Category Archives: Family Office

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.

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.

Tax Season Procedures for Family Offices

Daniel Serrano
By Family Office

While the exertions of 2016’s Tax Season are still fresh in your mind, now is a good time to take stock of the year-end reporting procedures you recently followed. The sheer volume of work at that time of year can sometimes feel overwhelming. To assist you next year, we offer some ideas to help keep you organized and to simplify your review process. The goal is to stay on-track and in control.

We believe Financial Navigator’s built-in reports, guides and features allow you to more easily manage the recurring challenge of Tax Season, next year and thereafter, if you follow the checklist of action steps below:

Year-End Family Office Tax Procedures:

  1. Backup the Database – Make a backup copy of the entire .mdb database in the root FN directory, to ensure the safety of your data.
  2. Balancing of Data File – Set Financial Navigator (FN) to Test Mode by double clicking the FN logo on the opening screen, then hitting the keyboard key “T” and clicking OK to both modal pop-ups. Under the Utilities dropdown menu in FN, first run the Compact and Repair Database option, then run the Test & Correct Files option for All of the Above.  Doing so will eliminate any errors the system catches.
  3. Reconcile Accounts – Run the Reconciliation Statement under the File dropdown menu in all journals to speed up the system’s processing.
  4. Check FMV, Cost Basis, and Unrealized Gains – Run the Cost Basis Balance Sheet report to display all three of these values for easy viewing.
  5. Check Private Equity and other Long-Term Investments – Run the Private Equity Investment Analysis and Long-Term Investment reports to display all related assets at once.
  6. Check Balances of All Other Accounts – Make sure the balance of your Unrealized Gains/Losses is zero in the Cost Basis column of the Cost Basis Balance Sheet report.
  7. Check Capital Gains and Losses – Run the Income Statement report and compare gains/losses to the broker statements and the Schedule D – Capital Gains and Losses report.
  8. Check Income and Expense Accounts – Run the Income Statement report to compare dividends, interest, expenses, and other amounts to broker statements.
  9. Review Chart of Accounts and Qualifiers – Check to see that your Qualifiers and Account Tax Codes are consistent for all grouped accounts in the Chart of Accounts report.  
  10. Review Performance Reports – Review the Security Performance Summary, Security Return vs. Indexes, and Security Growth vs. Indexes reports and confirm that all investment returns, contributions, withdrawals, and unrealized gains/losses appear reasonable.
  11. Review Consolidated Statements – Run the Consolidating Summary Balance Sheet and the Income Statement reports for each family, to ensure categories are consistent across entities and that all Due To/From Affiliates, Trust Receipts/Distributions, and Contribution to IRA accounts self-eliminate to zero.
  12. Review Transfer Clearing Account balances – Search for non-zero amounts.

Before preparing the corporate tax documents, download the FN Reference Guide (available at the FN Support Center) and review the Tax Schedules, such as Form 1040 Summary and Schedules A through F (p. 293). See below a list of items that will improve the efficiency of running these reports:

  1. Review Chart of Accounts and Tax Codes: Get information on how making changes to the Chart of Accounts and to Account Tax Codes affect reports needed for tax purposes (p.35 and p.76).
  2. Review Qualifiers: See how making changes to Qualifiers can affect reports needed for tax purposes (p.299).
  3. Review Deferred Tax Rate: Find information on how to change the Deferred Tax Rate (p.286).
  4. Review reporting options for Tax Planning purposes: Discover how to best use the options for Budgets and for Projected Amounts in reports (p.299).

Information from the following reports can also be useful when preparing corporate tax documents:

  • 12 Month Income Statement
  • 12 Month Balance Sheet
  • 12 Month Cash Flows
  • Summary Income Statement
  • Summary Balance Sheet  
  • Summary Cash Flows
  • Summary Trial Balances

While last year’s tax season is still fresh in your mind, think about these procedures relative to the family office accounting work you did. Would following these procedures make your work go better? If so, make a commitment now to do a better job next year.

Don’t worry. We will remind you with the above list again before the next tax season starts. Look for our newsletter coming out just after the year-end of 2016.

As always, Happy Navigating!

Faris Masarweh
Business Development Associate  

Editor’s Note: For an in-depth checklist of other procedures, contact our support team by emailing customersupport@finnav.com.

Further Tax Reading

family-office-sample-tax-reports

 

Tax Schedule Reports
Simplify income tax preparation and gain insights for income tax planning. Transfer tax information directly to tax preparation software for a streamlined solution.

Using a Private Data Center

Chirag Nanavati
By Family Office

Are underperforming computers or networks at your family office or CPA firm holding you back? Over the past few months, we have encountered a number of instances where clients are frustrated that our family office accounting and reporting software is performing slowly. However, when they send us a copy of their “poorly running database” to test, the software runs fine with their data on our system. This means that something unidentified in the client’s IT environment has been hindering the operation of our accounting and portfolio tracking software.

Many Potential Causes

The poor performance of the client’s system could be due to any number of issues. It may simply be that the amount of data has grown to the point where a much more powerful processor is needed to handle the volume of transactions at the speed the client expects. Alternatively, the problem could result from a defective computer, a networking or software infrastructure issue, an operating system that has not been updated properly with the latest patches or any of a dozen other possibilities. It could take hours, or days, of testing to successfully identify the underlying cause.

Practical Difficulties

Unfortunately, the ability to diagnose problems within a client’s IT system can be beyond our capabilities. We want to support our users, but we simply do not have sufficient access, much less the time, manpower or expertise to diagnose every client’s system limitations. With so many connection points and interactions, finding the underlying issue(s) can be like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, even for experienced IT consultants. And, of course, we are not IT consultants focused on systems. We are software developers focused on the accounting and reporting needs of High Net Worth investors and Family Offices.

