More Choice For Agents In Wealth Management
Increasing numbers of managed account providers are marketing desktop or Web-based wealth management products to agents seeking to present material to their clients in a way thats easy to understand.
Many of these same products aim to simplify the agents financial planning tasks as well, and offer a means of diversification that, until recent technological advances, was not typical of individually managed accounts.
Among them is Finpack Version 6.0, a desktop tool offered by the Finpack Unit of SunGard Insurance Systems, a fully owned subsidiary of SunGard, Wayne, Pa.
SunGard has five main lines of products; Finpack is the banner product of its planning division, says Luis Traslavina, vice president, Financial Planning Systems, Miami, Fla.
Finpack is mainly targeted to life insurance professionals and financial planners. Because they work with numbers, lawyers who do estate planning and CPAs are a tangential market for the software, says Traslavina.
“Were also marketing to banks now, because banks have in-house insurance professionals, so insurance professionals means any financial institution that is marketing life insurance products,” says Traslavina.
Traslavina describes Finpack 6.0 as “comprehensive because it approaches all aspects of financial planning, but it avoids unnecessary complications and details.”
Basically, an agent types in a clients information, and the software calculates the basic needs analyses, Traslavina explains. “It covers survival needs analysis, retirement planning, education needs funding, disability insurance analysis and estate planning, and it gets into areas even more sophisticated, such as asset allocationwhich is not an easy thing to understandbut we do it in such a way that we keep it streamlined.”
The system is also modular; it allows a user to run one type of need analysis without automatically prompting the entire gamut of financial planning tools, Traslavina says.
Microsoft PowerPoint presentations are built into the software, so once a user plugs in a clients personal information and the program does a need analysis, the results automatically come out in a PowerPoint presentation, notes Traslavina. “We automated that process, so the planners use that to present to their clients so they can provide some recommendations.”
The software also has a support library, which includes conceptual documents, says Traslavina. “There are many titles through PowerPoint and [Microsoft] Word documents where we explain complex financial planning concepts, so it educates.”
Traslavina adds that the software comes with a users guide, sample cases and technical support. If a user has questions regarding how to enter the data or how to make the system perform a function, or if he or she needs an explanation of the results, support can be found online from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Eastern time, Monday through Friday.
A user must have at least Windows 98 to use Finpack Version 6.0, says Traslavina. Also needed are 64 megabytes (MB) of random-access memory (RAM), and about 40MB of available disk space. There is no Macintosh version of Finpack.
SunGard is currently developing the next generation of the system, called Versatile Financial Planner (VFP), which will be purely Web-based, according to Traslavina. VFP will work regardless of operating system, he notes; its only requirement will be a Web browser.
Traslavina names Financial Profiles, offered by Financial Profiles Inc., Carlsbad, Calif., as one of Finpacks competitors.
“Thats probably the best-known financial planning (tool) out there,” says Traslavina. “Weve been doing this a long time, but we havent been good at getting the word out.”
Finpack has been around in a DOS-based version since 1984; the desktop version was created in the 1990s, Traslavina explains.
Because VFP is so new, Traslavina says hes not yet able to guess at an accurate cost: “We still have to work that out.” But, the desktop software is $595 with an annual $195 maintenance fee.
Agents at Beneficial Life, Salt Lake City, have been using Finpack for about a month and a half, and the firms managing director of field development communications and director of career agencies is guardedly optimistic about it.
“Its been successful, but its only been a short time,” says Richard R. Allen. “In a limited time weve had agents call and say it has helped them make a sale when they werent able to before.”
After SunGard customized the software for Beneficial, the total package cost Beneficial about $20,000.
“It was worth it, [SunGard was] very easy to work with,” says Allen. “We looked at a lot of packages before we bought SunGard, we spent a year talking to everybody to see if they had what we wanted. Most of them had just the numbers. We did quite a bit to get all that on the front end.”
Beneficial officers wanted their agents to be able to offer their clients a package of materials that would include basic information such as location of valuable documents, “so if something happened everybody could find what they needed,” says Allen, adding that Finpack is “very user-friendly.”
