Portals are a hot topic in the adviser and fintech communities.

The vast majority of adviser-focused technology providers claim they have a portal of some sort, but the definition, scope and quality vary greatly. When the folks at Advicent asked me to look at their portal product, Narrator, I was eager to see the offering.

Advicent's Narrator Client: Future view
Advicent's Narrator Client: Future view

Advicent is headquartered in Milwaukee and is the developer of three distinct planning products: NaviPlan, a powerful, cash-flow-based planning application; Profiles, a scalable planning product; and Figlo, a client-centric planning tool that’s most appropriate for mass-affluent clients. In addition, Advicent offers Advisor Briefcase, a content library and client-communication tool.

Narrator comes in three versions: Narrator Client, the client-facing portal; Narrator Advisor, the adviser portal; and Narrator Connect. The latter is aimed at larger firms and institutions, and is a set of application programming interfaces that can be used to widgetize Narrator capabilities or create a full custom planning experience.

Currently, Narrator comes as part of the Figlo planning package, so if an advisory firm purchases Figlo, they get Narrator Advisor and Narrator Client. The retail price of the Figlo offering is $1,495, but partner and volume discounts are available. If a NaviPlan user wants to add Narrator Advisor and Narrator Client, the cost is $1,495 in addition to the cost of the NaviPlan license, with partner and volume discounts available.

Narrator is not yet available for Profiles, although there are plans for this in the future.

PLANNING AS AN ONGOING PROCESS
Narrator Advisor was built with the notion that planning is an ongoing process. It empowers advisers to constantly monitor their clients’ plans, and it also tries to address some of the behavioral aspects of personal finance.

When you log onto Narrator Advisor, you land on the homepage, which contains a number of widgets: a last-modified-client-list widget, an AUM-vs.-held-away-assets widget displayed as a pie chart, and a client-by-age-group widget. Across the top of the page is a banner with an alert count. To the left of the screen is a navigation bar that grants access to the other sections of Narrator Advisor.

The widgets on the home screen are dynamic. For example, if you mouse over the held-away portion of the graph, a pop-up window will display, in dollar terms, the asset amount. It would be ideal if it were displayed in percentage terms as well. If you click through the widget to the full analytics section, the same chart reveals additional functionality. Select a slice of the pie chart, and a list of relevant clients is generated. If you’re looking to capture some held-away assets, this is a helpful tool.

CLIENT LIST
The client list section is pretty much what you would expect. It can be sorted by name, email, owner (lead adviser) or plan-last-modified date. There’s a search box at the top of the page that can be used to locate a client as well. There’s also a toggle switch at the top right, so you can toggle between the client and prospect lists.

Click on a client name, and additional information, such as the phone number and date of birth, is revealed. There are a number of buttons here, too. One allows you to open the client with Figlo, NaviPlan or both if you are licensed to do so. Another links to a well-designed client summary that displays a client budget, transaction data, net worth and goals, with goal coverage. The summary also provides access to the client vault, and allows you to link additional client accounts.

ANALYTICS, ALERTS AND SETTINGS
In the analytics section, you can toggle between three views: Overview, Demographics and Assets. The Overview page is well-designed. At a glance, you can see total number of clients, their average income, average AUM and average net worth. In addition, graphs display AUM vs. held-away assets, client by age group, AUM by age group and clients by annual income.

You can click on any graph to drill down to one of the other two sections, as appropriate. For example, if you click on the assets-by-age-group chart, you’ll be taken to the assets sections, where you can toggle to other charts, including average net worth, income sources and assets owned. If you click on the assets –by-age-group chart on the Overview page, you’ll be transported to the demographics section. Other charts there include household size, tax-filing status and homeownership.

The alerts section lists all the alerts, which are rules-based and include progress toward goals, spending and plan status. For example, if a client increases savings and earmarks the extra savings for a new car goal, alerts will be generated as milestones are reached. The goal list includes the client name, goal description and goal type, as well as the day the alert was generated.

The settings section is somewhat limited. It allows you to change your email address of record and your password, and to update adviser information including name, firm name and contact info. It also allows you to select a theme style, but you’re mostly limited to changing the colors of elements.

THE PORTAL FOR CLIENTS
The Client portal operates in a fashion similar to that of the Advisor portal. The adviser invites a client to the portal by entering a name and email address into the appropriate fields. This generates two emails to the client: one contains a user name and a link to the Client portal, the other contains a temporary password.

When clients log on for the first time, they create their own password, and are then invited to aggregate their assets. They simply select a financial institution and enter their credentials, and the accounts sync.

Narrator’s aggregation is powered by Quovo. Clients can then view their homepage with a summary of alerts, budget, transactions, net worth and progress toward goals. As is the case with the Advisor portal, they can drill down for more information.

Other sections include budget and transactions, the latter generated by Quovo; financial future, net worth and cash flow projections, with progress toward each goal and future funding projections; document sharing; and alerts. In addition, they can see when their financial plan was last updated and when they last logged onto the system.

SOME PRODUCT GLITCHES
My overall impression of Narrator was favorable, but I did run into a few glitches along the way. Narrator doesn’t tell you when you are locked out for entering the wrong password; it just says the user name/password combination is not valid. That could lead users to believe they entered something wrong, which implies they should try again. Unfortunately, the only way to address this issue is to contact tech support.

Narrator is not approved for use with the most commonly used web browser, Chrome. This also raises questions about its performance on Android tablets, although I didn’t experience any problems in my very brief Android tablet test.

The recommended browser is Internet Explorer; which Microsoft doesn’t even recommend anymore. Windows 10 doesn’t ship with it; 10 ships with Edge, their next-generation browser. When I tried to add a new client using Edge, I could not do so. That’s problematic. I didn’t ask if it works with Safari, but there is no Internet Explorer for Apple anymore.

The glitches are minor and easily fixed, so I suspect they will be addressed by the time you read this, but they do raise questions about overall quality control.

PORTAL QUESTIONS
There is a lot of portal overlap today. For example, if you use Junxure, their application generates some of the same analytics. How do you sync the data, and where do you want to view the data?

Advisers want one adviser portal, not multiple ones. That means, if I choose to use the Advicent one, in order for it to be really useful to me, I need to be able to customize the look and feel, and I must be able to bring in data widgets from other applications.

If my CRM, portfolio management or rebalancing software generates alerts, I want all alerts in one place, and I want to be able to designate which portal(s) or dashboard(s) they appear in. I also want them to sync, so if I mark it completed in one application, it’s marked as done across all applications. Very few adviser portals offer this flexibility today.

The same can be said for the client portal. If I choose to use Narrator Client and I run a report in my portfolio management software, I want that report to automatically appear in the Narrator client portal/document vault. If my portfolio management software offers dynamic reporting, I want one or more of those widgets to appear in Narrator Client.

Despite the glitches, I find Narrator to be a worthy product. But there is work to be done.

Advisers need the ability to customize their homepage, as do clients. Ultimately, for the product to be a real success, Advicent will need to open up both portals to integrations from custodians, broker/dealers and partners. For now, if you are a Figlo or NaviPlan user, by all means use Narrator, but encourage Advicent to build upon this strong foundation in the future.

Joel Bruckenstein

Joel Bruckenstein

Joel Bruckenstein, a Financial Planning columnist in Miramar, Fla., is co-creator of the Technology Tools for Today conference series and technology guides for advisors, including Technology Tools for Today’s High-Margin Practice.