Hess added that he intends to make sure that Black Diamond, which was acquired in 2011, has all of the resources it needs to deliver portfolio management and performance reporting for registered investment advisors.
At the Gemini Orion conference in Grapevine, Texas, Eric Clarke, the president and founder of Orion Advisor Services, announced that his firm was making a major investment to upgrade Orion's technology. By deploying new servers and upgrading existing ones to SQL Server 2012, Orion will move to a 64-bit platform, improving server performance. It is also investing about $1million to upgrade its storage area network, which makes data available to servers. According to Clarke, the new system will be five times more capable than the existing one.
These upgrades, combined with multithreading technology, will improve processing time significantly. For example, a rebalance process that now takes an hour for 20,000 accounts will soon be completed in a matter of minutes, Clarke estimates.
This month, Orion will also be upgrading its integration capabilities to include new reporting capabilities. For example, it will be able to integrate elements from a Money-GuidePro financial plan right into Orion reports. (Think of "reports" as a broad term - the financial planning elements will be available in paper reports, Web reports and the client portal, and through the mobile app.)
MoneyGuidePro Confidence Zone results can be incorporated into Orion reports, and are expected to be one of the most popular MoneyGuidePro reporting elements.
Early next year, Orion will start offering its own advisor email service as an additional avenue for advisors to deliver reports digitally to their clients.One reason for this development is that alternative delivery methods (file-sharing sites and client portals) are not being adopted as rapidly by clients as some advisors would like.
Lower adoption means that advisors have to continue sending paper statements to a high number of clients. That in turns means still paying for printing and postage, as well as the expense of having two distinct reporting workflows - one digital and one paper.
In addition, many advisory firms do not have the ability to customize email templates with the type of information Orion intends to provide.
With advisor email, advisory firms will be able to offer clients highly customizable email reports with all of the essential information that quarterly reports typically contain, except for personally identifiable information. It will also offer an ability to link users to the video market commentaries that Orion creates for advisors who subscribe to this service. Advisors will be able to create client groups and then create separate templates for each group or even individual clients, so that each person gets a report that meets his or her specific needs.
Orion will provide email hosting and archiving for advisors who want it. For those happy with their current email system, Orion will offer an option that allows advisors to deliver content and archive it through the existing email host.
Orion also provides advisors with many ways to enhance their websites. The splash page can be customized, as can the landing page. Pages can incorporate training videos, frames and video content. Custom Web tiles (widgets containing information) can also be placed throughout the site. Scan tags can be displayed that link to a mobile site, for example.
Orion also announced enhancements to Orion Connect. This platform, built on the Salesforce infrastructure, combines Orion's portfolio management and reporting solution with Salesforce CRM tools. Among its many appealing features is the ability to create custom dashboards for different employee roles or levels.
So, for example, a firm could customize one view for a manager, a different view for a wealth manager and another view for back-office personnel. You can also create separate views for examining data at the household and account levels. The goal is to make the data needed for each role or task available immediately with the fewest possible clicks.
MAJOR UPGRADE CYCLE
One takeaway from my recent conference tour is that technology is again moving to the forefront after years of neglect. Firms that want to expand and increase their efficiency realize that technology can play a crucial role in their development, and they are demanding more of their vendors. The vendors in turn are responding with software that is more functional and easier to use.
There is an increased awareness that the cloud and mobile technologies are going to play a critical role in the evolution of financial planning in the years ahead. Almost every leading vendor is developing new products, or refining existing ones, for the cloud and mobile.