The Solution

Fortunately, there is a proven solution when such issues arise: a private data center, which can remotely provide all the computer processing the client requires. The client’s applications (such as Financial Navigator family office software) and data are stored at the private data center and are accessed via a reliable Internet connection. 

This approach offers the following advantages:

  • Powerful Servers – The center’s servers are modern, powerful machines that can be configured for optimum processing power. 
  • Expert Maintenance – The staff maintaining the servers are experts and keep the servers configured for maximum effectiveness, even as your data requirements grow over time.
  • Full Service Solution – All of the standard data center features are provided. These include disaster recovery (data backup and archiving, emergency power sources, alternative site redundancy, etc.), as well as standard security features such as firewalls, virus protection and automatic operating system updates.

Not For Everyone

Certainly this alternative is not needed by the majority of our users. It is most beneficial in cases where clients have especially large databases, hundreds of entities, many years of data, a dozen or more users on the system at the same time and/or routinely run many reports that require extensive computing power. However, if your operation does fall into one of those categories, a private data center can be a quick and effective solution for the performance issues you may be facing.

If you are interested in learning more about this alternative, please feel free to contact us.

7 Steps for Closing out the Year and Creating a (Happier) New Year

Rosalina Lopez
By Education, Family Office

First published Nov. 16, 2015. Updated Nov. 11, 2016

Tips for improving your internal year-end procedures

As the current year winds down, it is a good time to look ahead. We are always trying to help our family office software and accounting users increase their efficiency, so here are some tips for improving your internal year-end procedures for closing out the books and creating a new year in Financial Navigator 9.5. Please note the order of the following steps is simply a suggestion and could vary for some users.

  1. Reconciliation
  2. Enter Adjusting Entries
  3. Test and Correct Files
  4. Limit Access with Closed Period
  5. Create a Backup
  6. Begin a New Year
  7. Re-Update Starting Balances

Step 1: Reconciliation

Verify all your bank, broker and credit card accounts as of December 31st, or as of the end of your Fiscal Year, by ensuring all transactions are entered and then reconciling Financial Navigator’s records to the statement from the bank or custodian.

Of course, many users may need to begin the new year before completing their reconciliations for all the accounts, but there should at least be a priority on reconciling those accounts with the most outstanding transactions, like checking accounts. This will allow you to identify the outstanding items and transfer them to the new year, where you can track them as they clear.

Step 2: Enter Adjusting Entries

Enter adjusting entries as of the end of the year. These transactions include accrued items, bond amortization adjustments, depreciation, etc. Other adjustments, such as tax and K1 income adjustments, may be entered either in: (a) the new year, as the information is received; or (b) the prior year, and you can carry forward the revised ending balances by using our Update Starting Balances feature. Please refer to Step 7 of this article to find more information on how to change prior years.

Step 3: Test and Correct Files

Run the utility “Test and Correct Files” to correct any corrupted data before creating a new year.  This utility can easily be found in the drop-down menu under “Utilities” from the main Financial Navigator menu.

The Test and Correct Files utility re-computes the account balances for the current year by summarizing all the transactions.  Any errors caused by unsupported changes to account balances will be eliminated when this utility is run.  It is also a good idea to run this test periodically throughout the year.  Of course, you should always create a backup file of the entity’s data before you run this utility.

For instructions on how to run Test and Correct Files, please see Testing and Correcting Files in our online Customer Support Center.

fni-fn95-410Step 4: Limit Access with Closed Period

Utilize our “Closed Period” feature to lock the year and prevent any further changes. This function will disable the transactions grid, so no further entries or changes can be made to the closed year.  However, the user will still be able to see all transactions for that year.

This function can be found in the drop-down menu under “Transactions” from Financial Navigator’s main menu.

For instructions on how to set Closed Periods, please refer to Setting Closed Periods in FNI’s online Customer Support Center.

Step 5: Create a Backup

Create a backup file for each entity by using the “Back Up” function and then store them in a safe place, preferably off-site.  Backing up your entities at the end of each year, and periodically throughout the year, will protect you from losing data in case something unexpected happens to your network or computer.

The Back Up function is located in the drop-down menu under “File” from the Financial Navigator main menu.

For instructions on how to create a backup file, please read Backing Up Entity Data in our online Customer Support Center.

Step 6: Begin the New Year

Create the new year by using the “Begin a New Year” function to transfer your information from the current year to the new year.  You do not have to worry about making closing entries since our system automatically performs this tedious process.  In Financial Navigator, creating a new year includes, but is not limited, to the following:

  • Transferring balances of asset and liability accounts
  • Zeroing out income and expense accounts
  • Adding the old year’s net income to either a cumulative or a separate net income equity line item
  • Transferring last year’s budget or actual amounts to serve as a budget for the new year
  • Transferring outstanding transactions

The system also performs many other actions automatically when creating a new year.  For a complete list, please see Beginning a New Year in our online Customer Support Center.

This function can be found in the drop-down menu under “Utilities” from Financial Navigator’s main menu.

Step 7: Re-Update Starting Balances

Because users often need to make monthly payments in the new year or to just continue with their day-to-day work, it is common to create a new year in Financial Navigator before all the above steps have been completed for the old year. In such a case, when all the above steps are finally completed, the old year’s ending balances may have changed from what they were when the new year was initially created.

The utility function “Update Starting Balances and Update Asset & Liability Info” will enable you to update the starting balances for the new year to the proper amounts if the prior year’s ending balances have changed.  This function is located in the drop-down menu under “Utilities” from the main Financial Navigator menu.

For instructions on how to use this function, please refer to Updating Starting Balances in our online Customer Support Center.

We hope the above tips help you to avoid problems and achieve a smooth transition when closing out the current year and starting a new one in 2016.