Category: APX


If you saw $500 on the ground, would you pick it up?

In late 2008, most investment firms were focused on getting lean and surviving a heretofore unprecedented economic downturn. Because we specialize in working with these firms, we wanted to use our core expertise to help create efficiencies and save them money. We ran an ad in the Advent User Group (AUG) newsletter offering two free hours of consulting. It wasn’t a completely altruistic idea; we figured we would gain some long-term clients for the effort.

The ad was run, and I honestly thought we’d get some calls. Surely there were investment firms that would want FREE consulting, right?  We typically receive calls from investment professionals across the nation inquiring about our products and services, but not one person called to inquire about the two hours of free consulting.

It is possible that users were so busy that they weren’t reading the newsletter.  Perhaps the ad, which was kind of ugly, didn’t inspire firms to call us.  In all likelihood, this ad failed to generate interest because of its target market: investment advisors and their trusted professionals.

I have worked with these folks for over twenty years and understand who they are, so perhaps I should have known better. The typical investment advisor is a conservative skeptic who believes you get what you pay for. In their view, our offer of free consulting must have appeared hollow or even insincere. Investment firms are stereotypically risk-averse regarding their back office operations. For these reasons, many investment advisors are victims of a negative feedback loop. 

Software companies are able to continually increase fees without making dramatic technology improvements because, by and large, investment advisors are resistant to change and afraid to try anything else. This inertia obstructs new firms from competing with the established firms since the market share they need to capture is engaged in agreements that investment advisors may not think entirely reasonable, but acceptable for now.

Advent Software, for example, consistently raises the cost of Axys support and focuses on compatibility and bug fixes without implementing large-scale feature additions to further merit such sustained cost increases. Advent could change this with a little effort, but historically it hasn’t been part of their agenda. Nevertheless, I still believe that Axys is the most cost-efficient and feature-rich portfolio management system available to investment advisors today.

Axys users need to remember that the name of the company is Advent Software, not Axys Software. They are a for-profit business, and that is a good thing for their customers in the long-term. From my limited knowledge and perspective, it does seem like a grossly disproportionate amount of Advent’s research and development efforts go into things that are not related to Axys. For an Axys user paying annual maintenance fees which hypothetically go to support, research and development of their product, this is problematic – especially if they rarely call Advent for support.

Advent has invested significant resources in APX, an enterprise product offering which is a possible upgrade for Axys users. In reality, APX currently doesn’t make sense for the vast majority of non-enterprise Axys users. In May, Advent finalized a deal to buy Black Diamond for $73M. Three months later, just how or whether Black Diamond will be integrated into Advent’s other product offerings remains to be seen.

Advent is not alone. Earlier this year I had a call from a prospective customer that was frustrated by Satuit’s pricing plan. After paying roughly $2K per year to use Packman to package their reports and host statements on their portal, they were told that pricing would increase 300% over the next three years. If I made that announcement, I know what would happen to my clients.

To be fair to Satuit, they gave their client a year’s notice of the increase – enough time for them to find and implement a suitable alternative. We have experience selling competing products, and we feel that Satuit’s product, originally from Lync Consulting, had been underpriced at $2K per year.  Unfortunately, their client got used to paying $2K a year and didn’t feel like they could stomach more than $6K per year, even though the cost was scheduled to increase gradually.  Regardless, my advice to this prospective client was to stick with Satuit for now, because the cost of switching from their solution to our solution would outweigh any benefit in terms of cost over three years.

Rational product pricing takes competition, expectations, value, ongoing support and profitability into account, but don’t expect to make any sense of pricing in the industry where “greed is good.” Investment advisors that really want to change the status quo should follow Gandhi’s advice: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” In order to make it happen, they need to be willing to take on a certain level of risk. If the last twenty years is any indication of what we can expect, don’t hold your breath on this one.

Most investment advisors will continue to get what they pay for in the foreseeable future.

