Smarter Document Management with AssetBook

When we set out to build a new platform that better fit the needs of the modern-day advisor, innovating our reports protocol was at the top of the list. After listening to our customers, we moved towards creating a streamlined system for you to retrieve your reports.

In the past, when you processed reports, you would be faced with this screen:

From there, you would be prompted to close this box and in turn, would be emailed a link where you could then download your reports from. While this method works, we really felt that we could improve the process in order to save you time and to prevent any confusion that may arise while looking for your reports.

In the new AssetBook platform, we’re reducing the number of steps that you need to take in order to get your reports and localizing where these reports are stored.

If you’ve already upgraded to the new AssetBook preview program, you’ll notice that now when you run reports, whether individually or as a batch, a report processing box won’t appear as it does in Radar. In the new platform, we’ve introduced a new feature called Document Center, which can be found here:

Instead, after running reports, you’ll be able to find the new processed files in your Document Center along with a progress status display. When the reports are ready, you’ll receive an email notification saying that they can be found in your Document Center. You can find the reports like this:

We’re really excited about the changes being made to build the new platform. After listening to a lot of feedback, we feel like this new system will save you time and make your life a whole lot easier.

If you’re interested in joining the AssetBook preview program, send us an email at support@assetbook.com and we’ll get you migrated onto the new platform. In the meantime, stay tuned for a more detailed look at the new Document Center as well as the other new features that will be rolled out with the new AssetBook platform.

How to Use Your Holding Household

Although this specific system has been in place for almost two years now, we wanted to circle back to our Holding Household feature to share best practice information and how you can make the most of this neat organizational tool within AssetBook platforms. When used correctly, the Holding Household can allow you to easily see all new accounts and effectively assign them into their corresponding households.

What happens when I add a new account?

So, as many of you have probably noticed a couple different things can happen when you add a new account to AssetBook. But for the uninitiated, it’s completely reasonable to ask, 

“When I add a new account to the system, where does it go?”

Luckily, we don’t like to have our clients feeling like a forlorn Hamlet, so the answer to that question is fairly straightforward. 

If a new account is created with the same Tax ID as an existing household, our system uses that Tax ID information to automatically place the new account in the corresponding existing household with the matching Tax ID. 

But what happens if the new account has no Tax ID or a different Tax ID than the household that it belongs in? 

The Holding Household Explained 

The Holding Household is in AssetBook to collect all new accounts that come in with no Tax ID or with a Tax ID that doesn’t match any of the existing accounts on your platform. This way you should be able to easily view all new accounts that come into your system in one easy to manage repository. 

How to locate the Holding Household in the new AssetBook platform

From this Holding Household, you can adroitly move the new accounts into their correct household without any hassle. Just simply assign it to the corresponding household and then you’re good to go!

It’s important to note, that we highly recommend that you don’t change the name of the Holding Household to the new accounts that populate within it. Remember, all new accounts without a Tax ID or without a matching Tax ID will automatically be placed into this household.

So, if you change the Holding Household name to the name of a new account that has popped up in it, you might end up with issues down the road if and when you elect to add more new accounts to your system without matching Tax IDs. This isn’t an end of the world problem, but we definitely want to bring it to your attention to save your future self some time!

How is this different than before?

For our clients that have been with us for a longer time, you may have noticed that this is different than the process that we had in place before. In the old days (grumpy Jeff Bridges voice), new accounts with no Tax ID or with a different Tax ID that came into the system would create an entirely new household causing our users to locate that household and then either move the account within it or eliminate it.

Needless to say, that was a tiresome process, and we really believe that this new workflow will help you better manage new accounts, saving your time and effort in the long run.

If you have any further questions about the Holding Household or any other features in the AssetBook platform, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! You can either give us a call at (301) 387-3238 or email us at support@assetbook.com.

Fee-Only Financial Advisors: Are they really better than commission-based models?

At AssetBook we work with all different types of financial advisors across America. From mom and pop shops to large organizations, we’ve worked really hard to build a platform and a company that meets all the essential needs for advisors to do their job with efficiency and ease. Because of this, we’re fairly agnostic to the type of fee-structures that our clients utilize. However, the same can’t be said when potential clients and households are looking for prospective financial advisors.

To keep things simple ,you can basically divide advisors into two classes of fee structures: commission-based and fee-only. In short, commission-based advisors try to sell you investment products such as stocks and mutual funds, and in return, they get paid for it — that’s the commission aspect. Fee-only advisors, on the other hand, don’t sell you anything but recommend an asset allocation that the client then puts into action. These advisors get paid either by a share of the client’s assets or by flat fees.

