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A Promising New Practice-Management Tool

Precise FP puts data entry into clients' hands.

Joel P. Bruckenstein, 08/14/2008

PreciseFP is a new non-proprietary online client questionnaire from Spectrum Input, LLC. The firm, headquartered in Alpharetta, Ga., was founded by Don Whalen, CFP, a comprehensive financial planner, and IT specialist Sebastian Skwarek. Whalen is active in both NAPFA and FPA, the two leading financial planning organizations. Skwarek is an Adobe Certified Instructor, and a company he owns is an Adobe Solutions Partner and an Adobe Solutions Integrator. Together, these two have tried to improve on a vital part of the financial planning and investment-management process that is often taken for granted: the data-gathering process.

While a small minority of the advisor community give a great deal of thought to and put a great deal of emphasis on the data-gathering process, most don't. Many advisors tell me that they either use a form provided by their broker/dealer, or they use a canned form that comes with their financial-planning or investment-management software. These forms are certainly better than nothing, but as a rule they don't always capture the optimal amount of information or the most relevant. Furthermore, because of their very nature (a paper document printed from a template in a software application or a virtual form within an application) the forms themselves might not provide the optimal utility that they should to the advisor.

Whalen and Skwarek said that they believe that data gathering forms can be improved upon so that they not only gather the right data more efficiently, but so they can also better facilitate the ongoing financial planning workflow process. PreciseFP is their initial attempt to tackle this challenge. I say that this is their initial attempt to emphasize that PreciseFP is a version 1.0 product. As such, I would not expect it to be as flawless or as highly evolved as it will probably be after the firm develops a user base, receives feedback, and makes improvements, but I do expect it to be relatively bug-free and to add enough value that readers want to buy it now.

Initial Impressions
So far, PreciseFP seems to be off to a good start, based upon my initial trials. The product is composed of two parts, an Advisor Dashboard and a client-facing site. To get started, an advisor logs on to the PreciseFP Web site and signs up for a free two-week test drive. Spectrum Input then sends an e-mail with a user name and a link to initialize the account. After logging on to the dashboard, you are transported to an Advisor Dashboard page.

The initial dashboard page allows users to enter their own advisor/firm information. Some of the information, such as account number, name, and e-mail address, will be pre-populated, while other information must be supplied. Some of this information, including picture and contact information, are used to personalize the client-facing Web site.

Among the other items in this section are a questionnaire link (the link users supply to clients that gives them access to the user's personal "questionnaire site") and a default PDF password. This is the password used to unlock the encrypted PDF files of the questionnaires that users, as well as other designated workflow recipients, will receive. So, for example, if a user wants to work with a virtual assistant and a virtual financial planner and wants each to receive a copy of the questionnaire when it is completed, both would be listed as workflow recipients, and the application would e-mail an encrypted copy to each when the user is e-mailed a copy.

Four additional tabs along the top of the page allow access to other areas of the advisor dashboard. The "Survey Questions" tab name is somewhat misleading on the second tab. Right now, this tab allows you to customize, to some extent, the 16-question risk-profile section of the survey, but it does not allow users to alter other sections of the questionnaire. The third tab allows advisors to enter a custom disclaimer statement that becomes part of the questionnaire. The supporting documentation section allows the advisor to notify clients of all supporting documents, such as account statements and tax returns that the advisor typically requires at meetings. Billing info allows the advisor to update account information with the provider.

Other sections of the dashboard allow the advisor to review a list of all recently saved questionnaires including information relating to those questionnaires (e-mail address, password, etc.) and view statistics related to submitted questionnaires. These statistics include useful information such as new and updated submissions on a monthly basis (or totals), submissions by state, by client age, and by client net worth.

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