A new software tool gives advisors' clients their own Web portal.
When Edmond J. Walters went shopping for a software solution that would answer many of his financial planning and client relationship needs four years ago, he figured it would take some work.
What he didn't figure is that it would be a career-changing undertaking that would take years to achieve.
But that is exactly how it turned out for Walters, who-shortly into his hunt for the "holy grail" of financial planning software-discovered his goal was more an illusion than something he could pick up off the shelf.
The typical problem was that Walters would find an offering that was good at one thing, but not good at another. There were good financial planning tools, for example, that didn't offer any help in dealing with clients. Or vice versa. It reached the point where you figure he would have just given up and made do with whatever he had. Nope.
Walters, it turns out, had a lot of technology professionals as clients. When he consulted with them, they said the things he wanted all existed-just not in one place. It was just a matter of putting all the pieces together.
"I finally said I'd build the darn thing," Walters says. Thus was born the effort that led to the creation of eMoney Advisor, and the company of the same name that's based in the Philadelphia suburb of Conshohocken, Pa. The company's product: a completely Web-based platform that provides basic financial planning and client relationship tools, including aggregated account data, customized alerts, Monte Carlo simulators and personalized Web sites for clients.
While not a do-everything tool-it doesn't, for example, offer extensive client management features or the in-depth portfolio management tools of an Advent or Centerpiece-Walters claims it is a tool that can play a central role in the relationship between advisors and their clients.
"We made this bulletproof," says Walters, who is CEO and chairman of eMoney Advisor. "I built it for people like me, who are incredibly computer illiterate."
Since hitting the market about a year-and-a-half ago, eMoney has been gradually building up a following. The company now has slightly more than 1,000 advisors, including much of the field force of Mass Mutual, using the program. It expects revenues of up to $8 million this year, compared with $2.6 million last year. The software tool isn't cheap. Advisors pay $1,500 per year to use eMoney, plus $350 for each client who has access. The company sells client access in blocks of ten at $3,500 for each block.
Walters estimates that about 75% of his customers are independent RIAs, and adds that the bulk of the company's growth will actually come from client access, which advisors are typically folding into their standard asset management fee.