Category Archives: Technology

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.

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.

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.

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

Daniel Serrano
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: customersupport@finnav.com.

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.