From the July 2004 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Mixed Feelings

An FPA study finds advisors have embraced the Web, but still want real account integration

A new Financial Planning Association survey suggests that advisors have overwhelmingly embraced the Internet, but remain frustrated by their inability to fully harness its power to manage client data. "The number one issue is integration," says Harry Groom, president of AdvisorCentral LLC, one of the survey's sponsors. "When the data gets to their desktops, can it be integrated with all of their tools? That's the $64 million question."

The survey of some 20,000 FPA members, entitled "Technology and Internet Usage of Financial Professionals," was conducted in April by Pyramid, a New York-based research firm. Of the 986 people who responded, two-thirds were either registered investment advisors affiliated with broker/dealers or independent RIAs. According to Pyramid President Nanette Cuccia, 65% of the respondents currently have their own Web sites and another 18% plan to launch one, while nearly two-thirds have electronic newsletters. The respondents also are eager visitors to financial information Web sites, with 85% using Morningstar Inc.'s advisor site, advisor.morningstar.com, 72% relying on Yahoo! Finance, and 68% turning to The Wall Street Journal's Web site. Nearly three-quarters get information from product sponsors, with www.americanfunds.com winning top honors as the favorite vendor Web site.

While a third of the advisors surveyed who already have Web sites say they plan to add account aggregation to their online offerings, many also said "their biggest technology challenge is their inability to integrate client information," Cuccia says. This is especially true for advisors who do business with multiple custodians and whose clients have annuities, managed accounts, and 529 college savings plans. Cuccia notes that in many cases, data from these programs still must be entered manually into portfolio management software.

Perhaps reflecting their inability to divert multiple data streams into one place, 10% of advisors still rely on simple spreadsheets to manage clients' assets. Only 13% of advisors use Centerpiece, now called Schwab PortfolioCenter, and 9% use Advent Axys. However, nearly three-quarters of Centerpiece users and 66% of Axys customers said they were satisfied or highly satisfied with their applications.--William Glasgall

Reprints Discuss this story
This is where the comments go.