About the Author:
Kevin Shea is President of InfoSystems Integrated, Inc. (ISI); ISI provides a wide variety of outsourced IT solutions to investment advisors nationwide. For details, please visit isitc.com or contact Kevin Shea via phone at 617-720-3400 x202 or e-mail atkshea@isitc.com.

In an earlier blog I emphasized the importance of mainstream client reporting.  As investment professionals once again turn to the dreaded task of busily cranking out their quarterly reports, it is relevant to share the process we have established to help many of them transition from tired, stale reports to a new generation of client reports. 

In this article, I’ll take you through our process for overhauling client reporting drawing upon specific references to a recent project. Whether you opt to utilize a third-party service provider like us, request Report Writing services from Advent, or produce your next generation client reports internally, you should find the following information useful.  Those that want to implement new reports for Q3 or Q4 of 2011 need to start the process now.

Our Process for Improving Client Reporting

Our fundamental approach addresses the most difficult reporting issues first, identifying any show-stopping problems as early in the process as possible.  We are able to create reports using a number of techniques.  If one way doesn’t work, we can always fall back on another, but our goal is to select the right method from the get-go.

1. Review

In the review stage, advisors need to appraise their current client reporting packages with a critical eye in order to identify what is good and bad about them.  In a nutshell, investors must preserve what is highly valued by clients and remove what is superfluous. The ultimate goal should be to create concise, comprehensive reports that are easily understood, allowing clients to view as little or as much detail as they desire.  Many advisors want to create visually crisp and professional reporting packages.  We understand the importance of this;  however, in the area of client reporting, meaningful content should trump form.

Though we are available and qualified to review client reports and make recommendations for new ones, most firms prefer to do this internally. 

2. Mock-up

A new report always starts with an idea.  Oftentimes, this is shown with a mock-up expressing the look of the desired end product.  In some cases, our customers produce mockups in Excel, but others cut and paste pictures together, or simply sketch them freehand.  Any of these options are fine.  As they say, a picture says a thousand words:  the more detailed the pictures, the less you will have to explain to those writing the reports. 

Most clients have a strong preference as to whether reports appear in landscape or portrait. This aspect of your reports will be more expensive to change as you progress further into the project.  We understand that this decision may have more to do with aesthetic presentation issues, but some report layouts simply require more vertical space or horizontal space than others.  If you are dead-set on a certain orientation, you may need to be more flexible about report content.

Over the years, we have created a wide variety of quarterly reporting packages for clients. Some samples of our work that may help you with your mockup appear on our website under the menu titled “Custom Reports for Axys/APX.”  They fall into three categories:

1 – samples of reports produced by extracting data from Axys/APX and generating reports through traditional report writers like Crystal Reports and SSRS

2 – samples generated directly from Axys/APX through the use of compound report macros

3 – older samples of reports that were generated through a variety of methods

While browsing these above samples, click on any report to view it in larger size.

After viewing all of our online samples and PDF documents, our client produced the following mock-ups for us:

3. Draft

The draft process, as we define it, is one where the reports’ framework is established in the chosen environment.  Roughing out the reports helps determine their feasibility. In the attached example, we started by spending a day onsite, drafting the four account summary-type reports that were requested.   We used a combination of REPLANG, Report Writer Pro, and compound report macros. During this phase of the process, we are not overly concerned about individual details. Instead, we focus on the big picture. Is it possible to create the reports requested? What type of challenges will we face? What tools will be required? What resources, including time, will be required?

There are two possible outcomes to this stage:

  • Validation that the reports can be produced in the selected environment, as well as a better understanding of what they will look like and how much time they will take
  • A recommendation for another methodology, such as SSRS or Crystal Reports, based on the difficulties encountered in attempts to draft the basic report framework

After drafting the four requested summary reports, we were in a better position to estimate the amount of time necessary for development, knew what features would be difficult to implement, and were confident that we could deliver the reports on time.  Our client was also included in the process.  As we drafted each report, we sought their feedback to determine whether things were taking shape as intended.