Frank J. Van Loon, an agent with Linsco Private Ledger, Professional Pension Partners, Southfield, Mich., is also a Finpack user.
“Its good software,” says Van Loon. “Its comprehensive. The only thing weak about it is its instruction. I think they could give a little more of an explanation of how to get to certain fields, but the end result is very powerful.”
Unlike Finpack, AdvisorViewpoint Version 1.0 is a Web-based application, not desktop software.
Wiesenberger, an application service provider based in Rockville, Md.and a division of Thomson Financial, Bostonrecently launched AdvisorViewpoint Version 1.0, the first in a suite of wealth-management tools called Thomson Advisor. AdvisorViewpoint is the tool in the suite designed for the advisor.
The target market for this product is the firm with financial advisors “who sell everything from insurance to mutual funds,” says Ramy Shaalan, senior fund analyst at Wiesenberger.
Wiesenberger literature says AdvisorViewpoint “enables your firm to provide a value-added tool that helps investment professionals gather more assets. Plus, we offer a number of customization optionsfrom tailoring the look of the home page and banner to customizing the model portfolios and risk categories.”
AdvisorViewpoint is a browser-based application launched through the Internet, Intranet or extranet, based on how the firm is delivering it, according to Joe Stensland, vice president of business development and product management at Wiesenberger. The only system requirement is a Web browser.
Productivity training is offered but not required, Stensland explains. “Its sort of self-training; its got a robust help file. Theres a lot of help on the screen, leading you through it. When we sell it to a firm, they do go to thousands of reps in the field. Training can be tough, so one of our goals is to make it as straightforward as possible.”
Wiesenberger declined to offer names of users for comment. When asked, Stensland was hesitant to mention competitors by name and less forthcoming when it comes to price, offering, “We havent totally finalized the pricing right now.”
A key benefit of AdvisorViewpoint is that it allows advisors to provide a “broader level of services,” asserts Stensland. “Today and in the future, your advisor will provide services that deal with everything in the market.”
Another Web-based wealth management system, Managed Account Xpress, is a product of Lockwood Financial Group Advisors Inc., Malvern, Pa., targeted primarily to independent financial advisors, but also banks, CPAs, or any channel interested in offering individually managed accounts to clients, but who might not have the infrastructure (agents, research) to do so.
Lockwoods fee is based on the value of the advisors clients portfolio. For example, if an advisors client has $400,000 in an equity or balanced account, the MAX fee to the advisor is 110 basis points (1/100 of a percent) or 1.1% of the $400,000, explains Kate Monaghan, Lockwoods associate director of marketing. The advisors client is billed 1/12 of that annual fee monthly by Lockwood. The $4,400 in the example covers the money managers fee, Lockwoods fee and the custodians fee. The advisors fee to the client is not added into that figure, says Monaghan.
Chris Tomecek, president, LFG Advisors, Malvern, Pa., says that an increased ability of the advisor to diversify a clients portfolio is what sets Lockwoods product apart from similar tools. Tomecek adds that MAX also simplifies the process of setting up an account.
“The advisor always has the ability to change things,” notes Tomecek. “The proposal is printed in the office and all the necessary paperwork the client needs to sign is produced in the office, so the advisor can print the proposal, the paperwork and any educational materials he might want to give the client.”
Some training is required. Lockwood offers Web-based demos and regional meetings where officials ask broker/dealers how they want MAX set up for their advisors, says Tomecek.
“Each one of them has a specific way they would like MAX introduced in their network,” he says. For example, Lockwood might be asked to put a button on the broker/dealers Web site which, when clicked, leads an advisor into the MAX “universe.”
That “universe” is a password-protected Web site, says Monaghan. Right now advisors can get into a clients MAX account using a password that protects the privacy of everyone involved, he notes, adding that by next year, the client also will have access to his or her account by using a password.
Lockwood was not able to provide names of users for comment in time for publication.
Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, July 13, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.