Lon Dolber, the founder and CEO of American Portfolios Financial Services in Holbrook, New York, sees himself not only as the head of a broker/dealer, but also as one of its customers. "I have 400 clients. I'm a broker, a user," he says. So when Dolber left Nathan & Lewis four years ago to open his own B/D, he set out to build a high-tech firm that would make life as easy as possible for reps as well as being as efficient as possible to support American Portfolios' bottom line.
He appears to be succeeding on both fronts. While he hasn't done away with all of the paperwork that bedevils reps, back-office workers, and clients, Dolber has made great strides toward creating the paperless B/D. It all starts with his online new account form, which is a simple one-screen affair that helps the firm build family groupings automatically to make sure clients can qualify for mutual fund breakpoint discounts and can pass federal anti-money laundering curbs. Automation extends through the tracking of reps' trades, to insure they comply with suitability and other rules, as well as links to Albridge Solutions, the Web-based portfolio accounting and reporting service, that can pull in data from multiple custodians and give reps a wider view of clients' holdings.
Reps get Albridge gratis, and American Portfolios is now mulling a hookup with CashEdge to give them the ability to build portfolios that include client holdings at competing brokers and banks. Dolber, who has hired a bunch of programmers in Romania to write code for applications he can't buy off the shelf, is also rolling out a Web-based video system to broadcast management and vendor presentations directly to reps' desktops. "Their technology is something I've never seen before," says Brian Farkas, an American Portfolios rep, also in Holbrook, who defected from First Allied Securities. "I was mindboggled."
American Portfolios' technology edge is keen enough, in fact, that First Allied's parent, Advanced Equities, last month hired Dolber's firm to build a client database to handle the tracking and reporting of transactions by its 600 reps. Dolber hints that the three-year deal could lead to more joint projects or even a merger down the road, but adds that he is in no hurry to tie the knot. All 400 American Portfolios reps earn an equity interest in the firm based on their annual production, and Dolber admits that "their biggest fear is that I'll sell the company before they have accumulated anything."--William Glasgall