4. Design

A significant amount of time needs to be spent in the design phase, selecting fonts, styles, colors, chart details, and other elements of presentation related to the reports.   Our client preferred to use the traditional Times New Roman font, but this font choice is one of the reasons most Axys and APX reports look so similar. We selected title bars rather than title boxes to give added flexibility regarding the placement and size of report elements.  Colors are very important. In the past, I have seen clients struggle to pick a palette of colors for charts and graphs. Our client picked vibrant colors that complemented their logo. If you are not already familiar with it, Adobe has a very useful and free resource that you can use to select a color scheme for your reports:

 http://kuler.adobe.com

As a general rule, one should complete design of the master page or default style for all reports before moving on to the next phase.  Report writers and developers are not necessarily graphic designers.  You can save your staff or vendor a lot of grief by having your color schemes selected and logos produced by professional designers.  In particular, your designer should produce images of the proper size, format and quality required.

5. Build & Test

We minimize formatting and style changes by beginning work in this phase only when a client has committed to a design specification.  Ideally, we wouldn’t make any changes to design once we have begun the build phase, but some customers change their minds between the design and build phases.  We also occasionally run into difficulties with pieces of the implementation process or come up with a better way to design something in the process of its implementation.

No matter how a report is created, the formatting of the first in a series of client reports to match the design layout is the most difficult.  However, once the initial report is completed, the rest of the reports come together much faster. The bulk of the time on your project will likely be spent on implementation.  This time depends on the number and complexity of reports you plan to produce, and the resources available.  It will likely take days, if not weeks.

In initial testing, we run reports for a small control group that represents the client’s various types of accounts. We also do a number of report runs for the full group of reports that will be run at quarter end. We find that doing full-scale tests is the best way to identify exceptions and deal with them proactively. As we find issues with individual reports, we apply fixes to address them, and must test again to validate the fixes.

In the example below, our client did a great job illustrating exactly what they wanted and let us focus on producing the report.

Account Summary Mock-up

The final report that we created based on our client’s mock-up shown above follows:

To see other samples of the final reports click here.

It took roughly 30 days to produce the final versions of our customer’s four account summary reports.  The customer was very engaged in the process and highly motivated, facilitating progress by providing quick responses to our questions.   Similar projects take 4-6 weeks, but could take significantly less time if you are working from established reports that just need modification.  You may remember that our initial draft took a day; we spent the rest of the time working on the more difficult aspects of the project.  Our summary reports brought data that needed verification into focus.  Based on exception testing and other issues, we made our final modifications to the reports’ appearance.

The project referenced in this article included new custom reports, quarterly packaging automation, integration of new custom reports, and conversion of legacy packaging to our new report packaging environment.  The project’s total cost was about 20k, nearly double what it would have been with our preexisting custom reports, but the only recurring cost is maintenance.  Many of today’s alternatives feature a sizable implementation cost and significant monthly fees.

Improving your client reporting is one of the most important things you can do to communicate more effectively.  Your next generation of quarterly statements should make it clear to your clients that you are investing in a process that directly benefits them.  If you do it right, you are bound to receive positive feedback from your clients once they have your new reports in hand.

There is no time like the present to start working on your next generation of client reports.

About the Author:
Kevin Shea is President of InfoSystems Integrated, Inc. (ISI); ISI provides a wide variety of outsourced IT solutions to investment advisors nationwide. For details, please visit isitc.com or contact Kevin Shea via phone at 617-720-3400 x202 or e-mail at kshea@isitc.com.

I take issue with the implied generalization that some portfolio management systems are “open” just because they utilize SQL server architecture.  With respect to data formats, a product using a SQL format can be considered “open” and a product using a proprietary format is thought of as “closed”, but this gross simplification of the nature of systems can be ill-used by marketers that need you to need something new before it is ready to fulfill its promise.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for open systems, and a system that leverages SQL server architecture is almost always a plus in comparison to the alternatives. However, to determine whether purchasing a new system will effectively satisfy their requirements RIAs need to understand what the differences between the systems they are considering mean to them in the short-term and long-term . Most RIAs don’t understand the issues at a level sufficient to grasp the near-term pros and cons of SQL based systems without experiencing them firsthand.

