Technology Update

Software is a key to document management

Compliance issues are driving transition from storage and retrieval to running the whole office

Jan 31, 2010 @ 12:01 am

By Davis D. Janowski

Selecting the right software to work in conjunction with your scanner is key because it helps organize, index and store all those files that have been created.

What's more, be-cause of regulatory and compliance requirements, document management for financial advisory firms is rapidly evolving beyond being just a storage and retrieval system into a way of streamlining the adviser's work flow. It's for that reason that an advisory firm must perform proper due diligence when choosing the right document management software.

One basic question is whether you will host the system internally or rely on an outsourced service provider to which you connect over the Internet.

An internal system will require a bigger upfront cost for the hardware, including servers and backup systems, while “software as a service” providers are typically based on monthly or annual fees.

If you already have an internal IT staff or a dependable consultant and are already maintaining servers and backups in your office, the cost will be a lot less.

Another basic but crucial consideration is integration.

Advisers need to understand before they make a purchase how well a document management system is going to integrate with the other core applications they are using.

Independent advisers that rely on a lot of third-party software might want to consider Your Silver Bullet. This free software compatibility site (yoursilverbullet.net) is maintained by its member software and services companies, all of which serve financial advisers.

Here an adviser will find a matrix of applications and what software “plays well” with them. For example, you'll be able to determine which document management software integrates well with other types of solutions, such as customer relationship management, portfolio management and financial planning applications.

If you are a registered representative or dually registered investment adviser interested in document management, your first call should be to your broker-dealer to see what, if anything, it already provides, recommends or has on the drawing board. (See last week's Tech Update column on the approach that Securities America Inc. takes.) Let's explore some specific software options, ranging from comprehensive to simple programs that an adviser can run in his or her office on a PC. This is a sampling of options, not a complete list of products on the market.

A RANGE OF OPTIONS

One example of a well-developed document management system for investment advisers is from iNautix (USA) LLC, a subsidiary of custodian Pershing LLC. Its hosted document management system allows advisers to capture and then store, route and retrieve documents securely over the Internet.

Broker-dealers affiliated with Pershing or registered investment advisers that hold client assets in custody with the firm access the iNautix Document Management system through Pershing's NetX360 platform. That platform consolidates Pershing's NetExchange Pro for commission-based firms and NetExchange Advisor for fee-based advisory practices,

Pershing doesn't discuss pricing, saying that it varies greatly and ultimately is based on the specific services and levels of support an adviser requires. But it will likely run $1,000 or more a year when everything is said and done.

Docupace Technologies Inc. is an outsourced provider of document management technology that serves broker-dealers. Its offerings provide advisers with document-scanning applications, as well as hosting and back-office processing for them and their broker-dealers. The setup cost for a single representative averages around $1,000, and the annual cost is about $500 thereafter.

Laserfiche is a document management technology company that has popular offerings for advisers as well, including their Avante and Intuition Pro products.

Avante, a self-hosted solution geared toward RIAs and independent broker-dealers, has built-in work flow features and costs about $500 per user. Intuition Pro is suited to very small offices of no more than two advisers. It focuses exclusively on document management.

Laserfiche also integrates with CRM Software Inc.'s Junxure, a popular customer relationship management software package for financial advisory firms. Cabinet NG is another company that serves many financial advisers. Its CNG-Safe and CNG-Online document management software typically serves firms with five to 15 people, but the number of users can range from two to more than 100.

The base price for a typical self-hosted Safe installation is $2,500, which includes one server license, two user licenses, a license for CNG-Books (a co-branded QuickBooks interface often used as a back-office tool). Additional licenses range from $495 to $995.

The online version hosted by CNG costs from $65 to $95 per month, depending on number of users, and includes backup and support services.

World Software Corp. got its start serving the document management needs of law firms, but its software has become increasingly popular with advisers. Its Worldox GX2 software typically runs on a local server and costs $395 per concurrent user along with an $80 annual maintenance fee per license.

Among the most popular and simplest general standalone software packages for scanning and organizing documents in an office is Nuance Communications Inc.'s PaperPort Professional, now in its 12th version.

For fee-only planners, or sole-proprietor shops that just want to start converting their paper to electronic format, PaperPort, which costs $199.99, is probably the least expensive way to start.

Neither of the last two products discussed are tailored specifically to meet the compliance or regulatory requirements of a financial adviser. It will be up to you or a consultant to back up files and meet other requirements.

I'd like to hear from you about your experiences selecting and working with document management software and services, so please e-mail me or visit the InvestmentNews LinkedIn group, where there will be a discussion on this topic.

Also, please visit the online version of this story for links to all the products and services discussed.

E-mail Davis D. Janowski at djanowski@investmentnews.com.

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