time your firm logs in, you'll be required to create a new password.



The new password requires a combination upper and lower case letters, numbers, and non-alphanumeric characters. Such passwords are harder to remember, but they’re also harder to hack.



This change was not made in response to any incident. It is one of numerous new policies we have implemented company-wide.



When you log in, please read the new password requirements carefully. They’re just a few lines but you need to read them to understand what to do.



Here’s a post I wrote about
creating strong passwords and another post about the password app I use. Chrome users may also want to consider LastPass.



Please call our help desk if you have any problems at (888) 274-5755.



We apologize for any inconvenience.







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Why Do Many Advisors Fear Niches?


Advisors are poor marketers in general, and one of the silliest things they do is fear targeting a niche. What are you thinking?



If I went into the website business in 1996 by making websites for any schnook, I would not have been able to compete with Intuit, Google, WordPress, and other giant technology companies aiming for a mass clientele. By specializing in advisors, I’m able to add content and technology tools that my niche group needs and values. I can provide solutions that the giants cannot afford to create because serving my niche is too much work for them.



To me, the case for specializing is so easy to see, and I just can’t understand why advisors have so much trouble with it. Yet over the years, advisors’ fear of niches has come up again and again.



Once, and I promise this is true, I was working with an advisor on the phone, reviewing marketing copy I had written that would move him into a niche. He yelled at me. “I don’t want to be different! I just want to sound like everyone else!”



Another time, I was on a conference call with a very high-powered firm whose chief investment officer told me in front of the firm’s executive leadership that he didn’t want to describe his process in detail to me. “You know a lot about the investment business and that’s why we hired you!” he barked. ”We do what everyone else does. Just write about that.”



Just this past Friday, at a webinar entitled,
Successful Marketing For Advisors, John Anderson, of SEI this past Friday did an excellent job of telling advisors how to market their practices.



Sure enough, during the Q&A period, an advisor chatted in a question raising her fear that marketing to a small niche like divorcees might scare away other potential prospects. Such fear is totally misplaced.



Having marketing copy on your website that emphasizes your niche will gain you clients in the long run, assuming you are good at working with that niche. Here are some reasons why.



Commoditization Of Investment Advice. The Web is relentlessly commoditizing investment advice. Online brokers are better at serving the mass affluent. Segmenting the investor market to differentiate your services can be a source of competitive advantage. Specialized advice will command a premium price and make your clients more loyal.



The Web Favors Niche Marketers. If the keywords used in marketing copy on your website are terms like “financial planning” or fee-only financial advisors,” you stand little chance of gaining high rankings in search engines. However, if your marketing copy contains keywords like “financial advisors serving Indian hotel owners” or “estate planning for shopping center developers,” you have a far better chance of gaining favorable natural search results. If you want to learn more about this topic, see this recent
webinar on Search Engine Optimization conducted by Advisor Products.



Professional Satisfaction. Serving a niche enables you to help people in more meaningful ways. If you are an expert in understanding the wealth management needs of layers, doctors, owners of bakeries, car dealers or other small business, or some other market segment, you will find yourself going far deeper into their financial lives and advising them on business issues as well as personal finance. Your advice becomes more meaningful because it is so targeted. The professional satisfaction you’ll gain can make your job more satisfying.



If you need some help thinking about a niche, start by considering whether the answer is obvious.



Three weeks ago, I was speaking with an advisor I’ve known for many years. When I asked him to tell me about his firm, he never mentioned that he had a niche. In an elevator speech that sounded a lot like many other wealth management firms, he told me he uses DFA Funds and provides financial planning.



He is from India, and I felt I was treading on delicate ground, but I asked him if he targeted Indian immigrants. That’s when he told me that 60% of his clients are doctors of Indian descent.



This advisor is not marketing to Indian doctors currently and did not realize that he can probably get a lot more Indian doctors as clients by sharing the specialized knowledge he has gained by working with this niche.



