What websites are well-rounded advisors visiting these days?
One thing’s for sure: There are a lot more than just 10, as alluded to by this article’s title. It might, therefore, be more accurate to say there are 10 categories of bookmarks corresponding to different aspects of running a financial advisory business. Advisors — particularly sole practitioners — wear many hats, often serving within the same day as financial planner, researcher, marketer, business manager and IT consultant. It’s knowing where to go on the Internet that makes this possible.
Financial Planning ToolsMost of the tools needed to develop a financial plan and manage a retainer client’s affairs are available online, the most obvious being financial planning and portfolio management systems. Financial planning software once used on the desktop is now migrating to the Web, like EISI’s Naviplan Central at www.eisi.com/products/us/extended/formats.htm. Other financial planning systems enjoying popularity today were designed specifically for the Web and have never been available for the desktop, like MoneyGuidePro at www.moneyguidepro.com.
Portfolio management services go hand-in-hand with financial planning if you’re a full-service advisor. Many advisors trade through their custodians’ websites, like Schwab’s www.SchwabInstitutional.com, while others do so on clearing firm sites, like Pershing’s www.NetXPro.com. Some advisors outsource portfolio reporting and billing to companies like Vista, Calif.-based Back Office Support Services (www.theBackOffice.biz), which hosts PortfolioCenter and other PMS systems on its servers for access by its own personnel and advisor-clients.
Yet, online financial planning and portfolio management systems are just the beginning. Advisor Russ Thornton of Thornton Wealth Management in Atlanta uses an online Client Relationship Management system — Redtail Technology’s “Redtail CRM” (www.RedtailTechnology.com) — which comes with modules for e-mail archiving and document management. He also finds useful sites like www.mind42.com for online mind-mapping — a visual brainstorming process for tackling those tough planning dilemmas.
Remote ConnectivityIronically, some of the Web tools advisors use most frequently are those allowing them to connect remotely to PC-centric software on their desktop computers. While the best-known Web-based connectivity software is probably www.GoToMyPC.com, Hussein Fawaz of Starfire Investment Advisors in Southfield, Mich., finds utility in www.LogMeIn.com, an alternate site competing on price.
ResearchThe third type of site we need is that which helps us research financial planning issues and investment trends, like www.Morningstar.com. Another example, when the client’s situation calls for it, is www.SavingForCollege.com — otherwise known as “everything you ever wanted to know about Section 529 plans.”
Or there’s a favorite of Macon, Ga.-based advisor Jim Beall — CalculatedRISK (www.calculatedrisk.blogspot.com), a blog that he says is, “…the best source I’ve found for what’s happening in the housing and mortgage markets.” Fawaz, meanwhile, says don’t forget about obvious research sources like www.IRS.gov, the place to go for tax-code research.
Navigation and Bookmarking ToolsEven bookmarking — the topic of this article — has been revolutionized by the Web. Because we now access the Internet not only from our own desktop browsers, but from Smartphones and public computers, we need a central location for all our bookmarks. Thornton is a big fan of Del.icio.us (yes, that’s the URL), a site where you store all your bookmarks for access from anywhere. Fawaz likes www.PageOnce.com, which calls itself a “Personal Internet Assistant,” holding not only frequently used bookmarks, but usernames, passwords and other navigational tools as well.
Industry NewsWe all need bookmarks to industry news outlets since keeping current is essential to our work. Thornton frequents www.BobVeres.com for the latest from Veres’ long-running Inside Information newsletter on industry affairs and practice management developments. Fawaz favors www.MorningstarAdvisor.com for editorial commentary by the research company’s stable of writers. Among Beall’s favorites is www.Bloomberg.com. Of course, don’t forget industry trade publications like Research (www.researchmag.com), which offers fresh content in addition to archives of printed material.
General NewsFor general news, those of us capable of reading a newspaper online have favorite sites like the New York Times (www.NYTimes.com) or Washington Post (www.WashingtonPost.com). Some advisors, though, follow particular columnists rather than entire newspapers. Corry Sheffler of Lion Financial Planning in Greensburg, Pa., is partial to the commentary of Gail MarksJarvis f the Chicago Tribune whose columns he accesses at www.chicagotribune.com/business/columnists/ and Liz Pulliam Weston of MSN’s Money Central (articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Commentary/Experts/Weston/Liz_Pulliam_Weston.aspx).
That said, the whole concept of bookmarks is almost obsolete in this category since most people get their news now through “feeds,” or RSS (Really Simple Syndication) systems that force-feed the articles to your computer or Smartphone’s RSS reader. Beall says he uses Google’s Reader [www.Google.com/reader] for his 50-plus feeds. “I click on the RSS buttons found on most news sites to set up feeds that automatically tell me every morning what news I missed the night before.”