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Updated Grendel Gets a Second Look

Things have changed with this multifuction, Web-based platform.

Joel P. Bruckenstein, 03/13/2008

In August I wrote about Grendel, which was then a new Web-based platform that offered CRM, project management, workflow management, account aggregation (powered by Yodlee), a digital filing system for documents that automated retention/destruction capabilities, revenue forecasting, and the ability to build a database of firm benefit plans. After my initial investigation I thought the Grendel platform held promise, but there were a number of things that detracted from Grendel's overall appeal. Recently, briefly revisited the application and it appears that Grendel's developers have made a number of improvements worthy of discussion.

When I first signed on I was happy to see that Grendel retains the same strong security procedures I was familiar with. To log on to the application, advisors need a user name and a strong password (at least eight characters including uppercase, lowercase, a number, and a special character). In addition, users must enter the image pictured on the screen, a common form of double authentication. This makes it almost impossible for a software product to hack the password. In addition, 128-bit encryption ensures that the session remains secure once the advisor logs on, while data on the Grendel servers is protected by 192-bit encryption.

The new home page, or advisor dashboard is now both more attractive and more functional than the one I saw when I last visited with Grendel.

The new dashboard is divided into logical sections like news items, projects, advisory fees, and aggregation issues. Each section has a brief summary of outstanding issues within the section. More details can be accessed by clicking through to the applicable section.

Some of the things we liked about the original home page still remain though. There are still lists of the last five people and the last five companies with which you worked. Clicking on a name or company leads to the desired record. The new version of Grendel adds a list of the last five products you looked at, so if the last time you logged on to Grendel you were researching a new ETF, and you were compiling due diligence notes within Grendel, you would simply click on the ETF's name to go back to that record.

Previously, Grendel lacked flexibility with regard to groupings of people. That is no longer the case. Users can now create custom groups of people. This is designed so that people can exist in more than one group. Some examples of these groups include "holiday gift recipients" or "summer seminar attendees." While Grendel does not yet offer reports for custom groupings, I'm told that they are in the works, so reports should be available very soon.

The wealth overview section, formerly one of Grendel's strong suits, has been rewritten. It now appears to be significantly better than it was the last time I viewed it. One nice new feature is the ability to link a client portfolio to a model portfolio. If you choose to do this, Grendel offers a tab called "allocation balance." Under this tab there is a graphical display of which asset classes are underweighted or overweighed versus the model. Other tabs illustrate the current allocation in pie-chart format: a pie chart by group (equity, bonds, cash, alternatives, unclassified, and so on) and a pie chart representing the target allocation. In another nod to flexibility Grendel now allows user defined asset classes, something that previously was not available.

The projects or workflow section has been upgraded as well. Users can build workflow templates and save them, and can also create project trees that contain steps and substeps. Overall, the new look seems a bit more intuitive than it was.

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