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For Independent Integration, X Marks The Spot

This platform-agnostic suite of tools might be just what you need.

Bill Winterberg, 11/11/2010

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One of the most frequent sources of frustration for financial advisors today is the lack of integrated technology solutions available to manage clients' contact information, meeting notes, and investment portfolios. According to the Independent Advisor Outlook Study 2010 conducted earlier this year by Charles Schwab Advisor Services, advisors cited the lack of integration as the number one challenge to their firm's back office technology and operations processes.

The good news is that custodians and broker/dealers are intensifying their efforts to better integrate their technology offerings. However, advisors still have reservations over becoming too dependent on any one provider's platform. Should a custodian make an unpopular change to their policies and procedures (perhaps no longer providing custody for alternative assets), advisors would be faced with the difficult choice of either accepting the new policies or leaving the provider's platform and giving up their integrated technology solution.

With the release of its latest software suite called Advisor X, Seattle-based Tamarac Inc. is the first independent provider to release a custodian-agnostic platform for advisors that integrates CRM, portfolio-management, rebalancing, and performance reporting all in one attractive solution.

Integration Foundation
Tamarac's Advisor X is a Web-based suite consisting of three integrated applications; Advisor CRM, a customized version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM tailored to the wealth-management industry; Advisor Rebalancing, Tamarac's popular portfolio rebalancing software; and Advisor View, a new performance reporting application that includes a branded client portal and secure document vault. Advisor Rebalancing works with many popular portfolio accounting systems, while Advisor View provides performance reporting using data from Schwab Performance Technologies PortfolioCenter that Tamarac hosts using server-infrastructure services from Rackspace Hosting of San Antonio.

Much of the suite's code is built using Microsoft .NET Framework and SQL Server database, which gives Tamarac an advantage when adding new features and integrations. Instead of investing considerable time and resources internally to customize Advisor X's functionality, Tamarac can leverage existing applications and interfaces created by other Microsoft developers via the Microsoft Developer Network. This allows Tamarac to quickly implement, test, and roll out new features into the production environment.

Advisor CRM
Tamarac uses a Microsoft Dynamics CRM add-in for Outlook to integrate the CRM into the popular e-mail program. Advisors familiar with the layout and navigation of Outlook should take to Advisor CRM with little to no learning curve. Accounts and contacts are selected using a navigation sidebar on the left side of the screen, and record details are grouped into tabs that run along the top of the right-hand window pane, just as in Outlook Contacts.

Advisor CRM features all of the core features one expects from a robust CRM application. It stores contact details, activity history (phone calls, appointments, e-mail, etc.), tasks, and even supports workflow sequences using Windows Workflow Foundation (another example of leverage using the .NET Framework). Contact details stored in the CRM are synchronized with Outlook Contacts, so there's no need to change addresses or phone numbers in multiple places. Also, incoming and outgoing e-mail messages are monitored by the system and can be automatically added to a contact's activity history, eliminating the need to manually copy e-mails to a client's record in CRM.

Bill Winterberg, CFP, is a technology and operations consultant to independent financial advisors. His comments on technology have been featured in a variety of financial industry publications. You can view more information about Bill and see his schedule of upcoming speaking engagements at his Web site, FPPad.com.
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