Everywhere we look it seems financial services firms are focused on catering to high-net-worth customers by promoting their wealth management services. While these customers maintain high balances, those balances are usually spread among many different types of accounts and the assets are diverse. Therefore, the ability to provide clients with a total view of their financial position is becoming more important and more complex.

Investment advisors are continually being asked by their clients for more detailed, on-demand reporting of financial information. Likewise, investment advisors would like to be more proactive in communicating with their clients.

Given the sophistication in which financial institutions manage money, it is surprising how unsophisticated they are when it comes to actually providing clients with a personalized report. The issue of client reporting is largely a manual and onerous process for most financial institutions. As described by one large asset management firm, the process to produce client reports for both individual and institutional investors is time consuming, lacks professionalism and is prone to mistakes.

Not exactly what management wants to hear when faced with constantly changing regulations and increasing client demands.

In addition, the manual processes required to produce individualized client reports took on new meaning with the introduction of Sarbanes-Oxley, which requires "identification and documentation of internal controls over financial reporting," most of which do not exist for client reporting at many financial institutions.

The Client Reporting Conundrum

The term "client reporting" does not simply refer to a current statement of balances and recent transactions, which most banks and investment firms have provided via the web for several years.

Rather, client reporting includes the ability to analyze the client's current position, review the top-performing and bottom-performing investments, prepare for any investments that may be maturing in the near future such as bonds and CDs, provide investment suggestions and provide any other investment services that the customer might find of value.

In addition, the investment advisor often includes some personal note or information to reinforce the personal relationship with the client. To add more complexity, both the client and the investment advisor are requesting the flexibility to obtain these custom reports via e-mail in PDF format, in a PowerPoint presentation for those face-to-face meetings, or, for those clients who demand the ultimate customer experience, as an online self-service reporting system to create their own customized reports.

Many firms already provide their clients and investment advisors with some type of client report, but the process to produce them is very time consuming and involves little, if any, automation. According to another leading asset management firm, a request for a personalized client report can take up to 20 days to be fulfilled.

The typical request is generated by the investment advisor who calls or

e-mails the request to a central administrative reporting person. This person then accesses several different internal reporting systems in order to assemble data and account information on a specific client.

Too Many Chefs In the Kitchen

The information is then manually typed into an Excel spreadsheet, which provides the ability to produce some type of graph or chart. These graphs are then copied and pasted into a PowerPoint slide, and are, many times then sent for review by compliance, legal, marketing - and everyone and anyone else who might want to add commentary or need to authorize the final document.

Finally, the investment advisor receives the document/presentation, which many times does not deliver the type of information they want to provide to their client.

Needless to say, the opportunity for human error is high, and the ability to produce the client report quickly is non-existent.

Since many investment advisors have found it more efficient to produce one-off documents themselves, many marketing, legal and compliance department personnel are very concerned over the number of documents that fail to reflect the appropriate marketing standards, legal disclosures and level of quality that is required.

Easier Path

There is a clear need for solutions that can help financial services organizations link all of a customer's information together to produce dynamic personalized reports that meet the requirements of both investment advisors and, more importantly, the clients. When seeking an effective solution it is imperative to look for the following:

1) A browser-based front end that allows the client or investment advisor to interactively choose the content modules they want to appear in the report.

2) The flexibility to produce any type of chart, graph, and image.

3) The ability to accept data from multiple internal systems, data warehouses, ECM systems and any other source without requiring normalization of the data.

4) An environment that allows the investment advisor to personalize the document, while also allowing marketing and legal groups to collaborate and control content.

5) The ability to produce output that is personalized in a PowerPoint slide show for the investment advisor or a PDF booklet for the client.

6) A comprehensive platform for producing all paper and electronic communications so that client reporting is simply one of many types of integrated communications that are sent to clients. Why create another one-off communication silo that is not coordinated with the myriad of other existing systems?

Meeting these criteria will give an organization the advantage of being able to produce consistent, timely and accurate documents for its clients.

Until financial services companies invest in these solutions, they will be forced to continue manual processes that cause issues for their clients and employees - which ultimately can put the company at legal risk.

(c) 2005 Money Management Executive and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.mmexecutive.com http://www.sourcemedia.com

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