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 or visit the Summitas website.


Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

David Campbell

Anyone hearing the news knows that disasters can happen. Being headquartered in California, Financial Navigator, Inc. (“FNI”) has long been aware of the threat posed by earthquakes and other potential calamities. Natural disasters can disrupt a company’s normal functioning and, in extreme cases, endanger its ability to continue in business.  

We also realize that the repercussions of a catastrophic event to FNI would reach far beyond our own company. Our family office software clients would suffer as well if they could not obtain needed technical support to fully utilize our products or if they were unable to renew their high net worth reporting software licenses on time. An inability to use, or even access, their accounting software system would seriously impede normal operations for most of our clients.  

In light of the above concerns, we have taken the necessary precautions to insulate ourselves and our clients from the impacts of potential disasters that could affect us.

Access to Data

A client’s main concern, naturally, is its ability to access and utilize FNI’s accounting and reporting system without any interruption.  Of course, users who have FN 9.5, or an earlier version, installed directly on their own computers or networks, behind their own firewall, will experience no problems whatsoever in using that software if FNI has to deal with a natural disaster. Those clients possess and control their own data. FNI has no access to it, so no harm can come to that data through FNI.  

For clients using our online Polaris product, their data is stored in the cloud with Amazon Web Services (AWS). That data is backed up every night and is stored in separate and distant locations in the U.S., so it will always be available and never more than one day out-of-date. As a result, so long as a client can access the Internet, its Polaris data and reports will always be available.  (See further information on using AWS for backup and disaster recovery.)

Other Client Support

Although less immediately critical, clients might still need to connect with Financial Navigator for technical support, to expand their software’s capabilities, to order supplies and to renew their software licenses upon expiration. Fortunately, the occurrence of a natural disaster will not prevent this. FNI’s phone system uses VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) technology with the phone server located off-site in a secure data center. Even if our offices were damaged or completely destroyed, our phone system would remain operational. FNI personnel are able to log in remotely from anywhere to answer calls and provide the necessary support for our clients.

Internal FNI Operations

Because FNI backs up all its records and files to the cloud every night, nothing important would be lost in the event of a natural disaster. Therefore, even if our office space was unusable, we would still have access to all the information and tools needed to communicate among ourselves and to provide service to our clients. Of course, depending on the nature of the disaster, it might take a few days for FNI personnel to secure shelter for their families before they can devote their full attention to our clients’ needs. However, based on the above systems and precautions, the only impact on our clients should be nothing more than a few days’ inconvenience, if that.

Your Plan?

Given the uncertainties of today’s world, every family office, trust and estate manager and business needs to have a disaster recovery plan in place. After a local disaster, the world will continue to operate.  It is your responsibility to put procedures in place that will ensure your ability to continue to operate as well.

Because critical financial records and documents may be irreplaceable, it is imperative to safeguard such items so they will be accessible to you in the future under any circumstances. We urge you to put a plan in place now, if you have not already done so. It is not just a good idea – it is a necessity.


7 Benefits of a Private Data Center

Alex Villegas
By Technology

Given the constant evolution of technology, we should all be on the lookout for ways to improve how we do our work. Often this means replacing an old system and moving to a new approach that will increase speed and efficiency. As a family office software and technology provider, we believe it is helpful for us to recommend new solutions to our family office clients and trust and estate managers when we find an innovation we think can benefit them.

Earlier this year we wrote that using a Private Data Center was a better, more reliable way for certain FN 9.5 clients to meet their computing needs. In light of the outstanding success some clients have experienced with this approach over the last few months, we thought it was worthwhile to bring this idea to your attention again.

What is a Private Data Center (PDC)?

In its basic form, a PDC is a collection of servers in a remote location that provides all the computing power a client requires. All of your software applications (such as Financial Navigator, Microsoft Office, database, email, etc.) and data files are stored at the private data center and are accessed via a reliable Internet connection. This method of network management is powerful because a virtually unlimited number of servers can be utilized to support the applications you need to run.  

How is It Better?

The following are seven benefits we have seen our clients gain from this approach:

1. Fully Remote Access
Clients really enjoy the ease and convenience of being able to use their programs and data from any location that offers Internet access. And anywhere means anywhere in the world: main office, remote office, accounting office, home office, vacation home, hotel, car, yacht. Because all the computing is done at the PDC, this is equally true for Mac users and Windows users. The result is that no one needs to carry backup files of data or to install programs on multiple computers.    

