Winterberg, Bill. 2010. “Five Misconceptions About Document Management.” Journal of Financial Planning 5 (May): 38–40.
by Bill Winterberg, CFP®
The new year typically marks a brand new budget cycle for your firm’s operating expenses. No doubt an increasing portion of your budget is allocated for your existing technology infrastructure and to fund new purchases for the year.
Although most planners have a good handle on estimating annual technology expenses needed to keep the current tools and systems in place, many don’t know how much money should be allocated for purchases of new products and technology in the year ahead. To give you the biggest bang for your buck in new purchases, I’ve assembled a list of products and services across several price points you might want to look into this year.
You do not need to spend thousands of dollars to discover ways to grow your business and get more accomplished each day. For less than $100, here are two products you can use to boost your firm’s marketing and unlock your hidden productivity.
For $100, buy an 8GB Flip UltraHD Video Camera (www.theflip.com) and use it to add videos to your firm’s marketing collateral. Earlier this year, Cisco announced it was discontinuing the Flip Video line of business, but the devices are still available for sale and remain one of the easiest and most affordable video cameras to use.
Granted, you’re not going to create a fancy, high-gloss video with a $100 Flip camera, but that’s not as important today with the proliferation of online and mobile video. If you plan to distribute your videos online using sites like YouTube, you don’t need to pay for quality that you’ll never see. For examples of what other planners are doing with online video to enhance their marketing, see the YouTube channels for Rapid City, South Dakota, planner Rick Kahler, CFP® (www.youtube.com/user/rapidcity55), and Baltimore, Maryland, planner Timothy Maurer, CFP® (www.youtube.com/user/90secondfinance).
Another technology tool under $100 is RescueTime (www.rescuetime.com), a web-based time management and tracking tool. For $9 per month or $72 annually, RescueTime will track what you do on any computer on which it is installed throughout the day. Then jump online to view your RescueTime dashboard, where you can see graphs and reports of how you spent your time. RescueTime tracks distracting activities, such as checking Facebook, and productive ones as well, such as entering notes in your CRM or rebalancing client portfolios. Your dashboard shows your overall productivity score by day, week, month, or year and compares your statistics with other RescueTime users. The dashboard is a quick tool you can use to hold yourself accountable for the time spent on worthwhile endeavors versus distracting activities.
At the $500 level, consider purchasing an Apple 16GB WiFi iPad 2 for your firm (www.apple.com/ipad). Financial planners are using the iPad in a variety of ways, such as reviewing documents and reports on the tablet in advance of client meetings, taking notes during conferences and CE presentations, and even conducting video conference sessions with colleagues and clients via apps like FaceTime or Skype.
Another hardware device worth considering is a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 scanner (www.fujitsu.com). The S1500’s MSRP is $495, but it can be purchased for about $420 at online retailers, and it comes bundled with Adobe® Acrobat® 9 Standard software (roughly a $200 value, and the optional upgrade to Adobe Acrobat X Standard will cost about $130). The ScanSnap can be used to easily convert papers brought in by clients into digital records you can store, back up, and retrieve quickly and efficiently. Also included is ABBYY FineReader software, a program that performs optical character recognition on scanned documents, allowing you to search, highlight, and copy any text that appears in the document.
Finally, if you’re thinking about including social media in your firm’s marketing plan, consider the Individual Enterprise edition of Arkovi (www.arkovi.com), a web-hosted social media message archiving service. At $39 per month, Arkovi will capture and archive Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn updates for one user, helping you satisfy your recordkeeping requirements for your firm’s public advertising and communications.
With $1,000, 2012 may be the year that you abandon Windows-based computers and convert to the Mac operating system. For $999, you can purchase Apple’s 11-inch MacBook Air with 64GB of storage capacity (http://www.arkovi.com). This ultra-thin yet powerful laptop is ideal for travel, as it fits comfortably on most airplane tray tables and can run for nearly five hours on a single battery charge. Converting from Windows to Mac is far easier if the tools you use in your firm are web based, but if you still depend on a few Windows-only tools, you can use remote desktop connection software to connect to your Windows computer in the office using the MacBook Air.
Speaking of web-based tools, one CRM to consider at this price point is Redtail, available for $65 per month for 15 user licenses (www.redtailtechnology.com). With the remaining $220, you can cover about 80 percent of the registration to attend Redtail University, an all-day training program to help you get the most out of the CRM.
You can also consider refreshing your firm’s website design and functionality through Advisor Websites (www.advisorwebsites.com). For $69 per month and a one-time setup fee of $99, Advisor Websites offers a plan called MVP that includes website hosting, backups and revision archives for compliance purposes, and integrations with YouTube and popular survey tools.
With a budget of $5,000, you have the potential to gain a significant return on investment with the purchase of the right technology. One tool with such potential is document management software. In a previous column, I tackled five misconceptions surrounding document management software.1 I’ll highlight here several products that fall within this price point.
First is CNG-SAFE from Cabinet NG Inc. (www.cabinetng.com). I spoke with Jon Clark, VP of sales, on the two ways the software can be implemented. For an on-premises solution (installed on your server), $5,000 will cover the base system for three users, including all setup, training, and support for the first year. CNG-SAFE is also available in a hosted solution accessed entirely over the Internet, where $5,000 covers one year of service and support for eight users.
Laserfiche is another document management solution worth pursuing in this price range. According to Jeff Flory, document management specialist for Datamax of Texas, $5,000 covers basic implementation and use of the application for three users in the first year, and the system can either be installed on your local server or delivered over the Internet in a new Laserfiche CloudWise Content interface. The CloudWise Content platform includes hosted server and storage fees at this price level.
A third document management option available only as a cloud-based service on the Internet is NetDocuments (www.netdocuments.com). Up to 11 users can be supported for $5,000 on the full-featured Professional+ Edition, and up to 20 users can be supported under the NetDocuments Basic Edition.
Like document management software, a hosted portfolio management and service bureau platform is another category of technology with significant ROI potential. In this price range, consider portfolio management software and services from AssetBook (www.assetbook.com). For a $400 monthly minimum fee, up to 200 accounts can be monitored in AssetBook’s platform. Its service bureau performs all of the custodial data feed downloads, reconciliation, and a 20-point integrity check on a daily basis. Each additional account added to AssetBook costs $24 per year, and there’s no charge for accounts manually managed by the user.
Another web-based portfolio management platform is Morningstar Office (http://corporate.morningstar.com/officestories). At $5,700 per year, which includes a license for one adviser and one assistant, Morningstar Office is priced above the $5,000 target, but a 10 percent discount is available to planners who use major custodians including Schwab Advisor Services, TD Ameritrade Institutional, Fidelity, and more. Although Morningstar Office does not include account reconciliation services like AssetBook, planners on this system do benefit from access to Morningstar’s research on over 350,000 securities and over 1 million bonds, a basic CRM, and a client web portal.
No matter how much money you’ve set aside for technology spending this year, you’ll find products and services available across various price ranges that can significantly enhance your productivity and capabilities. Each of the 13 resources included in this column, from marketing videos to document management software, can help your firm have its most successful year ever.