Upgraded versions of Junxure-i and Workstation Office offer new capabilities and opportunities.

    There's no shortage of technology news at the moment. Junxure-i, the most widely used advisor-centric CRM system for independent advisors, just launched a new major release. Morningstar introduced a major upgrade to Advisor Workstation Office Edition that includes portfolio accounting and reporting capabilities. The two largest providers of portfolio accounting and reporting software to advisors are also busy at work upgrading their product lines.

Junxure-i 6.0
    By my unscientific count, more than 80% of advisory firms that try to develop their own proprietary CRM system end up abandoning the project. Today, over 3,000 advisors are thankful that Friedman & Associates was an exception to the rule. In 1995, Greg Friedman, frustrated by the lack of software capable of addressing his practice management needs, teamed up with Ken Golding of Ken Golding Software to create BAM, the predecessor to Junxure-i, for his own practice. When other advisors learned of the program, they offered to purchase BAM; Greg and Ken obliged. From these humble beginnings, Junxure-i has grown to become the most comprehensive advisor-centric CRM/office management system on the market.
    With the release of Junxure-i version 6.0, CRM Software has taken significant leaps forward in both functionality and usability. Functionally speaking, perhaps the most important new feature is the Graphical Planning Work Status Report (GPWSR). Unfortunately, the name does not do this feature justice. GPWRS is a spreadsheet that allows a manager to view exactly where each client is in the planning process-or any process, for that matter.
Client names are listed down the left of the spreadsheet. Across the top, each user-defined step in the planning process is listed. The cells associated with each client are colored green (for completed), yellow (begun, but not completed) or red (no activity yet). Green and yellow cells contain the date entered and the number of actions the step contains. Clicking on a cell reveals all details associated with the step.
    GPWSR can be used for tracking other processes as well. Advisors can create report templates for opening new accounts, the asset transfer process, and any other processes that they regularly use within their office.
    The other major reporting enhancement is the new Actions Reporting Wizard and Rules Builder. While similar to the Reports wizard, this tool gives advisors much greater flexibility over reporting. With this tool advisors can choose to report only on the fields within an action that they want to see, and only for the clients they want to see. Results are presented on a grid, and they can be exported to MS Excel if desired with a single mouse click.
The "Deliverables" functionality has been enhanced. Deliverables allow you to group together a number of items for presentation to a client, while assigning responsibility for individual items to a number of staff members. For example, if Mr. & Mrs. Smith are coming into the office next week, there might be a standard reports that you want to review with them: realized gains and losses, unrealized gains and losses, progress towards long-term financial planning goals, and annual delivery of Form ADV. You could create a deliverable set for each annual summer meeting and assign responsibility for compiling the first two reports to someone on the investment team, the third to a financial planner and the last to your administrative assistant.         After creating the set once, it will automatically roll over at the interval selected.
    Deliverables are similar to recurring actions, but they operate differently. Recurring actions roll over on a calendar basis, July 15 of each year, for example. Deliverables only reset upon completion, so if the reminder appears on July 15, but the delivery does not take place until August 15, the next reset will be for August 15 of the following year. This differentiation makes deliverables more suited to client-related matters, and recurring actions better suited to practice-related issues.
    E-mail has been enhanced so that text can be formatted. Advisors can now select from a range of font types, font sizes, colors, etc. E-mails can contain merge fields so that form e-mails can be created as easily as form letters. Attachments can be added. If a client record contains multiple e-mail addresses, the user can now select which one to use. Also, global e-mails are now recorded with the letters history.
Integration with MS Outlook has been enhanced. An Outlook calendar item created within Junxure-i is now linked to an action. Overall, integration and synchronization with MS Outlook is much improved.
    Junxure-i has long offered integration with a number of document management systems, including PaperPort, CEO Executive Assistant, and, through Trumpet Inc., Worldox. Version 6.0 adds DocuXplorer to the growing list of document management systems.
Users now can color code and rank keywords. Within a client record, keywords are listed in order of priority. When a client record is opened, the background of the highest-ranking keyword will display on the client record. So, if "Platinum" clients are coded gray, they will be easy to spot visually if one browses the records. In addition, if an alert is triggered for a client, the name field background will change to red. This offers an additional visual cue.
    On the usability side, there are a lot of little things that in total make a difference. For example, the link to Yahoo Maps has been changed to the superior Google Maps. Throughout the system, grids make reports easier to read, as does the judicious use of color.
CRM software has gone to great lengths to make using the system easier. A set of more than 50 short training videos allows advisors to learn the nuts and bolts of the program at their own pace. Friedman plans to add additional video clips outlining how he uses individual program features within his practice.
    While CRM software is justifiably proud of Version 6.0, they are not resting on their laurels: "We are already working on additional enhancements for future releases," said Friedman. That's welcome news to current and prospective Junxure-I users.