2. All Applications in One Place
Certain offices run some applications on the desktop, others off the local server and still more in the cloud. Because access protocols and security procedures differ for each source, confusion and frustration can easily result. All of these conflicts go away, however, when you use a PDC to host all your applications. With the PDC, there is one log-in and one set of security procedures. This allows you to easily share data between apps (e.g. export from Financial Navigator to an Excel spreadsheet, open up the spreadsheet with Excel, modify it, print it, attach it to an email message and send it – all from one virtual PDC desktop). Life is simpler and users are happier.  

3. Faster Processing than Older Networks
Users who have experienced a decline in the speed of running FN 9.5 on their own in-house networks find a Private Data Center completely solves this problem. If you have very large data files or generate data-intensive reports that take several minutes to run, using a PDC will greatly speed up your work. In fact, for some clients this was the main reason they switched to the PDC solution. The time savings they achieved resulted not only in increased efficiency for their staff, but also in improved employee morale.

4. Enhanced Data Security
We all know the importance of maintaining your servers with the latest security upgrades and patches to defend against virus attacks, ransomware or other malware. The looming risk of a data breach from a hacker attack is also ever-present. The PDC provides you with the highest level of protection available against such threats. In the past few years, data in small businesses and home offices has become more vulnerable to hackers because the hackers are increasingly automated while the technology security of small and medium sized businesses has evolved little. In contrast, in a PDC environment, security is regularly audited and certified by third parties and consistently improved to meet threats. The PDC’s rigorous enforcement of its state-of-the-art security protocols provides peace of mind that is hard to duplicate if you alone are responsible for securing your internal network.

5. Data Backup and Disaster Recovery
Everyone understands the critical need for procedures that ensure we maintain backup copies of data files in the event of a disaster or hardware system crash. Despite mandating such precautions, there can still be a gnawing unease about whether these procedures are being properly followed for your in-house network. That worry goes away with a PDC. The sheer number of servers in a major data center requires that its back-up procedures be automatically performed and routinely verified. For extra protection, your data is also encrypted and copies are saved in a geographically-remote data center. (For more information read our article on how we have prepared for Disaster Recovery at Financial Navigator, Inc.)

6. Reduced Pain of Lost/Stolen Laptop
One of the worst things that can happen in your technology world is if your laptop is lost or stolen. Not only is it a huge inconvenience, but important data can be compromised. Further, configuring a new laptop can take many hours of high priced consultant labor. In contrast, with a PDC environment, your laptop does not have data or application software on it, so those items do not need to be replaced. As a result, you can be back in operation quickly, cheaply and with no risk of data breach.

7. Improved Infrastructure Support
In any computing environment there will be times when it is necessary for a technical support person to have access to the server where the applications are running.  In the on-premises IT environment, this often means an expensive technician trip to your office or a waste of your time, sometimes after hours, coordinating access. With a PDC, these costs are not required because the environment is designed from the ground up to be served remotely. The advantage is that the technical support team can do their work more efficiently and can do it in the off hours, when you are not using the applications.   

For More Information

These are just a few of the benefits enjoyed by our clients who use a private data center instead of an on-premises solution. If any of these interest you, or if you would like to learn more, please contact us.  Call 800-468-3636 or email us at:

We will be happy to answer your questions and can even connect you with a company that provides this service for some of our clients.


Polaris™: Integrated General Ledger & Portfolio Management Software

Manu Goyal, CFA

For over 30 years, Financial Navigator, Inc. has focused on the accounting and reporting needs of High Net Worth investors and Family Offices.

Today, our software is the preferred accounting solution for Single Family Offices, Multi-Client Family Offices, CPA Firms, Trusts and Estates, Partnerships and Family Foundations.

Our integrated general ledger (G/L) and portfolio accounting system tracks a broad range of marketable investments and personal assets.