Many Indian doctors are first-generation Americans or emigrated here from India. They have common experiences and financial issues. For instance, they almost all had little money during their residency and are tempted to spend crazily when they start making money. Many of them have parents and siblings still living in India that they need to assist financially. Many accumulate great wealth and fear raising spoiled kids. The expertise of this advisor in dealing with financial issues of Indian doctors is valuable.



To me, creating marketing materials for this niche is a no brainer. Yet this advisor and others like, I suspect, don’t realize they already have a niche and can capitalize on it with just a bit of strategic marketing and planning.



To figure out your possible niches, download the market segmentation worksheet we have made available on A4A. In segmenting your clients, you may find some obvious commonalities among them. Are a few of your clients:



  • working for the same local company?

  • working in the same industry?

  • of the same ethnic group?

  • in the same profession?

  • in the same socio-economic group?






In a story that will be published in the upcoming issue of Financial Advisor, I interviewed several firms that only serve doctors or that specialize in doctors. I realize that pointing to a few firms won’t convince you. But it is such a clear example of how niche marketing works. When it’s released on the Web around June 1, please take a look at that story.



Though I hope I am helping you, maybe I am missing something. Maybe there’s a good reason why advisors avoid niches. If so, please let me know by posting a comment.



And if you have had success in working on a niche market, please also post a comment and share your ideas.










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Our Commitment To Do What's Best For You


Some advisory firms feel they must work face-to-face with a local designer to build their website instead of working over the phone with an Advisor Products project manager. They feel that their branding is too important to be managed by Advisor Products.



I don't agree. Our designers do a great job. But who am I to argue?



So we price our services so you can use a local graphic designer and still use Advisor Products for hosting. Hosting is where we add the most value.



When we host your site, you get our content management system, BackOffice. That’s built specifically for advisory firms and has oodles of features just for advisors. Compliance review workflow, website archiving, pre-formatted pages created specifically for advisors that you can easily add to your site, a secure client vault system, and integration with 16 apps used in advisor practices that convert data in your internal systems into client communications. Plus, we provide 10 or 15 wealth management articles monthly to aupdate your site and now we’ve started offering videos on personal finance topics.



Candidly, many advisors don’t value publishing wealth management content on their website. But your clients are getting bombarded with financial information from so many sources. Why forfeit the opportunity to be their trusted source of financial ideas?



Providing clients with authoritative educational information on a broad range of personal finance topics—even if you don’t agree with every word in every article we write—promotes meaningful conversation with clients. Moreover, with technology enabling you to select every article and video that appears on your website or e-newsletter, you control the content that your firm distributes. You can even customize the content for each individual cleint's personal interests!

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Mysteries Of Search Engine Optimization Revealed

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a mysterious thing. There’s technical mumbo to know and it seems really powerful.



So I was really proud earlier this week when our Operations Director, Jim Voss, in a 45-minute presentation, made SEO pretty simple for advisors to understand and execute.



The point of the webinar was to show you how you can use the Advisor Products content management system, BackOffice, to help optimize your website for search engines. But the webinar contains so much information about SEO basics that the self-promotional part of the session is only incidental.



What makes me so happy is that this webinar demonstrates that Advisor Products is really trying to do the right thing. We’re not trying to hide behind technical complexity and charge you for SEO. We’re creating realistic expectations about SEO, educating you about it, and giving you the tools to do it yourself. (Of course, you can hire us to help you if you need it.)



Attendees on average rated this webinar with four out of five stars. Among the many favorable comments we received from attendees was this:



“Need to see it twice a year, every year. Best damn webinar you've ever done. We advisors forget this stuff. We don't work on our sites but once a year or so. Keep doing this one, we need it more than we can tell you.”



Check out the webinar.




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Add An Event Calendar To Your Website


Advisor Products made it easy today for advisors to add an event calendar to their websites.



If you want to conduct webinars about investing, for instance, you can advertise those events from your website. You can also list offline events, such as client appreciation dinners, picnics, and other events you want clients and prospects to attend.



The video below shows you how to create an event calendar page from the AdvisorSites BackOffice and how to add an event.





Advisors can couple the event calendar page with a GoToMeeting or GoToWebinar license to leverage the event calendar. You can use GoToWebinar or Advisor Products Email Newsletter feature to email invitations.