Last year, I read an article which said advisors are being held hostage by Portfolio Management Software (PMS) companies. The article called Advent ‘s portfolio management systems closed, but after I posted a lengthy comment, the article was revised changing their closed comment to refer to Axys rather than APX.

My original comment on the article follows:

It was a thought provoking article. However, Advent has been around for over 20 years. It is as much of a standard as you are likely to get in this industry. dBCAMS+ and Portfolio Center have been around about the same time, but Advent’s Axys and APX PMSs are the standard by which other systems are measured.

Though I normally act as an advocate for my investment management clients and not Advent, it isn’t fair to call Advent’s PMSs closed especially when you take into account the scripting, macros, import/export tool and the public views offered in APX. The maturity of the product also makes it easier to find people and resources to help you.

The easiest way to get data from one system to another is hire resources that are qualified to do just that by proof of specific experience. It can be difficult to transfer decades of data, but the issue isn’t necessarily one of standards now. It is difficult because there were not any standards in the past.

Converting a client with 20 years of data can potentially mean bringing a mix of data entered manually, downloaded automatically, and random fields into another system that the data doesn’t easily translate to. The process of translating involves field mapping much the same as you would need to move your contacts from one CRM to another, but it is more difficult because of the nature of transactions that can alternatively appear on one line or multiple lines. Intelligent translation tools interpret multiple lines of transactions simultaneously to determine how individual lines should be translated.

Though Advent does not allow you to import transactions directly into portfolio files, you can import the data easily enough. First you need to convert the source files from your old portfolio management system to Advent’s trade blotter format. Once you have done that you can import them to the trade blotter and then post them to your portfolios.

Getting data out of Advent is not difficult for experienced users. You can export transactions, portfolios, groups, securities, composites, performance files and almost any other data you want. Additional data can be generated as needed via reports written in Advent’s report writing language (REPLANG), or Report Writer Pro which allows you to send report data directly to a CSV format. You can also use SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), Crystal Reports, or even Excel to access APX data via SQL.

Users thinking of switching to other portfolio management platforms should take a hard look at the existing infrastructure of their current platform and compare it to the new system before making a switch. Infrastructure includes support for investment instruments/multi-currency, people, partnerships, third-party solution providers, interfaces, support-levels, standards and delivery.

Investment advisors need to understand the value of being able to get data in and out of their PMSs. Advisors should always own their data, and never be at the mercy of their PMS, or service provider for access to data that would be required to switch to another vendor.

With regard to the ease with which you can switch from one PMS to another, no matter how accessible, and open the data seems to be – conversion from one system to another still requires standardization and mapping that increases in difficulty based on four primary factors: the number of accounts, the number of investment types, age of portfolios and quality of data.

Perhaps the conversion of data from one PMS to another can be best understood with the analogy of translating a book from one language to another.  Some things translate very easily while other aspects can be extremely difficult to get across.  I have also heard a bit of a buzz about how much easier it will be to switch from one system to another once firms go to the more commonly used SQL platform, but this is a generalization and not a rule.  The complexity of conversions has more to do with common denominators (tables and data structures) between systems than the type of data format they share.   PMS software that shares the same data format does not necessarily share the same data structures and logic.

For now it is debateable whether the benefits of a system that really is open outweigh those of a platform that is more mature, reliable and robust without being “open.”  If you have any doubt of this ask firms that are on the cutting (aka bleeding) edge and find out how well it all works right now.  Firms that have available staffing resources with the expertise to create added efficiencies through the use of a SQL based system may be able to leverage a SQL based platform at a level that justifies the cost.  Lean firms should think hard about the costs before making a commitment.  There are probably significantly less expensive options to add efficiencies on their existing platforms.

In a perfect world, all of your software programs would transparently exchange data as needed in an open architecture.  Today, however, you still have to do some work to make your software programs exchange the data. In order for PMS products to be truly open, an Application Program Interface (API) or similar mechanism would need to exist for every system, facilitating the transport of data.  Hypothetically, PMS products could share a single underlying data format, but that is unlikely to happen.  In the interim, products like xPort pave the way for firms to extract data from their PMS and produce high-end reports without the overhead of a platform change.

