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Testers of Blue Sky say that the product saves them time and effort
June 28, 2010 — 7:28 AM UTC by Brooke Southall
Black Diamond Performance Reporting came out of beta testing with Blue Sky, its next-step software last week. With only a couple of days’ notice, RIABiz Webmaster Nevin Freeman gave readers a thorough review. See:Already known to be cutting edge, Black Diamond shoots for the bleeding edge with total rewrite of its software
To supplement that review, we took Black Diamond’s chief solutions officer, Dave Welling, up on his offer to put us in touch with four people who have been using the software since it first became ready for testing about five months ago.
I didn’t expect people referred by the company to be negative about the product (and they weren’t), but I still found what these advisors who participated in the beta process said to be interesting. Their comments were varied but with some overlapping opinions.
Eric Jardine, a portfolio manager for Baker Avenue Asset Management, which manages $650 million of assets from San Francisco, likes its flexibility and capacity. Jardine is responsible for overseeing the technology at his company.
“The best thing about it is that it’s more scaleable and it can be customized easily,” he says. “That means new features can be rolled out easily.”
Ted Rich, principal of Vinoy Capital LLC, which manages $150 million of assets from Orlando, Fla., and Boulder, Colo. says that the new system greatly streamlines the process for sending clients data about their accounts.
“Previously, I would cut out a picture of performance data, a picture of an allocation price chart and a performance line graph and put it in an e-mail,” he says. “Now I can just design the page and it’s one picture that goes to the client.”
The time savings add up because each client communication took minutes before and now it takes seconds.
“Multiply that time savings by how many times we send that out to a client,” he says.
Michael Lee, chief operating officer of Lourd Capital Management, which manages $470 million of assets from Los Angeles, says the interface is more attractive.
“It wasn’t ugly before but it’s better and there’s much more data right on the main page.”
That’s important to Lee because the interface is one of the major touch points with clients.
“You can’t be [personally] in touch with clients all the time. Having something attractive creates a positive impression.”
Jonathan Satovsky, chairman of Satovsky Asset Management, which manages $350 million of assets from Manhattan, says the changes save him substantial time. He’s able to review accounts and relate in formation to clients faster.
“The primary takeaway for me and for clients is the ability to look by accounts and expand the view to how you’re invested. (You can then) take it one level further to underlying holdings. In the past, you had to toggle between assets, classes and accounts.”
Three of these users say that they initially came to Black Diamond because of frustration with using Advent Axys, the legacy product of industry Advent Software. The San Francisco-based company has since developed — and significantly modified – its offering, which is called Advent Portfolio Exchange.
Heather Underwood, RIABiz technology reviewer, recently looked at Advent’s APX and gave it a favorable review. see: RIABiz take a peek under the hood of Advent Portfolio Exchange
Satovsky had used Advent during his 15-year career working for American Express as an advisor and looked for another option when he turned independent. “I picked up Black Diamond in 2007,” he says.
Jardine, an Advent user until nine months ago, believes that Black Diamond gives him a leg up on competitors. “Black Diamond reports have helped highlight the things that make Baker Avenue different from other investment managers,” he says.
Rich takes a similar view about the technology choice that he made.
“We see Black Diamond as the most flexible system and this [Blue Sky version] makes it even more flexible,” he says. “It’s not just about the data but how we communicate it.”
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