The Importance of Skill Development

Ed Van Deman
By Education

“The tool is no better than the craftsperson!”

At Financial Navigator, it is just as important to us as it is to you that you are successful with our reporting platform. As we add the features you want and as the complexity of the family office software program increases, we accept the responsibility to assist your staff in increasing their proficiency. This article describes some of the options we have found to be most valuable to both principals and staff who operate our system.  

Knowledge and Skills Required

As a user of the Financial Navigator accounting and financial reporting platform, you know the breadth of the product. It enables you to manage the following areas:

In a small firm, you may have major responsibilities for all of these—and for seeing that the computer systems are updated appropriately. The fewer the staff in an office, the more expertise each member must have–and constantly improve–to keep the office working effectively.  

Of course, some staff within an office may well be able to provide helpful suggestions when, for example, a routine report shows unexpected results. Outside contractors, too, can solve problems. As long as these others are available and the staff can describe the problem that is occurring, work will proceed in a timely and efficient manner. The Technical Support Team at FNI supports all users regardless of their expertise; however, when your staff has the vocabulary to describe a problem and understand the solution proposed, our team is faster and more thorough in its assistance to you.  

Criteria for Selecting a Training Program

We understand the challenge of staff development. After all, you call us with your most difficult problems, and we have to be prepared to help you. So training our staff is extremely important for us. Perhaps the training solutions that work for us will work for you.

Two criteria loom large when we judge training programs for our staff: Make sure the material is easy to access and make sure it is excellent. Our stance is that the cost of the program is secondary to its quality.  

Online
For working professionals, computer-based, online learning makes sense. The materials can be studied at a time convenient for the person doing the course, in or outside the office.

The disadvantage of online training is that it is not always easy for the student to get answers to questions or encouragement to stick with the program. Designating another person in the office to serve as a mentor to the student can motivate both people. At FNI, senior professionals are encouraged to familiarize themselves with introductory programs just so they can serve as effective mentors for young staff.   

Well-Developed Curriculum
Materials must be current and relevant to a specific focus. Any high-quality program will define student learning goals clearly. It will include a test of those same goals at the conclusion of the program. Performing well on the final exam confirms to students that they have mastered the material they set out to learn.

If the program provides a certificate of completion, so much the better! Programs sponsored by recognized professional organizations may even motivate students to proceed faster and more seriously than those that do not have such backing.

Two Specific Training Programs

In addition to specific training in software systems, at Financial Navigator we focus our training on two additional areas, overall financial skills and IT staff skills.

Overall Financial Skills
To increase the expertise levels of entry-level professional staff seeking finance careers, we like the Investment Foundations certificate program developed by the CFA Institute. Read about the program.

IT Staff Skills
We also recommend the series of certificate programs developed by CompTIA (short for Computer Technology Industry Association). The entry course for the A+ certificate is effective in providing computer and networking skills that staff should master.  Many other courses in related areas of IT management are available for staff wanting to enhance their technical expertise. Read more on the A+ course.

Experience has shown us that a serious commitment to training and skill development of your staff is an invaluable investment from which you will reap many rewards.

 

Improving Your IT Skills

Daniel Serrano
By Education

An important concern when helping clients troubleshoot their software is minimizing down time. And rightly so. Accountants need to enter a great number of transactions into their systems, they need to create reports, and they also need to meet deadlines. In order to resolve an issue quickly, the user of the software and the technician must engage in efficient communications. A user who has a basic understanding of Information Technology (IT) and accounting increases the efficiency of the communications and therefore increases productivity. In my opinion, this is why a well-rounded and life-long education is imperative.

Technology continues to become a greater part of everyday life in most professions, and professionals must adapt or get left behind. Fortunately, multiple resources are available over the internet to be used for self-study. I personally do not think certification in IT is important unless IT is your career path. Learning the material is much more important.

A few resources for self-study are these:

CompTIA.com

While the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) offers a variety of IT certifications, the A+ certification is designed to guarantee a level of knowledge and skills in people needing at least a minimum of  IT expertise. The training, recognized globally, is described as enabling a certificate holder “to manage, maintain, troubleshoot, install, operate and configure office computing equipment; describe computing technologies and basic principles; adhere to professional standards; and use testing tools.” The subject matter of the A+ certification is more than enough for an accountant, and it is a basic requirement for IT professionals.

Currently, CompTIA’s website does not provide direct training or self-study material. Instead, it provides links to its training partners. While these training partners have the most up-to-date materials, registration and purchase are required to access them.

