Although the industry has had its share of successes - TD Ameritrade's VEO Open Access is one that comes to mind - much work remains to be done. In the most recent Financial Planning Tech Survey, only 10% of advisor respondents were "very satisfied" with the overall level of integration among their various software applications. Among independent RIAs, the picture is even bleaker, with only 7% "very satisfied" with the overall level of integration.
Netherby Advisors' AdvisorWorks is one of a number of relatively new products looking to help advisors solve their integration problems. Billed as an "outsourced infrastructure solution," AdvisorWorks calls itself a "fully integrated front office wealth management platform ... [that] places the power of integrated workflow solutions onto each advisor's desktop."
AdvisorWorks targets three types of financial service firms: bank and trusts, family offices and wealth management firms. I decided to see just how integrated and comprehensive AdvisorWorks is, and whether it is appropriate for wealth management firms.
It turns out AdvisorWorks has some smart ideas, and the product has some strong potential, but a few key obstacles remain. Read on to see what the software gets right and where it falters. One note on pricing: For a single user, the cost is about $500 a month, but for firms with multiple users, discounts may be available.
When you first log on, you arrive at a landing page highlighting the program's key offerings.
Along the top of the page, tabs link to various sections of the program: dashboard, clients, account groups, presentations, catalog and reports, along with advanced search. An expanded search box at the top also contains links to recent searches, saved searches and predefined searches.
A number of "actions" - what I might call workflow wizards - are below the search functions. My system came with the following defaults: create prospect, firm introduction, investment policy statement, portfolio construction, asset allocation, multi-goal planning, add notes and convert prospect to client.
The main portion of the dashboard is populated by widgets. In my demo edition, there were three widgets available: an activities/task list, a quick reports list - which offers at-a-glance reports on, say, portfolios without a recent presentation, portfolios out of balance and portfolios not in compliance - and an alerts list. (Alerts can be both actionable and informational, generated whenever an investment guideline is violated or a rule is triggered, for instance.) There will also be a data widget with market indexes and benchmarks.
Let me dive into a few of the program's sections.
The client section is extensive. You can create a four-level account hierarchy that lets you roll up views by an individual account, a single client, a client's immediate household or an extended household.
The platform does not include performance reporting, but rather pulls the information from the advisor's performance reporting, portfolio management and accounting system. Unfortunately for independent RIAs, none of the providers that they typically use (with the exception of Orion) are integrated with AdvisorWorks. I am told that a PortfolioCenter integration is planned and that AdvisorWorks has opened integration discussions with Black Diamond.
Holdings are displayed with cost basis, unrealized gains/losses and total market value. Liabilities and operational cash accounts can also be linked to this page for a more comprehensive view of a client's finances. AdvisorWorks also lets you designate locked positions, which can't be altered, and carved-out assets that can be reported separately or excluded from reports.
A parties function lets you create connections, mapping internal or external parties to a prospect or a client. You can identify each party by his or her role - such as accountant, advisory board member, custodian, granddaughter, lienholder, partner, spouse, trust officer, etc.
One of the program's strengths is its presentation capability. A set of intelligently designed templates and wizards can help advisors create new presentations, using firm branding and logo, choosing pages from a default set and then using a wizard to input information. The program will then generate a well-designed presentation that can again be templated, shared or modified.
Customizable views allow users to see either all of the organization's presentations or a limited set. Other information displayed includes who the presentation is assigned to, the type of investor it was prepared for and when it was last updated.