Diamonds In The Rough

Three years ago this month when we started publishing Financial Advisor, we were deeply gratified by the response and acceptance the magazine‚s first issue received from readers. With regular contributors like Nick Murray, Russ Prince, Hannah Grove, Mike Martin, Dick Wagner, Tracey Longo and Marla Brill, we felt we were on to something. Within the next year, we added writers like Alan Lavine, Bill Bachrach and Leo Pusateri.

We also knew there were areas where our coverage needed to be expanded. Nowhere was the gap more obvious than in the technology arena. To address the gap in our editorial team, several talented writers as well as others, myself included, made attempts to plug the hole. Some like Ray Fazzi and Eva Marer wrote excellent articles.

But it became clear that if we wanted to excel in our coverage, we needed someone who was more than just a good reporter capable of grasping technology issues. We wanted someone who could take any given software program apart, test-drive it and provide our readers with an analysis of the benefits and the drawbacks. Although we were committed to fair and balanced journalism, we knew that readers wanted news they could use, including advice about technology that they could utilize in their offices.

As it turned out, we found an advisor in Florida who was writing occasionally for Morningstar‚s Web site for advisors. I asked the advisor, Joel Bruckenstein, if he could occasionally review software for us. He said yes, and I was intrigued. After Joel turned in his first article, I quickly realized that this former foreign exchange trader not only understood software but also was capable of writing in a clear, lucid fashion. It‚s a rare combination to find in one individual, so I knew we had gotten lucky.

Over the past year, I have come to appreciate his skills greatly. But when Joel explained to me in early May what EISI, the manufacturer of NaviPlan, was up to, I realized he had a big story. I had been introduced to NaviPlan at a Schwab Institutional conference in 1998 by another tech-savvy advisor, Norm Boone, who had praise for the high-quality financial planning program. Since then, NaviPlan‚s user base has climbed from a few thousand advisors to more than 70,000–more than any other financial planning program.

But the story, as Joel reports, is just beginning. EISI has gone beyond simply creating a good software program; it‚s created a platform that should solve one of the biggest problems advisors face in the technology arena. Specifically, new versions of NaviPlan allow advisors to link programs that once were incapable of talking to each other.

As with any new breakthrough product, NaviPlan‚s influence may be far-reaching. For example it could allow wirehouses, which want to do more financial planning even though many of their brokers dismiss it, to realize their objectives while increasing broker oversight. It could also allow advisors to integrate the programs on their desktops in ways they‚ve only dreamed of.

It‚s the kind of big story that provides advisors with the competitive intelligence they need in a fast-changing world. And it‚s a story you will only find in Financial Advisor.