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Advisor Tested: eMoney's automation adds the biggest benefit; account aggregation still building

Web-based software available to clients; Sage Advisors plans to use the iPad to show off the capabilities

Monday, April 25, 2011 – 2:43 PM by Judy Messina
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Joe Wride: You can start with a 30,000-foot-view of a client’s situation and then select different reports.

Judy Messina writes the Advisor Tested column for RIABiz. She wrote about the iPad in: Advisor Tested: iPad proves ideal for advisors on-the-go; the surprise is the effect on clients.

Financial planning software traditionally has been seen as one of the lightweight elements of an advisor’s software arsenal. That is changing, however, as the software grows up. Many versions now integrate multiple sources of information, from investment performance, to income and tax information, as well as aggregating accounts. Some even offer marketing help. How to pick a software from a market in such flux?

(For a listing of many CRM software providers, see the RIABiz directory category.)

We took a look a one popular program eMoney 360 Pro, an integrated, web-based application that automatically updates all parts of a plan when a change is made. Users pay a licensing fee plus an annual per-client fee. Advisors pay a monthly per user licensing fee of $500 for eMoney 360 Pro, a comprehensive planning application, and $400 for eMoney 360, a modular planning tool. eMoney also offers relationship pricing as low as $200 to $300 a month for operations with a large number of users.

Because it is web-based, advisors can access client data remotely with devices such as smartphones and iPads, and also offer access to clients via a secure client web site. Among other things, the software offers marketing tools, including brochures and web links that help advisors market their services. We talked to Joe Wride, an advisor with Sage Advisors, a fee based comprehensive planning firm in Seattle, Wash. An enthusiastic user of eMoney 360 Pro, Mr. Wride has had the application since 2009.

Did you evaluate other financial planning applications before you went with eMoney?

When I started advising my own clients in 2009 and needed a software program, I took a look at several other plans, mainly Naviplan and MoneyGuide Pro. At that time, I thought eMoney was far and away more dynamic, more detail-oriented and more visually pleasing from a client’s point of view. It is also easier for me to navigate. I’m more analytic and I like to know and understand all the data input as far as what the client situation looks like.

Which features do you find most useful in your business?

You can start with a 30,000-foot-view of a client’s situation and then select different reports. For example, you can dive into income; a huge spreadsheet lays out a client’s income from now until he or she dies. You can look at savings, how they grow and then estimate what they will be when a client passes away. It does a great job of tracking taxation; you can see itemized deductions each year, family or personal exemptions or whether they are getting education credits, say, if they are paying for a child’s education. Tax reconciliation is probably second to none.

You can also see the growth of portfolio assets year by year, by asset class and by account. Their modeling software is also more effective because you can be really analytical if you have questions about what’s happening. In other programs, you can’t find it very easily or make simple changes.

How can clients use it? Can they access eMoney themselves?

If we make it available to them clients can access eMoney through their own portal. They can log in to the website and see reports or we can turn reports into pdf files, print them out and hand the client a booklet. You can also save reports in the Vault, which is part of the log-in portal, and have them look at reports that way. If they want us to store important documents, say wills or tax returns, we can put them in Vault as well.

How do clients like it? Do they use it?

It’s surprising. Some people are still very passive about keeping track of their financial information. Some like using eMoney and use all it has to offer, but there are still some who, as long as they feel their advisor is taking care of them and showing them as much information as they require, don’t necessarily participate in all the features. The eMoney program has more capacity than the average client needs, but it’s there. Right now, I use it mostly on a laptop, but as soon as I get an iPad, I’m going to put eMoney on it and put in front of clients.

Do you use the eMoney marketing services?

No. It’s a bit expensive.

What could eMoney do better?

For the accounts we manage we can get clients’ data into eMoney very well. Albridge Solutions, our portfolio management system, feeds it. For clients whose accounts we don’t manage, it’s a little more hit or miss. There are ways for us to make it work better, but it would require us to spend money on more account aggregation software. I manually input some of those things that I have in our CRM — net worth, income, how many kids a client has, insurance coverage, savings rate.

If someday I could enter data in one place and feed both systems, it would be fantastic. I think the future in the financial planning technology space, is figuring out how to integrate as much as possible, even reconcile, with the client management database. eMoney has an element of that, but it’s difficult for their software to integrate that data. *

Do you find that you are more efficient by using eMoney?

The big efficiency we found with eMoney is that we can input real time account information through a link to a portfolio accounting vendor so that we don’t have to manually input data. We can’t have direct access to accounts that we don’t manage, but clients do have the option to link their accounts to eMoney Pro. It saves time on our end, not having to get paper statements and not having to manually input, say, the shares of a mutual fund they own.

How about profitability? Do you make more money, do you think, by using eMoney?

That’s a hard thing to measure, but I would say “yes.” We probably have greatly improved our client retention because of the effectiveness of our planning. Financial advisors can differentiate themselves in the effectiveness of their planning — showing clients the track they’re on, finding more efficiencies in investment management and in cash flow management. This tool allows us to be as effective as possible in telling their story. It really makes clients feel safer and makes them trust that we are providing them more.

_* Note: We went to eMoney to ask about their aggregation capabilities. The company says that its software is able to aggregate client data from accounts that Joe Wride doesn’t manage. But it takes the client managing the passwords of all the institutions he has money with (and for high net worth people, that can be several) and making sure that eMoney gets fed what it needs. Also, financial institutions can change their web site access procedures. If that happens, clients have to make sure they’re done whatever is necessary to make sure eMoney continues to have access.

“We’ve got to wait for clients to work through the technical issues and if they have multiple accounts from many different sources that we do not have legal access to, it can be too much homework to get us all that information. From an eMoney perspective, yes, the technology exists and is there to be used. From our perspective, it’s more the time and effort it takes to put it all together.”

Wride says he could buy aggregation software, say, from ByAllAccounts, for which clients input security info for all their accounts. But Wride’s firm would have to pay for the service._

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Mentioned in this article:

eMoney Advisor LLC
Financial Planning Software
Top Executive: Edward O’Brien

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