Business Development Conference Next Week


Advisors seeking to capitalize on post-financial crisis business development opportunities may want to attend a three-day conference produced by Advisor Solutions Network starting Thursday, November 5 and running through Sunday, November 8.



I'm one of the speakers along with PR guru Marie Swift, business devleopment coach Steve Saenz, and many others. You can listen to brief interviews of each of the speakers.

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Account Aggregation For Advisors

An Advisor Products client emailed us yesterday asking about our account aggregation capabilities. Specifically, the question was about CashEdge.



Since we receive a lot of questions from advisors who would like to provide aggregated account information to their clients, I am going to answer some questions here.



The aggregation interface offered by Advisor Products comes with our Client Portal system.



Feeds from two account aggregation companies currently are integrated into Client Portal: ByAllAccounts and Advisor Exchange. CashEdge is not currently integrated with Client Portal.



ByAllAccounts is a Woburn, Mass. company founded by James Carney along with Martin and Ellen Dickau in 1999. Carney is the President and CEO. An entrepreneur who had succeeded in two previous tech start-ups—a systems integration firm sold for $50 million in 1992 and an engineering technology software company that went public in 1996—Carney was not involved day-to-day in the early years of BAA. The company, along with just about all of the aggregation vendors, foundered for a few years after the tech bubble burst in 2002.



About six years ago, Carney became more involved in day-to-day operations at BAA and it was purchased by State Street Bank in August 2004 at a time when State Street was considering opportunities in the wealth management business. But BAA was not a good fit for State Street after it backed away from the wealth management backoffice support business and in 2008 Carney and his partners bought back BAA.



Since then, BAA has grown by focusing on feeding reconciliation-ready data from held-away accounts into portfolio management software (PMS) systems, including Schwab PortfolioCenter and Advent Axys. By focusing on aggregating data clean enough for a PMS system, BAA has gained traction with about 475 advisory firms and is currently bringing in about 15 new advisory firms monthly.



Advisor Exchange of Glenview, Ill. was founded in 2006 by D. Keith Ross, a successful options trader. Ross
began his career as an options analyst in 1976 after graduating from Princeton University. In 1979, he became a member of the American Stock Exchange and a registered options trader on the floor of the exchange. In 1983, Ross formed Ceres Partners, specializing in risk arbitrage and options market making. In 1988, he became a member of the CBOE and was a market maker until 1999.



With a background in electronic trading, Ross was drawn to the account aggregation business by its potential for growth. Ross struck a deal to license aggregation interfaces from Cash Edge, an account aggregation vendor, and has been building a platform for advisors leveraging CashEdge interfaces with about 7,000 banks, brokerages, credit card companies, qualified plans, and other sources.



Ventures like Advisor Exchange always take longer than expected, however. Advisor Exchange has been building its advisor platform for the last three years and is expected to release a new version over the next three months. About 125 firms now use AE’s aggregation system.



CashEdge, meanwhile, is showing renewed interest in the advisor market. In 2006, when it licensed its feeds to Advisor Exchange, CashEdge displayed little interest in the independent advisor market. CashEdge had been almost singularly focused on a successful system it built for cash management at banks. However, about 18 months ago, CashEdge hired Tom Roberts as a senior VP of its wealth management business and Roberts has expressed renewed interest in developing better systems for advisors.



The Client Portal system enables a revolutionary new way to manage clients: straight-through processing of client-associated tasks from your CRM, financial planning, and portfolio management software to your clients’ portals.




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Email Templates For AdvisorVault Released


Advisor Products today released Email Templates For AdvisorVault, enabling automatic email notifications to clients when portfolio reports and other documents are posted.



You can customize and save these template emails in AdvisorVault, and they'll be branded with your firm logo and each client's name merged into the salutation. This enterprise-wide console for communicating to clients en masse streamlines required recordkeeping for financial advisors.



With advisory firms battered by the global financial crisis, increasing efficiency is a central focus and Email Templates For AdvisorVault saves time and money.



With Email Templates for AdvisorVault, an advisory firm sets up a mass email to its clients one time and then uses it over and over again. This streamlines notifications when posting a batch of documents or reports. For example, if an advisory firm uploads all of its clients’ reports from Schwab PortfolioCenter or Advent Axys to AdvisorVault, a template email can be sent in seconds to all clients at once. The same branded email also can be sent when a single client’s report is posted.



