The folks at Schwab Performance Technologies have several announcements today that will be of interest to various sets in the RIA community.
I'll begin with the one that should prove exciting to contemplate over the next year or two and could, when fully available have the most budgetary impact on operations outlay.
SPT will soon begin the pilot phase for PortfolioCenter Hosted, the cloud-based version of PortfolioCenter.
Pricing will be as low as $1200 per quarter and should not cost firms that custody assets with Schwab Advisor Services anything in terms of implementation costs.
Why might that be exciting? Anecdotally I hear from advisers all the time that would like to outsource the headache of managing, updating, patching etc. of PortfolioCenter.
Some firms have already outsourced this function to independent third-party hosting services. Some of those firms have reported being quite happy with this arrangement, others have found it still requires a fair amount of managing the third-party firm taking care of this.
Those latter firms have suggested that it would be optimal to make this Schwab's responsibility and there you have it.
The premier portion of today's prepared statement is SPT's new agreement with NetDocuments for their turnkey Integrated Office platform (for those that might not remember, Integrated Office includes a customized version of Salesforce CRM, outsourced portfolio data management and performance reporting through PortfolioCenter, and real-time Schwab custody data).
NetDocuments is a well-known and established provider of cloud-based e-mail and document management.
In Schwab's document management parlance the system will provide advisers with a centralized, searchable hub in which to store important client documents and communications.
“It is all about simplicity and we are fully bundling and the support will be through SPT, it is feature rich solution but also easy to use, the solution began and matured through use in the legal profession and we thought it would work well with RIAs, especially among new firms,” said Brian Shenson, vice president of advisor technology solutions for Schwab Advisor Services.
“We have also really worked to tie the document management experience to the workflows,” he said.
“What is also important is consistent file foldering systems and we have worked with a lot of our advisers to come up with foldering systems that actually work in a logical way,” Mr. Shenson added.
NetDocuments is also well-integrated with Salesforce and SPT is taking advantage of the already-built NetDocuments plug-in built for the CRM system.
When asked about advisers not using the Integrated Office solution, ergo Salesforce, Mr. Shenson added that Schwab's Gateway advisers would also be able to take advantage of the partnership through access of the NetDcuments website at some point as well.
“We see a client portal offering as sort of the third essential building block in our Integrated Office offering; it will be in pilot by the end of the year,” said Mr. Shenson.
When asked about whether this was coming from an established third-party provider he said no.
“We are building it ourselves [using Force.com] and Siteforce,” he explained referring to the cloud-based content management system built specifically for Salesforce environments.
“We view managing your portal as part of managing your CRM, an extension of it, stuff funnels directly into your CRM and it will also have all the basic portal features you or your clients would expect,” Mr. Shenson added secure access to their quarterly portfolio performance reports.
He also explained that some of the next steps of building this all out would be to bring introducing custody statements, trade confirms, tax reports (1099s), and eventually to allow advisers to bring in 10 years of history of any of these to their CRM — initially the emphasis will be with the Salesforce implementation of Integrated Office.
Gateway clients would follow, including those advisers working with Junxure, Salentica (Microsoft Dynamics-based) and Tamarac.
I already told you about the coming PortfolioCenter Hosted pilot.
But there will also be welcome updates to PortfolioCenter itself.
Included among these are a new securities data manager with additional edit, sort, and filtering features for manipulating numerous securities at once.
I was told that SPT is also continuing to improve PortfolioCenter's client presentations. That will include adding new formats.
Advisers will also now have billing statements as part of the presentation package too.
They also gave me word of an upcoming enhancement that I no has been highly requested by firms: bringing in average daily balance billing or average monthly balance billing.
There will also be a more control over some of the basic aspects of the reporting package.including being able to select date ranges, for example month to date, year to date etc.
And for a look out a little beyond the current release (“What we are calling the Winter release for 2013”): Column and element selection that will allow firms to design which aspects of their report information they want on their page, up to hundreds of different data points that an adviser choose from to display on a report.
“This will give them the kind of flexibility they would want,” Mr. Shenson said.