If you create a webinar in GoToWebinar, you insert the registration link on your event page. Anyone visiting your site can thus sign up for your webinar.



After you conduct a webinar, you can edit its description and link to a replay of the webinar. Adding a list of all your educational and marketing webinars to your event calendar is a powerful marketing and client communications tool.



The event calendar also makes it easy to charge for events and accept payments by credit card through PayPal. To charge a fee for a webinar, you’ll need a PayPal account. PayPal gives you a link and button that you can add when setting it up an event in your event calendar.



The event calendar page alone won’t bring people to your webinars. You need to advertise the event and send emails to get people to sign up. But the event calendar page is a great way to show prospects about activities at your firm. If you host an online monthly webinar or an offline monthly client seminar, listing the events in the event calendar shows prospects that your firm is involved with clients and making an effort to educate and keep in touch with them.



The event calendar is one of many different types of pages you can add to your website yourself from the AdvisorSites BackOffice. You can also call our help desk at (888) 274-5755 for assistance. There is no charge for adding the event calendar page to your website.



Please let us know what you think of the event calendar. Will it be something you add to your website? How can we improve it?








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Advisors Putting Client Data At Risk



To save money, some advisors are putting client data in jeopardy, and the trade press isn’t helping matters.



I’m talking about two incidents in the past few weeks, one involving Google Docs and the other involving a CRM called Zoho.



I was hosting a
webinar on February 12 about CRM systems for advisors when the Google Docs platform came up during the Q&A period, and I mentioned that Google Docs was not secure. An advisor chatted telling me it indeed was secure.



Without verifying it myself, I hesitated telling attendees at the webinar that Google Docs was secure. But I felt obliged to report what he said. So I told attendees an advisor had chatted in to say Google Docs was indeed secure.



After the webinar, I emailed the advisor and asked if he had any substantiation that Google Docs was secure, and I also did some research. Within minutes, I found a Google forum
post that said documents to Google Docs could not be protected with their own password. I sent another email to the advisor with that link. He never responded.



To get the facts, I asked two seasoned engineers from Advisor Products to check into Google Apps’ security.



Google Apps offers a Standard and Premier Edition. Their findings, which pertain to the Premier Edition targeted to businesses, show that it would be reckless for an advisor to store client data on Google Docs.



It may be okay for an advisor to use Google’s calendar and other features. But if you want secure document storage and sharing, be aware of the following limitations:





  • You can’t force users to create “strong passwords.” Google has a tool that rates the strength of a password when you create it. The tool’s requirements are not up to professional standards. A strong password requires using non-alphanumeric characters (i.e., !, @, #,$, etc.). It is also at least eight characters and preferably 12. By default, Google Docs requires only six-character passwords, and it allows you to create a password as short as four characters. As long as your password contains a combination of four letters and numbers, Google’s password-strength rating tool will tell you your password is “strong.”




  • Google does not automatically force expiration of passwords. Some broker/dealers now require that vendors automatically kill passwords after three months and require users to create new passwords.




  • The way Google Docs passes access to documents via email is inherently flawed. If you use Google Docs to share a document with a client or another professional, Google enables you to send the link by email. Email is not secure. Moreover, anyone who receives the email with the link can open the document—without a password.




  • Documents on Google’s servers are not stored encrypted. They’re encrypted when you upload them and when you download, but not stored encrypted. This could be an issue if a Google’s server storing your document is breached.




  • Google Docs doesn’t accommodate the hierarchy of users with different permissions that advisors need. Document-sharing vendors in the financial services business enable different roles and rights for their staff, advisors, advisory firm staff, a B/D’s compliance department, outside professionals and advisor works with, and clients of advisors. Google Apps has just two levels of authorization.




  • Google Docs does not have bulk upload capabilities, enabling you to upload performance reports, financial plans, rebalancing reports, and other documents in batches.




  • Google Docs and Apps do not integrate with financial planning, portfolio management or other practice management apps used by advisors.