AdvisorVault is integrated with Advent Axys and Schwab PortfolioCenter, the two most popular portfolio management software applications used by independent advisory firms. When an advisory firm using Advent Axys or Schwab PortfolioCenter batch prints all of its clients’ reports to Adobe PDFs, the resulting file can be uploaded using AdvisorVault’s 256-bit high encryption. Based on an identification code unique to each client, each report automatically posts to each client’s vault. In addition to PortfolioCenter and Axys, many other applications used by advisors can leverage AdvisorVault’s batch-document capability.



Advisory firms can also batch upload a custom report in Axys or PortfolioCenter and AdvisorVault converts that data into HTML reports that contain links and are more dynamic than PDF reports. Email templates can also be set up to notify clients en masse whenever these reports are uploaded.



In addition saving the template text and firm logo, an advisory firm can set up a disclosure that will automatically be inserted into the bottom of every template email as well as an introduction. An advisory firm can define the “reply to” and “from” addresses that are displayed in each template email. In addition, all template emails can be previewed before they are sent and all mass template emails must be confirmed and approved before they are sent.



Email Templates For AdvisorVault includes text for common client communications associated with AdvisorVault, such as resetting a client’s password, enabling a vault for a new client, and provisioning an outside professional, such as an accountant or attorney, to access specified folders of a client’s vault. The dashboard for Email Templates For AdvisorVault allows an advisory firm to associate specific workflows or tasks with a specified email template. Features in Email Templates For AdvisorVault are explained in a 2½-minute help video.



AdvisorVault can be added to any advisory firm’s website for $1,000 a year. It is also bundled with a marketing website that includes a database of wealth management news articles, 10 email accounts, eight hours of support, and a website content management system for $2,100 a year. Online Portfolio Reporting for Axys or PortfolioCenter is an additional $1,500 annually.

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Visit Us At Schwab IMPACT


Please stop by the Advisor Products booth (No. 145) at the Schwab IMPACT® Conference next week to say hello.



We'll be talking about advisor marketing and practice management and showing demos of new features in AdvisorVault, Online Reporting For PortfolioCenter® and Axys®, and our Video Library System.

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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.





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Recovering From The Meltdown

One year ago, America’s financial system teetered on the edge of ruin. Happily, we avoided the worst. However, in the year since the crisis erupted and securities prices collapsed, even the most successful advisory firms suffered decimated fees and are earning a lot less. Worse still, confidence in all things financial—including advisors—has been similarly debased. Are you planning your comeback yet?



With Labor Day behind you and the final quarter of 2009 closing in, it’s time to start planning your firm’s recovery. It’s a good time to think strategically about you’re going to make 2010 a better year.



Part of your 2010 recovery plan is likely to focus on serving existing clients, and that what this post is about. It’s about making sure you know what your clients think about you and aligning your services and marketing with what clients want.



Julie Littlechild, the CEO of Advisor Impact, took me on a tour of Client Audit, a tool to systematize the client feedback process. Click on the image to the right to see a two-minute video about Client Audit or see my full review and a nine-minute demo at A4A.






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SunGard WealthStation On Advisors4Advisors






SunGard WealthStation, a leading financial planning application with 125,000 users, has posted its specifications on advisorsforadvisors, a practice management website for independent advisors.



Posting of the specifications enables advisors to compare WealthStation to 10 other financial planning apps feature by feature, side-by-side.



With annual revenue exceeding $5 billion, 20,000 employees and customers in 70 countries, SunGard is the world’s largest financial services technology firm. Its WealthStation product for financial planning is used by many banks and brokerages as well as about 1,500 RIAs.



According to the specifications SunGard posted, WealthStation:






· Provides an interface that is meant to be shared with clients

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Boost Your Blog’s Search Engine Ranking


On advisorsforadvisors, the new practice management website, advisor blogs are being aggregated, which makes it easy for advisors to see what other advisors are blogging about. This can give you ideas for your own posts or inspire you to start writing your own blog. More importantly, being listed on the blogroll can help boost your blog's search engine rankings.



