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Portfolio Pathway - A Digital Wealth-Management Platform

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Feb 19, 19 | Shareholders Service Group and Portfolio Pathway announce a new partnership to deliver cloud-based portfolio reporting suite

Dec 13, 18 | The Evolution of FinTech Through Platform Changes

Nov 29, 18 | Evolution of the Advisor Platform

Oct 23, 18 | WealthTech Insights #39 with Dave Miller

Oct 9, 18 | Portfolio Pathway, LLC: A Digital Wealth-management Platform for Financial Advisors

PortfolioCenter Users – Is Your Head Spinning Yet?

There is a reason you use PortfolioCenter. Whether it’s cost, comfort or compliance, you made a choice and stayed the course. But with Schwab announcing that it’s selling PortfolioCenter to Envestnet Tamarac, you may be feeling forced down a path you did not originally choose.

You may feel confused about the wide-range of competitive systems beating down your door, even enticing you with back-end loaded pricing. But amid all the chaos, nobody seems to be thinking about your actual needs – they’re just focused on getting you as a client, which is overwhelming and isolating in and of itself.

Legacy systems will eventually need to be upgraded, like old versions of Microsoft Office. It’s one thing to embrace change, but it’s another to feel forced into something that you weren’t prepared for. And even if you were thinking about making a change, the ensuing tidal wave of information is enough to make anyone’s head spin.

Regardless of whether you are ready for change or recognize that change is inevitable, below is a guide that outlines some things to consider when shopping around.

Assessing Features

“What works for me?” Seems simple enough but stepping back and answering this question may take some time and lead to more questions. As you’re comparing new features across various options, be sure to consider both the long-term and short-term needs for both you and your clients. Some questions to ask include:

  • What do you offer and how does that translate to your needs from a system?
  • Can your workflow be improved by switching?
  • What other features are included that you’re not getting from your current platform?

However, if you are more of a strategist, you may want a system that can accommodate multi-strategy level rebalancing and trading, as well as potential UMA capabilities. Some questions to ask if you’re a financial planner:

  • Do you like very detailed plans, or do you like to keep things simple?
  • What functions do you need – Portfolio Accounting, Billing, Trading, CRM, Analytics?

Also, some systems offer many “apps” within their platform. But these apps can quickly become cumbersome and overwhelming. As you assess each platform, ask yourself: What do you really need?

Platform or Integrations

Software vendors continue to evolve. Some are focused on enhancing their specialty and simply integrate with other firms for features they do not provide. Others offer a broader set of features within a single platform. While some integrations are useful and work well, many others are just light enough to market the fact that it exists. Even though you might be able to see a performance number in your CRM, you may need more information requiring you to swivel chair back to Portfolio Management System anyway. Platforms tend to provide a wider range of features that work more seamlessly together. Evaluate the features you need and how they flow together – whether through integrations, or a platform.

How Secure is Secure?

Security is an important piece to this vendor puzzle. Without ample security and continuity planning, your business may be left exposed and at risk of malfeasance or a plain-old accident. Some questions to ask:

  • Where is your client’s data stored?
  • Is it secure and redundant?
  • Is development completed offshore?
  • What people at the vendor have access to client data?

If acceptable answers are not provided to these questions, move on.

Easy-to-Access Client-Side Tools

My 73-year old father spends just as much time on his tablet or phone as my 12-year old does. In short: everyone wants easy access to information, including your clients. Some questions to ask:

  • Does your software vendor have a mobile app and/or a client website?
  • Is it branded with your firm’s name and logo?
  • Are collaboration tools between you as an advisor and your client available?

Because if your clients can’t easily access it, what difference does it make?

Data Conversion

This one’s a doozy. There are three options for converting your data:

Transactional – Moving transactional data from system to system sounds like a huge undertaking. For some systems, it is. For PortfolioCenter, not as bad if the receiving firm understands the architecture and mappings. The coordination of starting data on the new system with stopping and cutting over is often overlooked, which can cause a gap in data.

Custodian files – Unless you are using a service bureau to reconcile and manager your data, it is likely that you have downloaded your custodial files yourself and possibly still have them. If that’s the case, some systems can process these files but will need to reconcile everything from day one.

Performance only – This is the process of loading historical monthly performance numbers and chain linking them to transactional data that begins for the new vendor. Easier, faster, less costly (if there is a charge).

Be aware of the options that platforms offer -- and consider what makes the most sense for your business.

Ease of Use/Simplicity

Change can be difficult. When phone operating systems change due to a significant update, users are often annoyed but tend to adapt over time. Not much different here. While a robust feature set is important, simplicity in navigation and general use is also important:

  • Is the system intuitive?
  • Can you find what you want quickly?
  • Can your clients easily find what they want?

If not, keep looking.

Customer Service

In this day and age, there’s no excuse for not delivering stellar customer service. But to some providers, not all firms are created equal and some will pay more attention to some than the others. Questions to ask:

  • What are YOU more comfortable with: Large firm versus small firm?
  • Are you significant enough for their business?
  • Do they have a reputation for good customer service?

Make sure you get references and ask them about the service knowledge and responsiveness. This is another area that is under-researched, but critical.

What Price is Right?

When shopping, you’ll likely see pricing either based on AUM or a per account fee. Do the math, but given the points above, price alone should not be a deciding factor. Also, when comparing a system’s price to the PortfolioCenter cost, consider your employee cost of managing PortfolioCenter data, which will basically be eliminated by switching to a cloud-based system.

Bottom line: Do your due diligence, understand your options and determine what is best for you and your clients. Choose the right pathway for you. The rest is just noise.