With January 2011 behind us, those responsible for generating statements at your firm are likely breathing a long-awaited sigh of relief –  thankful that the painful process of generating year-end reports for clients is behind them.  For many it is time to take a break until the next quarter is upon them, but for those determined to improve their reports and their process, it’s already time to get back to work.

 Changing your firm’s client statements can be a major undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are several different options available to those interested in overhauling the look and feel of quarterly report packages.  These options include: platform changes, outsourcing report production through the purchase of products that produce reports from data feeds and/or data extracts, engaging consultants to create custom reports, buying reports from vendors, or building custom reports yourself.

 The right solution for your firm depends on a number of factors.  Without the specifics it is tough to say what the most effective course of action is.  In my capacity as a consultant to many RIAs, I regularly see and hear about a variety of efforts that have failed to get RIAs the better-looking client reports they desire.

I have witnessed more than a couple of clients attempt to change their platform with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of reports.  This almost never ends well.  There are situations where it does make sense, but in most cases it is much more efficient and less costly to change your reporting than your portfolio management system.

Outsourcing your report production to a firm that specializes in that business can also be a good option, but the question is – do you really need to?  Given the choice of building or buying, what should you do?  When you build a custom report you have an initial sunk cost with little or no maintenance going forward.  When you outsource report production, you typically pay an initial implementation fee and an ongoing service fee that exceeds the ongoing maintenance cost of building reports.

Sometimes the solutions your firm needs are closer than you think.  Axys and APX were designed with clients like you in mind.  In fact, compound reporting exists on both Axys and APX platforms.  Today, compound report creation is still a viable alternative to creating reports using SSRS on APX 3.0 release 2. 

Due to the current limitations of APX’s scripting language related to SSRS, using compound reports may still be the best short-term choice for APX users that wish to automate their systems through the use of APX scripts.  However, APX users sophisticated enough to develop SSRS reports should be able to create stopgap automation to automate APX/SSRS report production.

The ability to combine report objects though compound report macros is adequate for many firms, but the learning curve to create Axys/APX compound report macros that produce the presentation-quality results desired is steep.  What isn’t readily available can usually be produced through utilization of REPLANG/Report Writer Pro/Excel VBA and a combination of chops, grit and perseverance.

Users and consultants experienced with the specifics of Advent’s compound macros know how robust this basic functionality can be and have a good chance of navigating the difficulties involved to produce visually pleasing reports in Axys/APX.

Tech-savvy developers familiar with newer technology like SSRS may experience frustration with what is considered by many to be legacy reporting, but this is a misnomer.  What others term legacy reporting, is actually backward compatibility.  It is not a liability;  it is an asset.  Advent has continued to support both REPLANG and compound reports through a number of iterations of their Axys and APX product lines.  Though it has some limitations, compound reporting is a valuable part of the Axys/APX infrastructure and continues to be an efficient way to quickly combine reports.

For those that would rather not wrestle with the complexities of Axys and APX reporting, our firm has several compound reporting templates available for resale and experience working with SSRS.  Even though the cost to purchase a preexisting custom report is a fraction ( ≈ $1,000) of what it usually costs to create an entirely new custom report ( ≈ $3,000), RIAs typically want new custom reports that are representative of their firm’s distinctive approach to reporting investments to clients.

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.