One of the factors search engine algorithms use for ranking your blog site is “link popularity,” a measure of how many sites link to your bog combined with how much traffic those sites attract. Since
advisorsforadvisors is a portal for advisors, being listed on the blogroll can boost your blog's ranking by search engines.



To further leverage the
blogroll's effcts on yor search ranking, you might ty blogging about posts by other advisors. The web of connections among blog posts can be very influential in boosting traffic to your blog.



For example, let’s say your blog is listed on the
advisorsforadvisors blogroll and you post about using Section 72(t) of the Internal Revenue Code to take IRA distributions. If another advisor listed on the blogroll posts a comment on his blog about what you wrote—clarifying something you said in your post or perhaps disagreeing with you—and links to your blog in his post, that’s going to boost your blog’s search ranking. When a consumer Googles "Section 72(t)," your post is more likely to come up.



Algorithms used by Google and other search engines place more weight on link popularity when links are based on content. (They also can penalize link popularity schemes, as mentioned in my previous post.) Creating a web of links based on other advisors' blog posts
can be effective way gain traffic..



advisorsforadvisors makes it easy to track what other advisors are blogging about. We list advisor blogs and display the most popular posts on all the advisor blogs. The list of advisor blogs is just one art of the "Research" section of the site, which includes blogrolls covering 25 topics advisors want to follow.



If you’ve been a member of advisorsforadvisors for more than 30 days, please email me the name of your blog and its URL and we’ll add it on our advisor blogroll.



The blog section is only one small way
advisorsforadvisors is helping independent FAs. Sign up for a free trial.









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Link Exchanges And Advisor Websites


From what I can piece together, an ongoing thread on the discussion board of the National Association of Personal Finance Advisors has been for months creating excitement about NAPFA members engaging in a link exchange program.



I feel obliged to clarify the benefits of a link exchange program, which may have been overstated by some NAPFA members on the discussion boards. (Please keep in mind that I don’t have direct access to the NAPFA discussions and have to piece together snippets of information relayed to me.)



A link exchange program among groups of advisors allows one advisory firm to display on its website links to other advisory firm websites.



You may ask: Why would an advisor want to link to another advisory firm? The answer: To increase your website’s “link popularity,” a factor in a site’s search engine ranking.



What advisors must realize is that link popularity is just one of many factors that determine your natural search engine ranking. Many other factors, such as your site’s content and your URL are more influential in the algorithms used by search engines to rank your site. Moreover, search engines discourage gimmicks to enhance search rankings.



“Some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites,” Google says in addressing link schemes. “This is in violation of Google's webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact your site's ranking in search results.”



Advisors who expect a link exchange program to bring a lot of new traffic to their sites are likely to be disappointed.



Despite all this, Advisor Products is creating a link exchange program for advisor websites. While the potential for abuse exists, we want to respond to requests from advisors asking for this feature and we will try to educate advisors about how to best utilize the tool.



We’re now programming a new feature in our content management system, BackOffice, to enable your firm to add a “Link Exchange” page to its website. This will allow you to quickly add links to other firms that will be displayed on your marketing website. The page on your site will be pre-formatted to look attractive and easy to read.



While enabling link exchanges with other advisory firms is unlikely to greatly enhance your site‘s search engine ranking, we want t be responsive to advisor requests for this feature and do believe a link exchange program that expands beyond advisory firms can be used productively as long as it is not used excessively.


If you have suggestions about how you would like the link exchange page to be created on your website, please let us know.












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Money Tree Moves Ahead Even As Its Leader Steps Back


Mike Vikauskas, who quit being a financial planning in 1981 to start a financial planning software company, is taking Money Tree Software forward even as he plans his exit from the company.



Vitkausas is stepping down from day to day activities to spend more time on volunteer activities in his church. It’s part of a succession plan that Vitkauskas has envisioned for years.




But even as he leaves, Money Tree is moving forward on the path set by Vitkausas over the past three decades by launching a new advisor application, Distribution Solutions, which helps advisors create retirement plans for baby boomers.


To see a video about Distribution Solutions and read more about what's happening at Money Tree, please register for a free trial of advisorsforadvisors, our new practice management website for advisors.

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