Advisor Workstation Office Portfolio Accounting System
    The subject of Morningstar Inc. always creates something of a dilemma for me. On the one hand, their footprint within the industry is difficult to ignore; on the other hand, I write a regular column for Morningstar Advisor, so some might question my impartiality towards the firm. The best I can do in this case is offer full disclosure of the relationship and let you draw your own conclusions.
    Until recently, many advisors, including me, had difficulty justifying the $5,000 price tag attached to Morningstar Advisor Workstation Office Edition, the Web-based investment planning platform for independent financial advisors. The latest version, which went on sale in mid July to new users, could change all of that. The reason: Advisor Workstation Office Edition now includes a free portfolio accounting and reporting system (PAS).
    All of a sudden, the economics of the purchase decision have shifted drastically. Previously, Workstation Office users received all of the Morningstar databases (mutual funds, closed-end funds, ETFs, variable annuities, variable life, separate accounts and Morningstar indexes) updated daily, alerts, commentary, light CRM, integrated e-mail, portfolio construction/optimization tools and some light financial planning tools.
    For the advisor who really made use of all the tools provided, the price was not outrageous. But based upon the feedback I receive, few advisors currently exploit all of Workstation's capabilities, so the true value to the average advisor was less than the sum of the parts. Those who viewed             Workstation Office as nothing more than "Principia Online," in particular, found the price of Workstation Office edition tough to swallow.
Adding portfolio accounting and reporting, however, makes Workstation Office a compelling value proposition. Many advisors pay in excess of $5,000 per year for portfolio accounting and reporting alone; advisors who use even a fraction of the existing Workstation tools and then adapt the portfolio accounting tools are getting excellent value for their money, provided that Morningstar's portfolio tools meet their needs.
    The key question is: Will Morningstar's PAS tools appeal to independent RIAs? I think that they will. Today, Morningstar cannot compete head to head with market leaders Schwab Portfolio Technologies and Advent on depth or breadth of portfolio management and reporting features, but it does provide more than enough to meet the needs of many. It can certainly account for stocks, mutual funds, ETFs and most traditional fixed-income instruments competently.
    Data from custodians can be downloaded and imported into the system. Manual data entry is also possible. Morningstar offers control over tax-lot settings. For example, the default tax-lot setting for mutual funds is average cost, but users can choose to use FIFO or LIFO instead.
Users can designate a cash account as the "sweep account" so that all excess cash (the proceeds of security sales, for example) automatically do to the designated account and accrue interest. The platform includes decent billing capabilities. Advisors can set up multiple billing schedules and apply them to accounts as needed.
    Currently, only 18 standard accounting reports are available, but it is a sure bet that more reports will be forthcoming as users request them. The reports can feature the advisor's company logo if desired. One report, the net worth report, allows advisors to manually add assets and liabilities for reporting purposes that are not part of the portfolio. Others are the ones advisors commonly use. They fall into four main categories: Portfolio Reports (portfolio summary, transactions, realized gains and losses, unrealized gains and losses, etc.), Performance Reports (summary, by asset class, etc.), Management Reports (assets under management, trade activity, management fees, maturity and expiration report, etc.) and Fixed-Income Reports (maturity and expiration to put/call, interest accruals, cash projections, etc.).
    What sets Morningstar apart from competitors is the ability to integrate other Morningstar data seamlessly with the performance reporting features. "Workstation Office Edition is the only product that brings together advanced client reporting functionality with detailed Morningstar analytics, providing financial advisors with a single resource for all investment planning, portfolio tracking and client reporting needs," says Chris Boruff, president of Morningstar's Advisor business.
    This means that advisors can create a single client report with not only performance numbers, but also with Morningstar updates on individual mutual funds, equities and ETFs, together with Morningstar Portfolio X-Rays and other reports. It also means that Morningstar portfolio alerts can be tied to the Investment Policy Statement (IPS) created within Workstation, so advisors will be alerted when a portfolio's asset allocation strays from the guidelines established in the IPS. In addition, since Morningstar maintains extensive price data on equities, mutual funds and the like, advisors have the option of using Morningstar data as opposed to custodian provided data to price portfolios within PAS.
    Beyond PAS, Morningstar has made other upgrades to Workstation Office Edition that some will find useful. They have increased the number of indexes they offer from about 200 to 8,000. Data on more than 3,300 hedge funds is provided, as is data on 26,000 off-shore open-end mutual funds. Advisors can now import data from MS Outlook into Workstation, but full direct synchronization is not yet available.

