TECH INNOVATOR

Sheryl Rowling

Total Rebalance Expert

A decade ago, advisor Sheryl Rowling went looking for rebalancing software that was easy to implement and affordable. The two market leaders at the time, iRebal and Tamarac, were expensive and complicated. Based on recommendations, Rowling chose iRebal for her namesake San Diego firm. It cost her $50,000 per year and took two advisors 20 hours a week each for six months to implement, she says.

After using iRebal, Rowling wondered whether she could build a better option. She realized that the software on the market was built by engineers, rather than constructed from the point of view of a financial advisor, she says. And she started to think about what she, with two decades of experience as an advisor, would do differently.

"I located a programmer in 2006 who would be able to put the logic and pieces I wanted in a manner that could be easily utilized by advisors," says Rowling, winner of this year's Tech Innovator Influencer Award.

It took about a year to put the software together, with a beta product first offered to advisors in 2007. Rowling's Total Rebalance Expert software, commonly known as TRX, is now used by more than 300 RIAs with assets under management ranging between $20 million and $1 billion, Rowling says; the product gets updated quarterly. (In Financial Planning's annual Tech Survey last year, TRX was the No. 4 rebalancing software, behind Envestnet, ASI and Tamarac, but ahead of iRebal.)

The majority of advisors using the software get up and running with it within two weeks of purchase, Rowling says; the price tag ranges from $5,000 to $10,000 per year, depending on firm size. According to Rowling, annual surveys find that TRX clients value the software's benefit at an average of $500,000 per year.

Ryan Callan, an RIA whose La Jolla, Calif., firm has $450 million in AUM, says Rowling's software spares him from countless hours with his head buried in Excel spreadsheets. Before buying TRX about five years ago, his family-run firm would review client portfolios once or twice a year, rebalancing periodically to take advantage of market movements and tax-loss harvest opportunities.

"It was so time consuming, and there was a lot of duplicate trading. It took weeks to review those spreadsheets," Callan says.

Automation is what makes the technology so valuable, Rowling believes. "The software allows advisors to stay current on client needs on a daily basis and instantly," she says, "continually generating tax savings reports and communicating [them] to clients." Callan says his firm now reviews client portfolios every day to see if there are rebalancing opportunities.

With just $40 million in AUM, advisor Dave O'Brien in Midlothian, Va., says Rowling's software allows him to focus on portfolio research and more face-to-face time with clients, aspects of his business that can't be automated. As a relatively smaller player, he says Rowling's software has allowed his firm to continue growing and to do more with less.

Rowling says she invested between $1 million and $2 million in the software. The return, she adds, is "enough to keep me in business," though she declines to divulge specifics. (She also continues to run her advisory practice, which has a bit more than $250 million in AUM.)

Her goal, she says, is to help independent advisors be more successful. "The more we enable RIAs to expand their businesses, the more we keep the general public from going to stockbrokers, insurance people and wirehouses." - Paula Vasan

Read more:

•    Industry Leadership: Ron Carson
•    Practice Management: Joni Youngwirth
•    Portfolio Innovator: Rob Arnott
•    New Generation: Richard Brown
•    Lifetime Achievement: Lew & Karen Altfest

• Return to the Influencer Awards main page