Google is a remarkable company and it could address these issues. But with its vast audience and potential, it has priorities other than serving the tiny independent financial advisor market.



Google Apps Marketplace enables third-party vendors to leverage web interfaces. Third-party apps are likely to address some of the security issues posed by Google Apps and provide features and integration needed by advisors. But it will take months—probably years—for an advisor to pull together an integrated suite of professional apps that leverages Google Apps. But it will require stitching together specialized components from different vendors in the App Store, which would complicate matters for advisors significantly. Anyone who tells you advisors can use Google Docs today is reckless.



Which brings me to Zoho CRM, the subject of a rave review in one of the trade magazines for independent advisors.



Zoho is a web-based CRM that is integrated with Outlook, Facebook, and several other popular consumer applications. In addition to CRM, Zoho also offers an extensive suite of web-based software for word processing, spreadsheets, invoicing, online meetings, calendaring, sharing documents and more.



“Combining Zoho CRM with Zoho email and Zoho Docs gives you robust CRM, integrated email that includes email storage, plus an integrated online entry-level document management solution at an unbeatable price,” the article says.



“Perhaps the greatest differentiator for many potential purchasers is security,” says the article. “Overall, the security capabilities of the application are impressive.”



Zoho is indeed an impressive application but documents are not stored in encrypted format. Zoho’s website says passwords are encrypted but says nothing about whether documents you save on its servers are stored encrypted.



Since the security information on Zoho’s site was vague, I called Zoho to ask about its encryption.



I could not understand everything the salesman said because of his thick Indian accent (despite the fact that I've grown pretty good at understanding Indian accents because my company outsources many development projects to India). Initially, the Zoho salesman told me all documents were indeed encrypted. But when I questioned him further, he suggested a security specialist call me back.



The security specialist called back the next day. While he was polite, I had difficulty understanding everything he, too, said because of his accent. He confirmed that documents stored on Zoho Docs are not encrypted.



An April 2007 post on a Zoho forum said the company “may consider encrypting the entire Zoho server.” Apparently, Zoho has not gotten to that yet.



Encrypting passwords is important but inadequate for most advisors who took the time to learn about security. Not encrypting the documents means a hacker who breaches Zoho’s servers would be unable to read the users’ passwords, but he could read the documents stored on its servers. It’s an obvious risk. In addition, some Zoho employees have access to the files stored on Zoho Docs and could read them. That would not meet the standard advisors should insist upon, standards that are now required in some states and that are likely to become federal law in the months ahead. Zoho Docs security may be fine for most businesses but not for financial advisors who are responsible for protecting client data.



Moreover, financial institutions are putting advisor vendors through security audits and requiring that they have documented security policies and procedures in place. One large B/D, for instance, requires documentation on 20 policies, and each policy is a multi-page document covering how a vendor handles passwords, back-ups, security incidents, and business continuity. Another requirement: All new hires at tech vendors must be given a criminal background check. Some B/Ds also now require vendor systems to detect and stop intrusions.



(Interestingly, RIAs shrewd enough to use the web-based apps approved by large BDs get all of these security benefits for free, while reps are paying for them.)



Like Google Apps, Zoho Docs doesn’t allow advisors the role-management and user hierarchy features that advisors need. Nor is it integrated with advisor systems. It would take months for Zoho to address these and other shortcomings, assuming Zoho wants to specialize in the independent advisor market.



To be sure, Zoho and Google Docs cost less than applications that are created for advisors. That’s because Google and Zoho are not specializing in advisors. If they did, you’d pay more for all the features. Advisors who move to these apps as they are constitute]d now are risking a lot more than they realize and are paying for it in the long run by not getting the right features to handle their needs.



In running a technology company that has served independent advisors since 1996 and that provides a secure document sharing between advisors and their clients, I’ve been humbled in trying to meet the demands of the profession. (Writing about technology for advisors is easy; making technology for advisors is difficult.)



While you may want to believe that some inexpensive application is going to be a panacea, use your common sense.



Be as skeptical as you are when you read an article in a consumer personal finance magazine about an investment that promises returns of 10% annually through good and bad times.



