Choosing the right system is one of the most important decisions an advice firm will make. Here is a review of the best out there.
Last month I looked at the four foundations of a solid adviser technology strategy. The first of these was the practice management system.
Studies have found that between 20 and 25 per cent of adviser firms do not use a practice management system, and many more will want to review whether they have the best one to meet their needs.
Here, I am going to provide a quick overview of some of the most popular in the market. This should not be seen as an alternative for firms conducting a full review into which systems best suit them, but it may provide a good start to drawing up a shortlist.
The company has continued to make major ongoing investment in developing its software, and what really impresses me is its commitment to working out what users will need next. Its recent API store is a good example of this, as is its automated advice solution.
Another company to have really impressed over the past couple of years is Focus Solutions. The Standard Life-owned software supplier has made a huge investment in its Now:Advise product, making it one of the best out-of-the-box practice management systems for advisers.
It also has impressive financial planning tools in the Now:Plan module. This has a great touch-based interface, ideal for use with clients on an iPad.
Its primary audience is firms with more than 10 users, so you will need to be of a certain size to be able to access the package. That said, I understand it may look at slightly smaller firms later in the year. It does offer single user licences for the Now:Plan module.
The core offering from Iress is its Xplan system. What makes it stand out is the extent to which it can be configured by firms to follow a particular process.
It will take time to set the system up in this way, and it will be crucial to have the right level of resources available to do so, but the results can be impressive.
True Potential has made delivering exceptional technology a core part of its DNA. Its system is more than just a software package, extending to include many of the services more traditionally associated with a support group, such as exceptional income accounting and compliance guidance.
It also has a really strong client portal, which already includes open banking-type aggregation.
If I have one reservation about the system it is that it is now very focused around the use of its in-house platform. I just wish it would extend the great features it has built, so they could be used to put business onto other platforms too.
Time 4 Advice
While often referred to as client management systems, none of the above really offer client relationship management on a par with solutions like Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce.
Time 4 Advice has made a name for itself building a practice management system on top of the Microsoft Dynamics platform. So if you are looking for something really powerful in these areas, its Curo system is worth having a good look at.
In a similar vein, Plum Software is a long-standing player with a loyal following that is currently doing some very interesting work to build integrations with Microsoft Dynamics.
These additional components are scheduled for release during Q3 and will include prospect management, an electronic fact find, attitude to risk tools from Oxford Risk and suitability letter generation.
For regional chartered practices, Benchmark Capital has built a powerful offering via its Creative Technologies division. Having grown out of the Best Practice network, it is not surprising it has created a strong solution for firms of this kind. Given the substantial investment from Schroders last year, I would expect to see more great things to come.
There are many more adviser practice management systems than space allows me to cover here. These include 360dotnet, Assyst, Bluecoat, Durell, Hourglass, JCS Software, Synaptic Client Care and SSP Adviser.
Choosing the right system is one of the most important decisions any advice firm will make. Rushing such a decision is something you might spend a lot of time regretting.
Ian McKenna is director at Finance & Technology Research Centre