Some PMS companies, like Schwab’s Performance Technologies, have made use of Extensible Markup Language (XML) as a vehicle to automate data extraction in a format that is more easily interpreted by developers unfamiliar with their SQL database.  XML provides a measure of portability that other formats like CSV, fixed format and tab delimited do not.  Unfortunately for those without XML experience, dealing with data in an XML format represents yet another technological challenge.

We are now entering an era where open standards and integration between systems in the financial sector should accelerate dramatically.  In the past year, the big three (Fidelity, Schwab and TD Ameritrade) appear to have acknowledged open systems as the latest required initiative (and marketing buzzwords) to ensure the continued success of their institutional arms.  And, in fact, left unchecked open standards may be the biggest threat to the relative monopoly these firms enjoy as the technical visionaries of the RIA marketplace.  On some level, the openness of systems is an eventuality.

The big three are technology leaders.  By proactively augmenting the technology available to their instutional clients these firms make it easier for RIAs to do business and subsequently attract more business themselves.  Each of these firms deserves kudos for their achievements thus far, but there is a clear conflict of interest here.  Another goal of these competing firms is most certainly to provide competitive and proprietary technology with the potential to sway and keep business income in their coffers.  On the topic of open systems RIAs should listen to what the big firms say, but keep a watchful eye on what they actually do.

The truth of the matter is that you should want your systems to be more open, but not so open that there aren’t sufficient controls.    Firms with relatively simple requirements may never want to change their platform, but be assured that, just as it has in the past, the platform will change in the future.  The transaction cost to change it will go down as PMS provider’s incentives to sunset older platforms increase.  The question is whether it makes more sense to make a switch now or later. 

Whether you are on a SQL platform or not,  you still need to have work done to automate/integrate your systems and create high-end client statements.  For example,  going to the latest version of APX 3.0 with support for SSRS will not get your firm the custom reports they need overnight.  There is considerable work involved and the latest platform is still relatively new.  APX 3.0 provides a platform, but solutions still need to be built for that platform.  There will be more choices in coming years, but right now I suspect there are more reporting choices on the Axys platform.

Spending money on improving systems infrastucture is necessary, but the what, where and when is critical.  Your firm’s technology expenditures should be timed with your firm’s best interests for tangible results in mind.  In 2011, your company may be better served by adding a new trade order management system, or beefing up your research resources rather than moving to a PMS platform that utilizes SQL server.  The issues vary from firm to firm, but for most this decision demands a disciplined cost benefit analysis with detailed specifics not generalizations. 

Those that decide not to move to a SQL server platform this year should revisit the decision annually.

About the Author:
Kevin Shea is President of InfoSystems Integrated, Inc. (ISI); ISI provides a wide variety of outsourced IT solutions to investment advisors nationwide. For more information, please visit isitc.com , contact Kevin Shea via phone at 617-720-3400 x202 or e-mail at kshea@isitc.com.

There are plenty of lackluster reporting packages that get sent to investors, but every once in a while, you may see a reporting package that is truly impressive in terms of content and presentation. When you do see something that looks that good, it is only natural to wonder how it was done and at what cost. If the package is exceptional, then chances are somebody spent mucho dinero to make it so.

Back in the 80s when I started using The Professional Portfolio, the pre-Windows version of what is now known as Axys, there were relatively few easy ways to enhance reporting. Like a lot of things back then, we had to do it the hard way. There were then, as now, limits to what could be done within Advent’s infrastructure. When we came up against something that could not be done, or could not without Herculean efforts, we stepped outside of the environment and utilized programming tools to get the job done.

One of the first major projects I worked on was a client billing system that generated management fee summaries for custodians, and invoices for clients; it had many of the same features that have only recently become available to Axys users. That program was written in QuickBasic almost 20 years ago. In order to produce presentation quality invoices, specific HPGL2 (“printer language”) code needed to be written to format text and shade certain areas. The results were first rate but the effort necessary was daunting.