Now, these definitions are probably elementary to most reading this, so let’s take a look at something that will really get you going: data and numbers!

Numbers Don’t Lie

The good folks over at Cerulli Associates conducted a survey that included over 8,000 investors who had at minimum $250,000 worth of investable assets. Their research showed that “61% of clients prefer paying fees based on assets under management (AUM) in adviser-directed accounts, while 13% of clients prefer commission-based fees.” As someone who’s better with words than with numbers, even I can spot that that’s a wide gap between fee models. 

Additionally, Cerulli’s research showed that “retainer fees were preferred by 22% of clients, and 4% preferred paying fees by the hour.” Cerulli director, Scott Smith, said that this research reflects that “investors’ appreciation for asset-based fees increased in relative proportion to an adviser’s involvement in managing the portfolio.” In these relationships that were identified as “adviser-assisted”, 47% of clients preferred asset-based fees, 23% preferred retainer fees, and 4% wanted hourly fees. However, 26% of respondents preferred “commission-based fees in adviser-assisted relationships when the client has the final say on investment decisions.”

With these numbers in mind, let’s take a more qualitative look and what could possibly have led to this disparity in investor preference when it comes to a firm’s fee structure. 

Commission Based Model

This more traditional model is summed up by one word: stockbrokers. Folks like this work for places like Merrill Lynch and essentially design your portfolio based on whatever their firm is pushing at the moment. 

Commission-based models tend to be better for wealthier clients who are savvier when it comes to investing. However, it is still possible for smaller investors to turn to discount brokers like Charles Schwab, which “charge a fraction of a percent for you to buy a stock or a fund”. With this service, you wouldn’t be privy to the coach in your corner approach characteristic of full-service firms.

The commission-based model has several drawbacks that experts seemingly tend to point out in unison. Current, commission-based advisors aren’t held to the fiduciary standard, which “ensures that you get the right product for you — and not the most costly one, because it pays the highest commission. 

While the Department of Labor attempted to regulate this with the 2016 Fiduciary Rule that attempted to mandate that “all those managing or advising retirement accounts comply with a fiduciary standard”; however, this was never fully implemented and was rescinded in 2018. This is slightly alarming because a report found that “46% of respondents believed advisors were legally required to act in their best interests, and 31% either don’t know if they pay investment account fees or are unsure of what they pay.”

Often times, these advisors will be the most expensive of the lot. Another issue is that while many of these brokers “work” for large firms like Edward Jones et al., they really operate more like “independent contractors, whose income derives from the clients they can bring in” with them receiving little to no base salary. This leads to the investor receiving investment advice/styles that aren’t the best for them while the advisor lines their pockets. This isn’t to say that’s always the case, but it has been known to happen!

Fee-Only Model

As was illuminated in Cerulli’s study, this model has been on the rise for over the past decade. According to their study, “the percentage of fee-based assets across all advisory channels increased from 26% in 2008 to 45% at the end of 2017, and the research suggests that trend will continue “as providers increasingly position themselves as clients’ partners in pursuit of long-term goals rather than transaction facilitators.”

Fee-only advisors work for firms known as registered investment advisors (RIAs), and in turn, adhere to the fiduciary standard. They are paid either by:

  1. A yearly fee, typically 1% of your assets
  2. Hourly or project fees, which can be expected to be around $1,500 for a full financial plan. 

With this model, many of the benefits are plain to see. The advisors aren’t there to just sell you and tend to behave in more of a partnership mindset. This has proven to have a lot of stickiness as more and more investors turn to these firms.

However, there are a few potential drawbacks to working with these types of advisors, depending on your situation.

 For instance, the 1% annual fee can be a bit steep for the less-affluent. That being said there are a number of RIAs who charge hourly or by the project, who could be good fits for middle-income earners in search of good investment advice. 

Another potential drawback is the air of moral superiority that seems to be proffered by some RIAs, who look down on brokers as slimy, snake oil salesmen. Interestingly, the 1% fee-only advisors charge can also have its own pitfalls as they have a “vested interest in clients not depleting their investment portfolios”. So, if an investor wanted to take out a large sum to buy a house, it’s possible that a fee-only advisor could advise against that decision.

Our Take

When it comes to choosing advisors, it holds true that it’s hard to pick winners. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make a really good decision for yourself. Today’s economy definitely favors fee-only advisors and the statistics back that up. 

Ultimately, as an investor, you need to do your research and go with what best suits your needs. Some advisors only care about your investments, which can be great but we recommend that you give a longer look to advisors that take a bottom-up approach to your portfolio. These are the type of people that will be better to partner with in the long run. 

