Portfolio reporting service bureaus have been around for years, so I called eight of them, asking how much they'd charge for handling downloads and reconciliation, using details about three advisory firms for price illustrations. In examining their service prices, you'll need to add in your cost for licensing the PMS application.
Here's what I found about the prices and services offered by service bureaus.
Back Office Support Service (www.thebackoffice.biz). Located in Vista, California since 1996, BOSS has 20 full-time employees and serves 80 advisory firms, along with a few B/Ds. BOSS uses several portfolio management software applications--Interactive Advisory Software; Portfolio 2001 (likely to be discontinued later this year, since Advent is no longer supporting it); PowerAdvisor; and Schwab PortfolioCenter and its predecessor, Centerpiece. BOSS offers three methods for PMS support:
Remote Connection. BOSS will make downloads and reconcile accounts right on an advisor's computer using a remote connection, and you can edit your own database anytime.
BOSS Data Transfer. This method, used by 95% of clients, employs proprietary technology for transferring data. BOSS downloads to its computers, then creates a file with only the new transactions and changes. Instead of sending your entire file, it only sends data added since the last update. Users can have their database updated two or three times a day using this method. Any changes to the advisor database must be done by BOSS.
Schwab PortfolioCenter Service Bureau. This method permits BOSS to access Schwab's PMS application without running it locally, which means that an advisor can edit his database himself over the Web. (See Schwab in New Licensing Deal for Portfolio Management Outsourcing below.)
B-Ready Outsourcing Solutions. (www.b-readysolutions.com). Linda and Matthew Bready and seven staffers in their seven-year old Davidson, North Carolina business work with 70 firms. B-Ready, which uses Schwab PMS systems, logs into an advisor's computer using remote access software. Almost all the firms they work with require some manual data entry. In partnership with Adhesion Technologies, as with BOSS, the firm will also start serving firms that do not have a Schwab PMS system license. B-Ready is also starting to provide firms with financial planning software support on NaviPlan Extended.
Etelligent Consulting (www.etelligentconsulting.com). The Overland Park, Kansas, technology consulting firm has 17 full-time employees, 60 clients, and was founded in October 2000.
Etelligent has built elaborate technology around its service bureau: for instance, allowing Schwab PMS system users to see all their account values on screen using a proprietary extraction tool to call reports from Centerpiece. Using Etelligent's browser-based interface, an advisor runs reports in Centerpiece and the data gets displayed in PDFs. More than 100 reports are available, and performance or management reports can be customized by Etelligent. This is the only service bureau that is not partnering with Adhesion Technologies to offer Schwab PMS systems to non-licensees because its own technology provides this service. In addition to PMS outsourcing, the firm consults on contact management, custom reporting, and other custom applications for Schwab PMS clients.
Financial Computer Support, Inc.
(www.dbcams.com). FCSI, which publishes dbCAMS, started its own service bureau in 1998 and now serves 45 firms with eight full-time employees. Using a remote services application, FCSI logs into your computer, then saves a copy of the dbCAMS database on their computer to capture any changes made the previous day by your firm; this creates an offsite backup file for you. Then, FCSI downloads your data on your machine and reconciles it. Pricing is based on the number of unique Social Security numbers.
Financial Support Services (www.finlsupport.com). FSS in Sweeny, Texas was founded by advisor Vicki Wood in 1996. She has four part-time employees and works with 40 advisory firms out of a home office. The firm supports Schwab PMS licensees, users of customer relationship management application Junxure, and QuickBooks, and provides other support services to advisors. For an additional fee, FSS will stuff and mail reports to the advisor's office. Wood says she is starting to support Advent Axys, and hopes to get that off the ground in about six months.
Krisan's Back Office (www.krisan.com). Krisan Marotta's first client was her father-in-law, an advisor who asked her to handle his portfolio reporting in 1992. Marotta now supports about 25 firms from her Charlottesville, Virginia home office. Marotta handles everything needed to produce Centerpiece reports, including downloading, posting, month-end processing, backup, error checking, reconciliation, and problem resolution. She sends monthly summary reports, runs client reports in PDF format, and prepares clients' bills quarterly. Marotta has a secure Web site where files are stored for advisors to download.
Outsource This! (www.outsourcethisonline.com). Located in Concord, California, this Advent support service represents the only competition to Advent BackOffice. Jeff Gurnett started the firm in late 2004 after spending eight years managing Advent Axys data for an advisory firm and currently has three clients. "The advisor buys a license to Advent and uses Windows Terminal Services or other software to log in remotely to his machine and do all downloads and data work on his network," says Gurnett.
Planners Consulting Group (www.plannersconsulting.com) in Accident, Maryland, is run by Sandy Derato, a former operations manager at FCSI. Started in 1997, PCG has 40 clients and five full-time employees. Derato tailors services to clients' needs, providing complete data scrubbing, verification, and manual entry of data, or just handling downloads and reconciliation and leaving manual data entry to the advisor's staff.
Editor-at-Large Andrew Gluck, a veteran personal finance reporter, is president of Advisor Products Inc. (www.advisorproducts.com), which creates client newsletters and Web sites for advisors. Advisor Products may compete or do business with companies mentioned in this column. He can be reached at email@example.com.