In the 90s, we started using Visual Basic (VB) to create one-page account summaries for our clients. By 1995 we were using VB and Crystal Reports to create reporting systems that were way ahead of their time, but the work behind the scenes was still considerable. Over the years, report writing products have evolved, becoming more robust and making it simpler than ever to produce sophisticated reports. There are two fundamental ways you can produce better reports in-house: within the Axys/APX environment or outside of the Axys/APX environment

Staying within has the potential benefits of keeping initial implementation costs down, facilitating standard Axys automation techniques, and lowering future maintenance costs. Cost may be kept in check by nature of the fact that the Axys/APX system’s rigid infrastructure puts the kibosh on what can be done. This approach is absolutely fine for firms that have simple reporting requirements and are willing to accept the limits imposed by this choice.

Here are some report enhancing tips for those staying within the Axys/APX envelope:

1. Utilize Axys master pages and consistent reporting styles to create continuity across reports.
2. The macro based compound reporting feature need not be used to create reports that look like they were “shrinky-dinked” to fit on the same page. Perseverance, patience and creativity usually payoff when designing compound reports.
3. Axys formatting has a certain look and feel that is dependent on report writing syntax. Most of the time you want Axys formatting, but if you don’t want standard formatting you can work your way around it by showing an Excel worksheet instead of a graph and formatting the Excel sheet with Excel macros.
4. Advent’s Excel data link can be further leveraged by utilizing Excel graph add-ins to give your reports a presentation quality that exceeds standard faire Excel graphs.
5. Battle-tested integrators should know that the limits of Excel integration can be stretched to allow the insertion of related data that may not be in Axys or the APX database.
6. It is sometimes okay to tell REPLANG a white lie about whether the report is really a one page report to get all the reports you want to fit on the page.
7. APX features “public views” which allow technology savvy users to create reports from the APX database. However, the public views are limited and do not give these same users access to all of the data they would like.

Staying within the confines of Axys/APX comes with a cost. The compound reporting feature can be finicky. Some things that should work do not work as expected. The resulting trial and error testing can be frustrating and time-consuming. In some cases, you may eventually find that you cannot do something that you should be able to do, forcing you to figure out an alternative way to reach your goal. These mindbending setbacks can delay or derail a reporting project.

This is a sample of what we have done working within the Axys/APX environment to create custom reports using compound report macros.To see more samples click on these links: portrait #1, portrait #2landscape #1 and landscape #2.

Stepping outside of the Axys/APX environment by extracting the data and placing it in a database opens up a new world of possibilities, but it should only be done if complex reporting requirements demand it.

The key perceived benefits of this approach can be best described in one word – flexibility. As a direct result of having data accessible in a standard database rather than a proprietary data format, you gain the ability to use report writing tools like Crystal Reports or SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) to produce complex reports efficiently, thereby placing your report developers in a more mainstream development environment where solutions to problems encountered are more readily available. This provides a foundation that empowers consultants/staff to act without necessarily requiring a subject matter expert to facilitate progress.

Some guidelines for creating a successful report production environment outside of Axys/APX follow:

1. Extract all the data you need from Axys/APX. You should have a subject matter expert architect and assist with the development of this feature or buy a product that performs the extract for you.
2. Design a well organized data structure.
3. Import data and perform data quality checks up at the earliest point in your report generation process.
4. Create standard report templates similar to Axys master pages and report styles functionality.
5. Take the time to mockup/document the possible permutations of report packages and determine what the process to generate your reports will look like. Seemingly, little details like page numbers, PDF merging, letterhead, disclosures can be a thorn in your side if you do not plan adequately for them in advance.

This is a sample of what we have done by stepping outside of the Axys/APX environment using Crystal Reports to create custom reports.Click on the following link to see more samples: landscape

Beware; this approach is not perfect either. The newfound, godlike ability to make any report cuts both ways. Because you can do almost anything, you will likely spend more time designing reports than you would have. Popular report writing programs have idiosyncrasies, too. As you develop your reports, you will no doubt be disappointed to learn that your chosen solution set has limitations of its own. Report development in this environment typically takes longer, but has more predictable results and corresponding timelines. Using this method also requires that you retain reliable and responsive resources with the ability to maintain and enhance your system as needs change over time.