If you’re one of the advisors described above, it could be a wise move to proactively experiment and A/B test multiple fee models with hourly or flat fees. These have the potential for wide appeal among younger investors with “more debt than assets” but are already used to paying subscription fees in their day-to-day lives. 

It will be interesting to keep an eye on this subject over the next few years. The timing and environment seem to be in the perfect position for a firm bold enough to make a game-breaking move. 

How SaaS is Changing in 2019: Where’s the Service?

Over the past 5 years, we’ve seen a high number of companies entering the SaaS space. Just check your LinkedIn. If you work in technology, then you without a doubt have a large percentage of connections working for SaaS companies. If you don’t work in technology, then I wouldn’t be surprised if at least several individuals have reached out to you in the past year in an attempt to sell you a SaaS product. But what does this boom in SaaS companies mean for you, the end user?

Often times it seems that aggressive growth targets among other factors have truly eaten away at the ‘service’ aspect of SaaS with a high degree of companies prioritizing scalability and automation above customer success and service.

In order to better understand this, we will take a look at several ways that experts expect SaaS to change in 2019. Then we’ll dissect how these changes affect SaaS companies ability to effectively service their customer base.

Renewed focus on productivity through integrations

In shopping for new SaaS solutions, one of the common questions that a business should ask a SaaS company is, “how well do they integrate with our current tools and technologies?” One of the keys to SaaS applications becoming popular and widely used is the fact that a lot of them were web-based meaning that people could access it directly from their browsers without the need of a desktop app. This aspect made these tools easy to implement into a companies existing workflows.

Now, the challenge has arisen of how to get your company’s multitude of tools to play nicely together. In 2019, a number of experts predict SaaS companies’ focus to shift back to this original concept with the focus on catering to “productivity culture” and making their products easier to test and implement.

In a novel prediction, The CEO of Monday.com, Roy Man, “believes when apps integrate nearly seamlessly with each other, teams will operate like small or medium-sized businesses.” That’s a wonderful concept for those who hate to waste time overcoming mundane obstacles when dealing with multiple tools. Whether or not companies will actually be able to achieve this remains to be seen.

Incorporation of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

It seems like you can’t write a fintech blog without at least mentioning AI. AI isn’t a one trick pony and can affect a number of areas in SaaS, specifically personalization, automation, and enhanced security.

When it comes to personalization, AI and data are leading SaaS companies to come up with even more personalized services. For instance, instead of logging into a SaaS application and having it jam-packed with features and options that you don’t need, AI can help these platforms understand your user history in order to create customized interfaces that better fit your needs.

With automation, we have to look no further than chatbots to see AI’s influence. These chatbots can answer common questions from users without the need for dedicated human resources.

Security is another area where AI will be able to improve what has become a growing concern among businesses. AI and machine learning will allow companies to proactively find and eliminate any potential threats.

Companies will move away from SaaS application bundles to single, best options

In an article by Information Week, an executive at Slack stated, “Cloud computing and demand for better software tools for work are driving impressive developments in software development and computing. In fact, on average, today enterprises have 1,000-plus cloud services within their organizations. These services offer incredible customization, but the sheer volume of tools makes it incredibly difficult for CIOs to access, organize and synthesize information.”

This highlights a growing issue with SaaS and that is that the volume new tools that companies are using causes issues in and of itself which can directly affect productivity and efficiency within companies. This issue is compounded when applications and solutions are designed to not play nice with each other.

As someone who has worked in digital marketing and lead gen, this issue is exemplified by how Hubspot, a premier marketing tool, is a pain in the neck to integrate smoothly with Salesforce, a premier sales tool. It’s clear that these companies place their desire for greater market share and their desire to have their customers add-on their new solutions instead of designing something that would give their customers and better all around experience. The companies that nail down this aspect will be the ones that ultimately win.

SaaS apps will need to emphasize data security and client control over data

If large companies like Yahoo! are susceptible to hacks and data breaches, then it’s not hard to understand how SaaS companies will also become targets for those looking to steal confidential information. Proper data governance has unequivocally become a component of the buying decision meaning that companies can no longer take this issue lightly.

While the US has yet to pass something along the lines of the EU’s GDPR, American SaaS companies, which service companies on a global scale, have had to take measures to shore up their system. Given the fact that for a lot of these platforms there are multiple users and many logins that give you access to sensitive information, simple measures such as two-factor authentication and the like are just a few ways in which SaaS companies are trying to keep their customers happy.