YouTube.com

An amazing amount of content is available on YouTube. The site is a great resource for individuals who do not need a certification but have a desire to learn. The disadvantage of using YouTube as a self-study tool is finding the videos; all the reviews of the A+ certification are unavoidable. Nevertheless, there are several CompTIA A+ course videos that cover IT fundamentals and there is also an interesting brief history on how IT has evolved over the years.

ProfessorMesser.com

Another excellent site for both non-IT and entry-level IT professionals is ProfessorMesser.com. No filtering of material is necessary since the site is dedicated to IT training. It provides free videos for several of the CompTIA certifications, including A+. Downloadable content is also available for a flat fee.

If you have a passion for learning, as I do, or if you would like to increase your productivity by minimizing down time, I recommend that you take advantage of these resources. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow; learn as if you were to live forever.”

Validating Your Credibility as a Professional

Monida Sieng
By Education

Earning a college degree in a specialized field shows a student’s ability to learn and understand the core concepts behind the subject. In the financial industry, a graduate must expand from just the basic understandings and concepts of the modern financial world. As the industry changes constantly and rapidly, the struggle to keep current can seem difficult and exhausting. However, we can maintain our expertise. We can stand out from the crowd by obtaining the knowledge and skill-sets needed to retain our credibility.

Credibility allows clients to take us seriously, to trust our opinions. We must be able to prove to them that they have chosen the right person to perform the task at hand. To do this, we must understand the issue and effectively communicate back. One of the key steps in making this possible and allowing the client to know that we have what it takes is to prove our professional competency.

What better way to prove that we are the right fit for the job than by obtaining the professional certificates pertinent to our career? A number of professional certification programs are offered to meet the flexibility and convenience of our schedule. Some of these take years to complete while others require only a couple of months. One of the programs I find suitable for any entry-level professional is the CFA Institute’s Investment Foundations.

The Investment Foundation program is a global educational certificate offering a clear basic understanding of the investment industry. The program was designed for people with or without background knowledge about the financial world. It allows those with little knowledge to develop a framework for understanding the vocabulary and institutions within the financial realm. It gives those who already have such an understanding the confidence to identify key issues and develop sound opinions.

Whether we are an accountant, financial analyst or even an information technology expert, the program allows us to become more comfortable with speaking to clients and colleagues regarding topics in finance. Since it provides a clear explanation of industry functions and structure, it enables us to work more effectively in our roles, build stronger relationships and raise our professional competence.

The program is divided into seven modules, as indicated in the chart below:

The program is available free of charge on the CFA Institute’s webpage after registering for an account. However, to receive the certificate, a person must pay an examination fee of $250, a worthwhile cost, in my opinion.

We all know the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” Completing the program and obtaining the certificate are actions that will increase our competence and add credibility to the words we speak.

FinTech Trends

Ed Van Deman
By Education, Technology

We pride ourselves on being a solutions-oriented family office software company so it is not surprising that our newsletters address such varied topics as private data centers, efficiency tools for the family office, and disaster recovery procedures. Today, however, let’s step back from operational issues and take a broad look at some “big picture” trends in our home space of technology and financial management, also known as the “FinTech” industry.

FinTech Growing

The FinTech sector is red hot, with the Venture Capital community funding many new entrants to this field. These new players are taking advantage of the latest technological advancements in Cloud Computing and Big Data to offer new services like “robo advisory” portfolio management, investment analytics including risk metrics, data aggregation and much more. Such developments present excellent opportunities for us to integrate our bedrock services with these new innovations, in order to continue to add value for our family office clients.

Push for the Comprehensive Product

With the advent of such new technology, it is possible to do more with one product. Efficiencies can be achieved by integrating with other systems that provide complementary capabilities like bill payments, document management, customer relationship management, etc. We clearly see this trend and are working to include as much functionality as we can.

The World Is Flat

There was a time when the United States led the world both as developers and users of financial technology. That is no longer true. Many parts of the world are now just as sophisticated as the U.S. and want the same data management tools to address their financial reporting concerns. At the same time, software developers in other parts of the world are also creating excellent products for their local markets. They seek broader distribution opportunities and see the U.S. as an attractive market to enter. These dynamics increase the choices available to clients while keeping downward pressure on prices.

Outsourcing Is In

Cloud Computing has revolutionized FinTech in terms of matching talent with requirements. The need to find local talent is gone and so is the need to relocate. Now you can easily access skilled personnel far away from your physical location. Having a well-trained, in-house software development staff is one solution. But, there is no need to stop there. Another approach is to outsource part of the task to an outside consultant who works for only a limited time to address a specific issue. Likewise, you can use an outside staff person to perform on-going record keeping and produce reports. This person could work for an accounting firm or have their own practice. Any of these arrangements can be successful, as long as they meet the needs of all the parties involved.