The labor required to produce reports outside of Axys/APX is a multiple of what it costs to do so within Axys/APX, but the resulting reporting packages should be easily identified as high-end boutique productions, not standard client reporting packages. For companies that consider their reporting systems a top priority and are willing to allocate the necessary resources to produce uniquely engaging reporting packages, going outside the Axys/APX envelope makes sense.

This article was originally published in the Advent Users Group newsletter in 2008.

About the Author:
Kevin Shea is President of InfoSystems Integrated, Inc. (ISI); ISI provides a wide variety of outsourced IT solutions to investment advisors nationwide. For more information, please visit isitc.com , contact Kevin Shea via phone at 617-720-3400 x202 or e-mail at kshea@isitc.com.

Last year, I helped one of our smaller clients get a new phone system – not because they needed one, but because the owner decided it was time for something NEW. There was nothing wrong with the old system, and I am fairly sure that this particular client will get no additional benefit due to their limited use of the phone system. I appreciate this approach when applied to the purchase of new computer equipment, which naturally obsoletes itself as new software updates are implemented. However, the NEW logic that was used to send the old phone system to the landfill was lost on me.

More recently, I experienced a similar issue with a client of ours in regard to their portfolio management system. After many years of using Axys, they decided they were ready for something NEW. They didn’t spend much time considering APX. They wanted something really NEW (i.e., not Advent). I was concerned, and not about our own meal ticket. Though we do a lot of specialty work for Advent Software users, we do our best to remain impartial and support RIAs that use other portfolio management systems. If we see a better product that makes both technological and financial sense for a specific client’s requirements, we will let them know.

There are usually pros and cons to switching from one system to another. When making a decision to move from one portfolio management system to another you are effectively betting that the benefits will justify the cost. I was concerned that my client was making a bad decision, but I also didn’t want to be the naysayer. We spent a limited amount of time discussing the potential switch: I did my best to explain what it was that made their existing system so valuable, however underappreciated it currently was. I’ll blog on the virtues of Advent Software’s portfolio management systems in the near future, but in short, my opinion is summarized below:

Advent Software is a market leader with portfolio management systems that are mature and malleable. At its most fundamental level, the portfolio management system your firm uses is a foundation that can be built upon by your firm, third-parties, and your primary software vendor. A more mature infrastructure gives your firm fewer surprises and a wider variety of solutions to choose from. By selecting a leading portfolio management system your firm benefits from the logical motivation of third-party vendors to make their products available on that platform first ensuring that your firm has the ability to embrace emerging technology at a competitive pace.

At some point, we all want something NEW. It is an opportunity to get rid of the problems with which we have been dealing and get a new lease on life. And while getting a new whatchamacallit is a good thing when we are talking about your ten-year old car, it is not necessarily the right solution for problems with your spouse, or your ten-year old portfolio management system. Our client is now in the process of converting to INDATA, but we probably won’t know how happy they are with their decision until next year.

Unfortunately, the decision to replace your existing portfolio system with another less mature but newer-looking system is likely to result in disappointment. Conversions typically leave some of your data behind in order to get you into the new system in a timely and cost-effective manner. Firms that adopt new systems without sufficient research frequently find out that they have traded one set of problems for another. Those who champion the switch to a new portfolio management system want a successful outcome that validates their decision. As such, those who are most apt to recognize shortcomings early on may opt to sweep the inadequacies under the rug and stick to their guns rather than question their initial decision.

About the Author:
Kevin Shea is President of InfoSystems Integrated, Inc. (ISI); ISI provides a wide variety of outsourced IT solutions to investment advisors nationwide. For details, please visit isitc.com or contact Kevin Shea via phone at 617-720-3400 x202 or e-mail at kshea@isitc.com.