According to Ilan Frank, Head of Enterprise Product at Slack, “Organizations will make data privacy and security of sensitive data an even greater priority in 2019. Businesses will demand improved transparency and control over their data.” In other words, since more and more businesses (of all kinds) are prioritizing data privacy and security, “the SaaS applications that those businesses use will need to do the same.”

While this is more reactionary than proactive, it does show that SaaS companies are beginning to learn the full scope of what proper service and customer success entails. It’s also a great thing to keep in mind while assessing and considering any potential SaaS solutions.  

What does this mean for service?

All these trends are brilliant because they show the true viability of SaaS applications. When done correctly and with the customer in mind, SaaS products can become an instrumental part of an organization that allows them to reach previously unattainable levels of productivity and efficiency.

But if you take a look at the trends described above, more often than not they seem to indicate that these companies are more focused on gaining market share, boosting their user base, and raking in profits from add-ons and the like at the expense of delivering a truly comprehensive, positive user experience.

Who’s to blame them? Aren’t those goals seemingly universal to any company that is in business? How can we fault them?

While putting the blame on these companies for prioritizing business growth objectives over customer success might be too heavy-handed of a statement, I think it’s completely fair to point out that at the end of the day, there are companies that care about the customer and there are companies that don’t.

Too frequent are the stories of being stuck in a never-ending loop of troubleshooting a product, emailing the support team, checking out the forums, and then being told that if you want individual support, you’ll have to pay extra. It’s frustrating and ultimately leads to people seeking out alternative options, which is great.

The companies that really care will focus on their current customers and meeting their needs in a timely and pleasant manner. A number of pundits have posited that “In 2019, we will see more early-stage companies recognize that customer success is the backbone of their business and invest in building out their customer success teams proactively.” Similar themes are echoed by those who point out that as is the case in other industries, more established companies will shift their focus towards customer retention with new solutions described as “PaaS” or “platform as a service”. As described in a SaaS Mag article, PaaS will let you quickly implement new apps while swiftly deploying code, which before was a process that could take months. In effect, this will allow SaaS companies to “be more responsive to customer needs and dedicate more resources to development.” In other words, the companies that will win out are the ones who actually care about the customer. Brilliant.

The companies that make moves to do this will have low churn rates, great customer feedback, higher customer loyalty, and a greater percentage of customer use. If you key in on these factors while evaluating SaaS companies, you’ll find the ones that put service above everything. Automation is great. Sleek product design is fantastic. The more solutions, the better. But at the end of the day, it’s the human touch that has always and will always make the difference.

What Charles Schwab selling PortfolioCenter to Envestnet Tamarac Means for You

What happened?

In a move anticipated by a number in the industry, Charles Schwab is selling its PortfolioCenter product to Envestnet Tamarac. PortfolioCenter, which is a portfolio management and reporting engine, is used by over 3,000 registered investment advisory firms who will now be searching to replace a product that they have come to rely on.

For the uninitiated, PortfolioCenter was originally introduced in 2010 as a core element in Schwab Advisor Services’ plan for a “cloud-based, multi-custodial portfolio manager” set to compete with companies like AssetBook, Tamarac, and Orion. However, when SVP of Digital Adviser Solutions, Andrew Salesky took over in the summer of 2018, the company shifted gears to partner with third-party vendors while debuting their PortfolioConnect product.

Envestnet announced this acquisition without reporting terms of the deal in late February while reporting its fourth quarter earnings for 2018.

What does it mean for you?

Tamarac and Schwab have a number of synergies; however, it remains to be seen whether or not the group can actually do enough to meet the needs of current PortfolioCenter users. Already, the team at Tamarac has tried to prevent the exodus of financial advisors currently using the PortfolioConnect product by offering to honor the contracts of current users.

“We will not force anyone to switch portfolio management applications,” said Andina Anderson, Executive Managing Director at Envestnet | Tamarac. To support this statement, Envestnet | Tamarac shared the discounted deals to advisors who in turn shared those details with news outlet, Financial Planning. They reported that those deals “offer a year free for Outsourced Solutions if advisors sign a four-year deal, or two years free if advisors sign a seven-year deal.”

They also shared that  “the basic PortfolioCenter package, which does not include the added on tools, costs roughly $3,000 per year, according to one advisor. To put this figure in perspective, it was also reported that the cost for current Tamarac services for a group with “$200 million in AUM and 200 accounts would cost approximately $16,000 a year.” This is a steep climb from what users were previously paying for their portfolio management and performance reporting.

These figures were shared by a PortfolioCenter user, Erica Safran of NY-based Safran Wealth Advisors, who declined the upsell for Tamarac services but decided to continue using PortfolioCenter through the honored contract. The same source also commented that “The platform would best suit advisors who use multiple custodians, don’t use model portfolios and can’t do operations in-house.”

