From the September 2005 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

September 1, 2005

THE GLUCK REPORT, Part III: Planning Software Test Drives

Seems like every time you look, a new financial planning software application is being offered. This month, we present a review of Oltis Software LLC's Finance Logix Visual Advisor (www.oltis.com). This is a powerful, graphically rich, sales-oriented program that is easy to use and would satisfy the needs of most planners except for those who want to model the effects of stock options and rental property, and perform a few other detail-oriented calculations.

Oltis was founded about five years ago and now has about 25 employees. The target market for this product is registered reps and RIAs, and while Oltis does sell and support products for independent advisors, it is mainly looking for enterprise-wide arrangements with banks, insurance companies, and broker/dealers. Oltis's specialty is in customizing its software to firms with 30 advisors and up, including large institutions.

Finance Logix is a desktop application whose main goal is to improve client acquisition, retention, and loyalty, and the user interface is designed to be shown to clients. Impressive graphics illustrate a client's current-versus-recommended portfolio and give you bar charts showing the differences year by year between current and recommended portfolios.

A green or red traffic light graphic illustrates whether your plan is succeeding, and the interface features pictures of families, retirees, and other smiling faces to give the application a friendly look that clients are likely to find appealing. Context-sensitive help comes up on the right side of every screen, explaining terms and making it easy for you to input client data.

The software contains a presentation tool that makes it easy to integrate Microsoft PowerPoint slides into a plan. If you drag and drop a PowerPoint slide into the program folder where Finance Logix is installed, you won't have to switch between the two applications and the slides will show up in the file with the client's plan.

Navigation is well organized, and drop-down menus are common in data input screens. So when you want to change a retirement plan for a particular account, you just drop down the menu and choose the account for which you want to change assumptions. Then you can pull on a slider to vary assumptions for that account's annual return and the annual cash contribution you make to that account. If you want to vary asset allocations on Monte Carlo projections, you do it with pull-down menus.

Data input screens are clean and let you drill down to key in more detailed entries. The program comes with an XML- or XSL-capable export and import feature, so a B/D or large advisor office could write a script to push and pull data from Finance Logix to other open-database applications. A small but enterprising RIA could also do this, but it would require some custom programming.

The base price of Visual Advisor is $495, but this version does not support Monte Carlo simulation, multi-period forecasts, user-defined withdrawal ordering, and efficient frontier analysis. Visual Advisor Plus contains these capabilities and costs $645. However, when you add on an insurance module for $195, an estate planning module for $275, and an education funding application for $125, the Visual Advisor Suite will cost $1,150, and that is also the amount of the annual license you must pay.

Relative to industry leader NaviPlan Extended, which costs $1,250 annually, or NaviPlan Standard, which is $625 annually, the program is not inexpensive. However, Finance Logix is probably less in-depth than Extended and more in-depth than Standard. "I feel it is fairly high priced relative to MoneyGuide Pro," says Naomi Scrivener, of BackOffice Solutions, a financial planning software service bureau used by advisors. Scrivener, whose business is to run plans for advisors using NaviPlan Extended, MoneyTree, MoneyGuide Pro, and other planning applications, was one of six participants to see a Web demo of the software. She says that Finance Logix is easy to use for on-the-fly presentations with clients. However, she had some reservations about whether it made projections accurately--a determination we could only make after using the program to run plans--and she feared its "black-box feel" and the inability to see the math behind all the calculations.

Matt Abar, a financial software developer, loved Finance Logix because of its ease of use and friendly interface. "It looks like it was designed with the end client in mind," says Abar. "But it could be distracting for advisors who are power users because the onscreen graphs might not be appreciated by advisors who don't create with their client in front of them."

The most negative comments came from planner Holly Gillian Kindel, of Mosaic Financial Partners in San Francisco, who judged Finance Logix to be less sophisticated than MoneyTree's Total Planning System. "It doesn't handle stock options or rental real estate," says Kindel. "It is a bit superficial. For example, it does not distinguish between employer-paid and employee-paid disability premiums, which could mean up to a 44% reduction in income due to taxation."

Oltis is a young company, however, and this software is off to a good start, attracting a partnership with Thomson Financial. My guess is that while MoneyGuide Pro continues to set the bar when it comes to client-facing planning applications and remains the market leader for independent advisors looking for such applications, Finance Logix will get stronger technically and be able to handle more complicated cases. It should emerge as a viable contender for independent advisors in the years ahead. However, this will only happen as it continues to develop momentum with its core clients--larger institutions with enterprise-level purchasing power.

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 agluck@advisorproducts.com.

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