If an app for advisors sounds too good to be true, it probably is.













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401(k) Webinar Hits The Mark With Advisors

Last Friday’s webinar with Charles Epstein, the 401(k) Coach, was a big hit, as you can see from the comments from attendees shown below.



Epstein is a financial advisor who achieved success in the 401(k) business, so much success that he started a coaching program that has trained about 1,200 advisors. He’s also one of our featured bloggers on
Advisors4Advisors.



Epstein is a pragmatist and offered real world wisdom that advisors appreciated. GoToWebinar, the tool we use for running these sessions, indicated that every single one of the attendees was “highly interested” in Epstein’s presentation. I can’t recall any other speaker who was able to hold the interst of the audience as well as Epstein.



Epstein’s session is available for replay at
Advisor Products and on Advisors4Advisors.



Epstein provided a handout that can be used by fiduciaries to conduct an meeting with a plan sponsor that is a prospect, and it can be downloaded by members of A4A in the Advisor Rewards section of your profile.

The Financial Advisor Webinar Series Friday, February 5 at 4 p.m. EST

Epstein will be doing another webinar in April or May.
What did you think of the webinar? How can we improve it?



  • Very good overview of the 401k market for advisors. I like it when speaker provides resources like he did. Would like to see more on how to market services to companies.




  • More events with Mr. Epstein




  • Outstanding. Short and to the point. Thank you for taking the questions.




  • I thought it to be great information




  • It was good. I am interested in hearing from someone experienced in fiduciary plans the top shelf plans where advisors take on ERISA 3-38.




  • Interesting topic and completely new to me




  • A transcript, available upon request by an attendee, would help a great deal.




  • Good




  • Excellent webinar.




  • Very good session...only complaint is he went a little fast, but the slides and a replay is available so it is no big deal. Thanks very much.




  • It was excellent, and I especially appreciated your allowing download of slides. I wish I had known throughout the presentation however, because I was feverishly writing down each slide!




  • I really like your webinars. If I could change anything, it would be to keep them to an hour. I don't know how you do this because I don't think there is a lot of wasted time, but I personally struggle with the dual desires of wanting to continue learning and also moving on to the next, scheduled thing. This is fairly minor but I would prefer they be a little shorter.




  • Make a CD of the audio




  • Great Information.




  • I think it was very good. Thanks for coordinating and brininging important topics to us RIA's.




  • Excellent topic. Presenter moved a little fast and glossed over a few complex topics.




  • Sensational amount of information packed into an hour. Great job with the questions at the end of the program, Andy. They were delivered clearly, and you moved the answers right along without letting the speaker get bogged down.




  • I liked it.




  • Very good webinar. Good topic!




  • I liked it. It was helpful.




  • Very informative. Discussion included many topics I was not aware of especially fiduciary responsibility issues for the advisor to a plan.




  • Very good. Always like more take away, actionable items to implement. Not always just a sales pitch to sign up for a new program.




  • I appreciated the information. I would be interested in hearing the additional portions of the 401k Coach program on A4A.




  • Great timing for me since I am entering this service area.




  • Very informative




  • Good info & resources. Would like to hear Part 2 from Charlie (the remaining 3 steps)




  • This was a great webinar. Moderation intro was a little too long and slow




  • Very good and any process template or handouts would be appreciated




  • Spectacular. Thank you so much.




  • Awesome good information. Sometimes it is helpful to identify those things that "you don't know you don't know" and then provide resources to fill in the gaps.




  • Bring back for steps 4,5,6




  • Charlie is terrific!




  • Terrific very informative insightful and useful




  • Sometimes Charles moved onto a slide before giving the audience time to process what was on the slide. Being able to download the slides before the presentation would have been helpful




  • It moved very fast for me since I'm not active in this part of the business now, but it was a great presentation.




  • There was a lot to cover. Better to sometimes just commit to a 90 minute program. Thanks.




  • I thought it was informative. He had to fly through his slides, so I feel like I need to go back and look at them again.




  • Give and take questions




  • The audio was in and out and when I called the # the password was invalid it said.




  • Great questions Andy






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