    Advent recently released version 1.5 of Advent Portfolio Exchange.  According to William Penney, Advent's director of product marketing, "Advent Portfolio Exchange (APX) is our next-generation product." Unlike Advent's Axys, which is based upon an older database technology, APX is built on a modern SQL database and incorporates .NET technology. While Advent is currently offering APX as an onsite (or offline) solution, the SQL/.NET architecture would support an online or online/offline version of the product should Advent see fit to offer it in the future.
    According to Penney, APX is currently being sold primarily to Advent's "mid-market clients," which he defined as those RIA firms managing at least $750 million, although he conceded that a number of firms half that size had purchased the program.
    Advent has been emphasizing that APX offers integration, combining front-office capabilities such as prospecting, contact management and calendaring with back-office functions like portfolio performance in reporting. The move to SQL means that APX can offer much more granular control and security features, just as Schwab PortfolioCenter did when they moved to SQL. The new platform should also offer increased overall efficiencies.
Advent declined to provide pricing, which is determined by a number of factors including assets and seat requirements, but it is fair to assume that APX will be sold at a premium over Axys, which Advent continues to see and support.

Schwab PortfolioCenter
    In April 2006, Schwab Performance Technologies released version 4.26 of PortfolioCenter. This maintenance release included some minor tweaks and fixes, including an account rebalancing utility, support for 64-bit platforms and improvements to other standard reports.
    Much of their energies are now focused on the next major release of PortfolioCenter, due to launch in the fourth quarter. According to Dan Skiles, vice president of Schwab Institutional Technology, development is progressing on schedule. "We're just getting the beta version out to testers," he said. "If all goes well, the new version will go out on time." Skiles declined to provide specifics about the new version; however he did promise that it would be a "major upgrade."
    While PortfolioCenter users are waiting for the next release, they might want to visit the new, vastly improved Schwab Performance Technologies Web site (www.schwabpt.com). Schwab has taken what was essentially a useless online billboard and turned it into something that customers can actually benefit from.
    Upgrades are now easy to locate and download. Documentation on known unresolved issues and resolved issues are available. There's a best practices guide, step-by-step instructions for managing corporate actions and information about third-party providers, including service bureaus and data aggregators. In addition, there is a quarter-end checklist, a guide to creating professional reports, guides to working with custodial interfaces, guides to the Schwab Rebalancing utility, data backup guides and information about rights and roles security. Many of these tools have been available before, but they weren't easily accessible from a single location.
    For those who require more hand holding, Schwab offers on site training, and reasonably priced personalized remote training. Additional details are available on the site.

Joel P. Bruckenstein, publisher of Virtual Office News (www.virtualofficenews.com) and an expert in applied technology for financial services professionals, can be contacted at [email protected].