It’s plain to see that the multi-year (7 years!!) contracts that Tamarac is offering current PorfolioCenter users to stay onboard is simply a strategy to keep them in the fold long enough to upsell them. However, going back to PortfolioCenter user Erica Safran, she said that “the premium tools would not have provided enough value to her firm…and the length of the contract was disconcerting.” She continues, “for your home mortgage, lock yourself in,” Safran says. “But, in terms of technology, being locked in for long periods of time just doesn’t make sense. Seven years would have been a lifetime.” A lifetime of being hounded by the upsell machine and rising costs indeed.

Our Take

While there is and will be plenty of debate on what the top portfolio management or performance reporting platform is “the best”; many of these larger companies miss the mark on what’s really important. That’s providing a tool and a technology that seamlessly fits the need of the user without pressuring them into paying more for capabilities and services that they don’t really need.

Often times more isn’t always better. If you have a process that is working and need capabilities that specifically fit or enhance that workflow, be weary of the upsell. After all, you’re in the business of making money, not burning it.

The Future of Finance: Top 5 Fintech Trends to Watch in 2019

Traditionally, the financial sector has been slow to invest in and adopt groundbreaking technologies. However, in 2018 we saw a number of well-established institutions kick “tradition” out the door to make way for the real world results produced by a number of fintech applications that have established their proof of concept as well as their viability in today’s market.

Continue reading The Future of Finance: Top 5 Fintech Trends to Watch in 2019

AssetBook Appoints Neel Dattani as Chief Executive Officer

We’re excited to announce that we have appointed Neel Dattani as AssetBook’s new Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately.  Neel’s experience in driving operational excellence, fostering innovation, along with his sound leadership style made this an easy decision. His appointment is a clear reflection of the company’s current state: ready to take on the future and fired up about delivering cutting-edge products and services with our own personal touch.

Continue reading AssetBook Appoints Neel Dattani as Chief Executive Officer

Congratulations to our Tech Survey gift card winners!

 

The team at AssetBook would like to congratulate the winners of our technology  survey appreciation drawing.

The winners are Travis Woods at EFP Advisors and Karrie Thomas at Nautilus Advisors.

It is very important for us to understand the other financial systems that our clients are using so that we focus our development effort on the right integrations.

Thanks to all of you that participated in the survey!

NAPFA 2017 Fall Conference in Orlando was a Hit!

As you can tell by my smiling face above, we had a terrific time at this year’s NAPFA (National Association of Personal Financial Advisors) Fall conference.

AssetBook’s COO, Neel Dattani and I convened with about 300 fee-only financial planners at the Omni Resort in Orlando for one of our most successful conferences to date.Neel

Thanks to Ric Haines, the conference coordinator, we had a prime location in the exhibit hall. We were amazed by the number of clients (at least a dozen) that came by to say hello. We also had a large number of prospective clients stop to see and learn about AssetBook.

It was really great when we had a mix of both current and prospective clients at the booth because our current clients were the ones selling AssetBook to the prospective clients.  It’s hard to beat these strong referrals, especially with this tight-knit group of advisors.


Featured presentation:

In light of the recent Equifax and other data breached, the topic that was trending the most was cybersecurity.  Identity theft expert John Sileo did a keynote presentation on “The Hacker’s Blacklist – Top Threats and Countermeasures for Data Security.”

John’s discussion helped advisors to:

  • Answer the critically important “WHY” of security training before explaining the “HOW TO”
  • Clarify answers to questions like “What is cyber security?” and “How does cybersecurity work?”
  • Convert “humans as your weakest link” into your greatest competitive advantage
  • Prioritize threat trends, such as ransomware, cyber blackmail, Internet of Things, and Denial of Service (DDoS)
  • Detect, reflect and react to social engineering & fraud tools from phishing to pre-texting
  • Build a tactical white-list of critical data, necessary computer security conversations, and next steps

HACKER@2x

One thing that I found fascinating was when he talked about setting up a network on his laptop while sitting in the lobby of the Omni resort the day prior to his presentation.  He named the network “Omni Free”, and in less than an hour dozens of users logged on to his phony network.  Once they logged in, he could read files, emails, etc.  It was a real eye-opener for everyone in the room.

For more information about expert speaker John Sileo, check out Sileo.com.


The conference was everything that we could have hoped for, from the content to the location and venue.  Most importantly, the quality of advisors attending the conference was as good as it gets.  Thanks to all NAPFA organizers for putting on a terrific conference.