Author Archives: Ed Van Deman

Our Expanding Global Company

Ed Van Deman
By Family Office
Ed Van Deman
By Investing, Technology

It has been a busy few months for us following the announcement of the merger of Financial Navigator, Inc. and Asset Vantage, Ltd. This newsletter gives you a report on the progress we have made and the opportunities we see in the future for our clients. We also outline here some of the challenges we see in the months ahead as we expand the capabilities of the new platform.

Gratifying Response

First… Thank you to all our clients and friends who have offered congratulations on the merger and asked about the new company. Your support is most appreciated. It pleases us greatly to hear the excitement so many of our clients have expressed about the merger. We promise to keep you informed as we build a global financial technology company that will serve the needs of investors worldwide.

Progress To-Date

Here are some milestones of what we have accomplished so far:

  1. We have combined the executive talent of the two firms to form a senior management team designed to address the opportunities and challenges of a global company with staff and clients in both Asia and the Americas.
  2. Our East Coast Team opened an office in Stamford, Connecticut, to gain closer access to the New York City financial markets and to serve our clients and prospects on the East Coast of the U.S. more effectively.
  3. As a combined company we have made major steps to integrate the staff members of FN and AV into a single global team for product development, marketing and client services. Members of the management team based in Mumbai and Pune, India, have made several trips to Stamford, CT and Santa Clara, CA. And members of the U.S. management team have been to Mumbai and Pune.
  4. New members of the management team have met with a number of major Financial Navigator clients around the U.S. It was great to talk with those clients in person and to answer their questions.
  5. We conducted a regional seminar in Chicago to introduce FN clients to the new platform that is under development. The feedback from our long-term clients was very positive and encouraging. We are making plans to conduct additional events in other regions of the country over the next year.
  6. Our Product Development Team has begun studying how the FN data can best be converted to the new platform.

Our Combined Future

Now that the initial excitement of forming our new fintech company has settled down, we realize there are tremendous challenges ahead. We need to combine the two powerful software solutions brought together with this merger. The Asset Vantage platform has strong investment analytics and graphics, as well as document management capability and mobile apps. Financial Navigator is known for its rock-solid accounting and reporting functionality. Together, we are working to produce a combined platform that will include all the features of these two successful predecessors.

While our joint software expertise is extensive, integrating the pieces together in the most efficient manner presents a number of technical issues that we are addressing. Our programmers are excited by these challenges, but we recognize it will take time to craft and test all the components. The end result will be well worth the wait but, in the meantime, your patience is much appreciated.

Future Pricing

Several of our clients have asked what they should expect for licensing and service fees in the future. It is too early for us to answer this completely and yet we want to give our clients as much information about future pricing as we can. For now we can only say that there are several factors affecting pricing:

Maintaining FN 9.5

We are totally committed to supporting FN 9.5 for the next few years. However, it is becoming increasingly expensive to support this product as we must devote resources to both the old product and the new platform. Therefore, we will continue the price adjustment program that was first initiated last Fall, before the merger.

The New Platform

The functionality in the new combined platform will be significantly greater than that of either of the two previous products separately. Combining these capabilities within an architectural framework that provides the dependability and flexibility needed to manage huge volumes of data requires the latest technology and software tools. Additionally, we are committed to continually adding new features to the platform in the future. As a result of this investment, you should anticipate higher pricing for the new platform.

Next Six Months

In the next six months, we will be introducing many of the key capabilities we are now developing for the new platform. At that time we will be able to show you the increased functionality and provide you with further pricing details.

Planning Ahead

Clearly, everyone is interested in knowing as much as possible about our plans for specific product releases and upgrade time tables. We will make that information available going forward as the particulars become more solid. In the meantime, there are two steps all clients can take now to prepare for the future. For specifics, please see our separate article in this newsletter entitled “Preparing for the Future.”

This is an exciting time in the history of our company. We look forward to sharing our progress with you in the months and years ahead.

We will have much more to report soon.

Mark and Ed

Universal Needs for Financial Management

Ed Van Deman
By Investing, Technology

As tireless advocates for the benefits of using sophisticated reporting systems for effective financial management, it was satisfying to see that our partners in India feel the same way. Below is an article Asset Vantage recently published in India. It demonstrates that the issues faced by investors for managing wealth are truly universal. Further, it illustrates how we share a common understanding of the issues that must be addressed. We are building on this common mission to deliver technology solutions that enable our clients to achieve success around the world. Here is their message to prospective clients:


Signs You Are Losing Control Of Your Family Assets

Would any of these signs make you sit up and re-look at your financial assets?

  • Dividends not received for a stock you hold
  • Sold stock and booked profits before realizing that a particular lot had not yet qualified for long-term tax treatment
  • A fixed-return investment generating zero annualized returns
  • Exposure to the same under-performing fund across multiple advisors
  • Excessive liquidity, pulling down your average returns

In all probability, these instances of financial inefficiency could be overlooked by your personal finance team on a routine basis because the data is fragmented and actionable insights are not available from manually created spreadsheets.

This raises the question: How do you regain control of your family assets?

The answer lies in tech-enabled automation of your financial data.

Automation using a financial software platform gives you convenient access to your consolidated portfolio, while maintaining data security and providing intuitive analytics. A multi-user system can provide your outside accountant and/or investment advisor with limited access to your investment data, allowing them to complete their tasks from their own offices and stay fully aligned. Simultaneously, the software tool automatically updates market information on valuations and corporate actions on a daily basis. This gives you a consolidated, near real-time view of multi-entity, multi-asset class data.

Consolidated reporting provides compounded returns categorized by asset class, advisor, sector, etc. Specific reports and analytics enable you, or your personal finance team, to spot anomalies and take immediate action. The system reconciles receivables (dividends, interest, rent) against bank receipts and automatically generates holding statements for individual accounts, by advisor, sector etc. These real-time reconciliation statements act as warning indicators for gaps between system-generated data and statements from banks and advisors.

The software monitors returns and generates investment analytics that reveal financial gaps, such as matured investments that have not been reinvested and are showing lower returns. It also displays tax management opportunities such as lot level unrealized short-term equity losses that can be sold to offset realized gains.

An integrated financial software platform is the best tool you can use to keep fully informed, with:

  • Anytime/anywhere access
  • Consolidated, real-time view of your assets
  • Reminders and alerts
  • Ability to track balances and liquidity
  • Insightful reports and analytics

Use technology to digitize your portfolio, stay in control and make smarter financial decisions.

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.

 

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.

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
CEO