Security Never Sleeps

As products become more comprehensive and operate in a remote environment, the need for security grows even more. Fortunately, the power of the environment can be used to protect your data. Data encryption, private virtual networks, and two-factor authentication are just a few of the system-based measures that can be utilized to ensure privacy. As technology continues to evolve, this issue will remain in constant focus for the entire FinTech industry for the foreseeable future.

Conclusion

The emergence of new technology may be exciting, but it does not guarantee any benefit to the customer. Customer utility will ultimately determine which developments are truly viable and which are merely interesting.

Much of our corporate attention is therefore directed to improving product functionality in order to make our clients’ work lives better. Rest assured, however, that we also remain alert to developments in the overall FinTech industry. Only by doing so can we continue to chart a course to future success for our family office softwareCPAs serving high net worth clients and our Company.

Summitas: Important Tools for the Family Office  

Kevin Whalen, CPA, CGMA, MST, MSRED

Financial Navigator, Inc. (FNI) has a long familiarity with the operations and responsibilities of family offices. This perspective allows us to recognize technology tools that can help these organizations meet the needs of their client families. For this reason, FNI has formed a relationship with Summitas, LLC, a firm that offers a branded portal with the communication tools needed to help a family office achieve its mission.

Summitas Advantages

Summitas™ offers a secure, private platform that facilitates the flow of information among family members and their support staff. Some of the advantages it provides come in the form of operational efficiencies, including:

1. Electronic Signature
Summitas has the ability to enable members or outside advisors to sign documents electronically. No more need to use overnight couriers to send documents to be signed and sent back. Instead, this can all be done in a matter of minutes over the Internet. No more courier fees! Plus, these documents are automatically stored for authorized personnel to access when needed or to pass on to investment program sponsors, attorneys or other required parties.  

2. Digital Vault
In addition to those documents signed electronically, any file or record can be stored in your own digital vault and then selectively shared with family members or advisors. This paperless storage with instant access anywhere via any device provides a time-saving convenience that enhances productivity for the entire family office.

3. Encryption
We all know the dangers of transmitting sensitive information such as tax records, account numbers and passwords. Summitas solves that problem by encrypting all documents stored in your vault, both “at rest” and “in transit.” In addition, not only can you encrypt the emails you send, but a recipient’s reply to your email will also be encrypted, thereby ensuring both directions of communication are kept private.

4. Tools
The Summitas portal offers tools such as Secure FTP and single sign-on to facilitate the integration of information flows from FNI to the family portal, in order to enhance efficiency, information flows and transparency.

5. Staying Informed
Public information of interest to family members that is not easily found in general newspapers and magazines can be gathered and presented in a handy manner to keep family members well informed.

Most Important Family Goal

Perhaps the most important aspect of Summitas’ platform, however, is its ability to enhance communication within the family. A recurring goal for families of great wealth is to imbue their younger members with a sense of history, identity and purpose. By fostering interaction between generations, and between family branches, the bonds linking them can be strengthened and the family message reinforced. These worthy goals, however, can be difficult to achieve.

Challenges Exist

Distance, changing priorities and real-life responsibilities challenge our ability to stay connected. Certainly, social networking websites, like Facebook, can make it easier for people to stay in touch with friends and relatives. However, the amount of personal information disclosed on such sites, intentionally or otherwise, can sometimes create serious security problems. Such problems are magnified for the ultra-wealthy. Summitas, however, has a social networking capability that is completely secure. Its robust permissioning, end-to-end encryption and two factor authentication ensure that whatever you post will always be private. It is only available to members of your immediate or extended family, or others you designate.

Impact of Connecting

The ability to share photos, videos, vacation and travel schedules, contact info, comments, discussions, etc. on any and all topics with other family members in a secure and safe environment allows for the free and honest exchange of information and ideas that forms the basis of enduring connections. Thus private collaboration serves not just as an information center for family activities, but also provides a binding centrality that keeps relationships vibrant and reinforces family identity. Through this mechanism a family can pass on values, insights and purpose to future generations, not just wealth.  

Let Us Help

Instilling a sense of permanence and purpose is a wonderful gift to give young people. Helping them to understand the privileges and obligations of managing great wealth is an important responsibility for senior family members. Summitas’ service can play an important role in this process and we would be pleased to introduce you to them.

For more information or a demonstration, please call 800-468-3636, email us at CustomerService@finnav.com or visit the Summitas website.