Our newest solution, Polaris™, is ideal for:

  • Financial Statements for Investors
  • Investment Reporting and Analysis
  • Tax Reporting
  • Partnership Accounting
  • Portfolio Management and Analysis
  • Consolidated General Ledger Accounting
  • Real Estate and Direct Investments
  • Trust, Estate and Foundation Accounting

For free financial resources and to see a product demovisit


Company Objectives: 2016

Ed Van Deman
By Technology

When traveling around the country and meeting with our users, they often ask, “What are your company objectives for this year?” The most important aspect of that question, of course, is the unspoken part: “How will your progress benefit clients like me? Recognizing this, I thought it would be helpful to share the answers with all our users.  

Major Objectives for 2016

Our three major company objectives for this year are as follows:

  1. Continue to develop our new Polaris™ product, so that it becomes the data management and reporting standard for all our family office software clients, existing and new.  
  2. Enhance the support structure for Polaris, so users can easily learn how to utilize all the functions they need in order to accomplish their work assignments.
  3. Selectively add users for Polaris that can help us enrich the product.

Let’s examine these objectives in more detail.

Polaris™ Product Development

To accomplish our first objective, we need to achieve the following goals:

  • Update and enhance the user interface – Updating the layout, terminology and functioning of Polaris™ will allow it to appear and work in a manner that is more consistent with other software products currently on the market. This revamp will make Polaris more user-friendly and easier to learn by providing a more familiar experience for the user. The shortened learning curve will reduce frustration and generate greater productivity, along with increased user satisfaction.
  • Incorporate all of the extensive functionality of our current product – Our FN 9.5 product was developed over many years, specifically for our target market. It provides the extensive functionality needed by our users to meet their diverse accounting and portfolio tracking needs. While Polaris already includes many of these capabilities, certain remaining aspects have not yet been incorporated into our new product. Adding that remaining functionality will enable Polaris to do everything that FN 9.5 does.
  • Add functionality to Polaris that was not available in earlier products – No one wants to upgrade to a new product unless that transition can yield significant benefits. Users want greater speed, simplicity, functionality and flexibility. Such improvements have been and will continue to be incorporated into Polaris, guided in large part by feedback from new and current Polaris users.  

Enhance Polaris Support Structure

We know that clients’ skill level in using our system can erode over time as staffing responsibilities change or turnover occurs. Therefore, an important component of supporting our users is to help them bridge the gap between what they need to accomplish and what they currently know how to do. Fortunately, today’s online world offers convenient ways to store and effectively deliver extensive, detailed educational content that can greatly aid users in becoming more proficient in the use of our software.

We are developing the Polaris Support Center to contain a variety of resources to assist users as they seek to gain full mastery of the features in our system. Because documentation in any form relies on screenshots and lists of specific steps, we cannot finalize the Support Center until the product is close to its finished state. However, we have already started to build the underlying pieces. In addition to SmartText searching and meaningful graphics, we are preparing extensive video materials that focus on key topics users will need to learn. These tools will play an important role in making Polaris a great success for our clients and us.

Selectively Add Polaris Users

Transitioning existing users from FN 9.5 to Polaris has not been a high priority for us. The data-conversion process, combined with the required training time for clients, will require a significant investment of our internal resources. Instead, we prefer to focus our energies at this time on more fully developing Polaris’ capabilities and support system, as noted above. Consequently, we are being selective about adding Polaris users.

As previously noted, Polaris already possesses much of the functionality available in FN 9.5. Logic might therefore suggest that existing clients would be the best kind of users to evaluate our new system. After all, they are already familiar with how FN 9.5 works and what it does. However, we have found that the most effective users are often new clients.

New users are a good match for Polaris because:  

  • They are motivated to learn the product, from the basics through its advanced features, since they have no alternative solution.
  • They often do not require all the functionality that FN 9.5 offers. As a result, Polaris can meet their needs in its current state.  
  • Lacking experience with FN 9.5, they are not burdened by the memory of how things were previously done. As a result, their feedback comes from a fresh perspective that helps us consider new features and possibilities.

Of course, new users sometimes want additional functionality that was never part of FN 9.5. This can be a good thing. Their suggestions have caused us to add capabilities that we had not previously considered. This process results in a stronger product that helps us to better meet the needs of our clients, to the benefit of all.

We hope this discussion provides some insight into our objectives for 2016 and how our new Polaris product will be taking shape over the next year.

Happy Navigating!!!

Edward Van Deman