Raymond James is introducing software that brings clients into the planning process.

"Planners usually tell me that working with clients is the best use of their time," Patrick O'Connor, senior vice president of wealth management solutions at Raymond James, told Financial Planning in an interview. "Instead of spending an hour-and-a-half preparing a plan and half an hour presenting it to clients, with this software an advisor might put in half an hour of prep work and take an hour-and-a-half developing the plan along with the client."

The software, known as Goal Planning & Monitoring, is powered by MoneyGuidePro. Following months of pilot testing by more than 200 Raymond James advisors, GPM is being introduced to all Raymond James advisors and branches over the next three months; educational programs, hands-on training sessions, and support from the firm's wealth management solutions group will back the rollout.

As O'Connor explained, many clients do not fully appreciate the work that goes into a financial plan. "They might take it home, put it on a shelf, and not look at it," he said. "With the interactive features of GPM, an advisor can show a client different scenarios on the screen and make changes on the fly, if desired. GPM enables clients to see 'the why' of what's in their financial plans."

According to O'Connor, the level of retirement living expenses is often a key ingredient in a financial plan. "GPM can visually illustrate whether or not they're likely to run short of money," he said. "Clients can see if they're in the 'confident zone.' If not, this software can indicate what they can change to get there."

Kevin Sletten, a Raymond James advisor in Peoria, Illinois, relates an experience he had recently. "I was working with new clients, a couple who are planning to retire in a year," said Sletten, financial planning director at Hilltop Wealth Management and a participant in the GPM pilot program. "They said they were hoping to spend $7,000 a month in retirement, besides expenses for new cars and vacations. We ran some scenarios with them on GPM and showed that they could spend $10,000 a month and still have sufficient assets. They were really comforted by the presentation."

Another participant in the pilot program, Nancy Caton, who heads an RIA firm in San Rafael, California, said that she has been working up plans in-house and will soon use GPM in client meetings. "Many people have great expectations, and often it's my job to tell clients they can't afford this or that. With this software, I can ask clients how important is it to take two vacations a year in retirement or to get a new car every few years, then show them the results. If such expenses will put them in the danger zone, that will pop up."

With such interactive and immediate planning, GPM will revolutionize how Raymond James advisors develop retirement and other plans for their clients, as well as the way they interact with those plans going forward, O'Connor stated. "With GPM, our advisors can create a plan that uses the client's unique goals and priorities as the foundation of ongoing recommendations. With a single click, advisors can revise the plan with up-to-date holdings and values, making it more efficient to use in ongoing client review meetings."

This software enables advisors to customize the level of planning they do for each client, according to Raymond James. A basic plan can be created in minutes with minimal data input, given integration with Raymond James client information; on the other hand, more sophisticated analysis for, say, business owners or executives can be incorporated easily.

However it's used, GPM can provide highly visual outputs for clients in a variety of forms: on an iPad, a monitor in the advisor's office, the firm's Investor Access client site, or a printed page. GPM also offers interactive "what if" tools so advisors and clients can test changes or potential risks to their plans. Once a plan is adopted, advisors can use GPM to track clients' progress toward attaining their goals.

GPM is the latest enhancement to Advisor Access, the technology platform introduced to Raymond James advisors earlier this year. "When we launched Advisor Access, we promised advisors that Raymond James technology would become a differentiator," Vin Campagnoli, senior vice president of private client group technology strategy and development, said in a statement. "This new GPM functionality, integrated with Advisor Access, takes our advisors one step closer to having one of the strongest technology platforms in the industry."

Bob Curtis, the CEO of PIEtech, and the creator of MoneyGuidePro, said, "We are excited to be part of the Advisor Access platform. I attended the Raymond James national conference this year and was extremely impressed by the enthusiasm shown by advisors for Goal Planning & Monitoring. It is clear that Raymond James and its advisors are committed to providing the highest-quality financial planning experience to their clients."