What I Learned From a Demo of Zywave’s Two Tools

This week, I thought I'd share an experience I had with a software vendor last week. A few years ago, EISI, the purveyors of Naviplan financial planning software, bought Financial Profiles. More recently, they were acquired by a company called Zywave. A few months ago I was contacted by a Zywave rep and the experience was mixed. Here's the lesson I learned from that experience, along with a brief review of two Zywave products. 

I have been using my own financial planning software since my days with JP Morgan in the mid 2000s. I use Excel with an add-in called "Crystal Ball," which provides Monte Carlo simulation, optimization, decision-tree analysis and so much more. In any event, I received a call from a sales rep with Zywave. He asked all the right questions and conducted himself in a very professional manner so I agreed to view an online demo. Actually, Zywave has two distinct products. One is a financial planning tool and the other is a marketing tool called Briefcase. I watched the demo and asked the obligatory question, "How much?" He stated it would cost about $2,400 per year for both tools. I asked if that was it and he did not expand his answer. I really expected something higher. 

During the financial planning demo, I noticed a significant deficiency with the Monte Carlo simulation functionality. I realize there are always going to be some features that I don't like, however, in this case, the shortcoming was major and to me, it was a deal breaker. To be clear, the deterministic portion of the planning tool appeared to be very good, but the simulation component was quite inadequate (more about which below). With the planning tool off the table we turned our attention to the Briefcase and set up another demo to focus on it. 

Briefcase seems to be an impressive product containing up to 500 brochures and the ability to establish a DRIP marketing campaign and track the results. Because the planning tool seemed to be the major part of the package, I assumed the price would be considerably less for Briefcase as a standalone product. However, when the rep revealed its price, it was more than half of the aforementioned total, which was much more than I expected. 

Then he revealed there was a $900 one-time set up fee for Briefcase. What? Excuse me? Why didn't you mention this when I asked about the "total" cost of the tools? Needless to say, I don't like surprises! He said he thought about telling me in a previous discussion, but didn't. I said that would have been a good idea. In short, when I hear of surprises this late in a presentation, it makes me wonder what else I'm not being told. Needless to say, I did not subscribe to either product. 

To make sure this doesn't sound like a Zywave bashing blog, the rep was polite and professional. I think he just made a bad decision. He also said he'd only been with Zywave for six months. I hope he will use this as a learning experience. After all, life is a series of scenes where we, as students, have an opportunity to learn and improve. Oh, and the problem with the Monte Carlo simulation? 

When you have two portfolios, and let's assume they have the exact same construct, they will move up and down in sync. Even a conservative and an aggressive portfolio have a high correlation with each other (unless one is filled with CDs). In Zywave’s product, each portfolio moves independently of the other and so when one trial has it falling, the other portfolio may be rising. This will understate the risk in the analysis. To do it correctly, the portfolios must be correlated with each other. There was more, but that's one of its major flaws. 

Thanks for reading and have a great week!

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