Category Archives: Family Office

Our Expanding Global Company

Mark Rogozinski
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

Preparing for the Future

Rosalina Lopez

After hearing our plans to create a new platform, a number of our clients have inquired about what they can do to prepare for the future. It is smart of them to be asking this now.

Adequacy of Your Data

One question we like to hear from clients is, “What should I be doing to prepare for conversion to the new platform?” This is a good question because the steps you take now will make your later work easier and allow the performance reports you receive in the future to be more meaningful.

To prepare for conversion, we recommend clients examine the quality of the data they have already recorded in FN. After all, this is the data that will be converted to the new platform. If the qualify of your data is good, you will be well positioned for success in using the new system. Conversely, if the quality of the data is poor, you may be disappointed with some of the reports the new platform can produce.

Accounting vs. Performance Data

A little background can be helpful here. FN 9.5 has extensive capabilities, but many clients use it primarily as an accounting system. Therefore, the data in the system often ends up being just accounting data. To ease the on-going task of entering data, clients often summarize that data and take other shortcuts, as long as the cash account reconciles to the bank or custodian balance.

The new Asset Vantage platform provides accounting but also offers other capabilities, including calculating investment performance at many levels of asset classification. For financial performance calculations to be accurate and meaningful, the underlying data must be more detailed and precise than for basic accounting.

For example, consider the different ways a FN user can track dividends received. Many of our clients simply lump all dividends together and record one amount at the end of the month as dividend income, with a corresponding addition to cash. For general accounting purposes this approach works fine. And, if you only wish to report performance at the portfolio level, this practice for recording dividend income is acceptable. However, if you want to analyze performance by each security, this method will not be suitable.

Alternatives

If your data is not sufficiently detailed, there are three alternatives to consider:

  • Accept the Situation – You can accept the fact that certain performance calculations for past time periods will be unavailable or inaccurate because the data you have is not as detailed as needed.
  • Improve the Data Yourself – You can go into FN 9.5 and edit the FN data to make it more accurate and detailed. You can do this on a selective basis and only add data where it will have a significant impact on performance calculations.
  • Have FNI Improve the Data – We are beginning to develop special services where we can assist our clients to correct or improve their data. If you ask, we can give you our assessment and a fee estimate for us to do the work needed to bring your data to the level of accuracy required for the new calculations. This approach will allow you to gain the full benefit of the new platform.

Any of these three alternatives can certainly provide a satisfactory solution. Each client will have to decide which approach will best meet their specific needs.

More Detail Moving Forward

The best news is that the new platform has a number of techniques for capturing the detailed data required for precise performance calculations. As a result, the issue of getting sufficient transaction data into the system should not be a problem in the future.

Internet Connectivity

The other question we are asked by clients is, “Will I need to change my Internet connection?”

The new platform is a cloud-based system that will only operate over an Internet connection. Fortunately, the system is designed so that it does not require a very high speed Internet connection to work well. A connection with a minimum speed of 20mbps (megabits per second) for downloading data and 5mbps for uploading should be satisfactory. Of course, a faster speed will provide a better experience for users because the reports and screens will display more quickly.

The key requirement should be that your Internet connection is reliable and not subject to outages, since the loss of your connection would prevent you from using the new platform.

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.