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Envestnet | Tamarac builds Tamarac University Online, a massive online training program for the Advisor Xi software suite

Envestnet|Tamarac releases Tamarac University Online for comprehensive on-demand training

Envestnet | Tamarac releases Tamarac University Online for comprehensive on-demand training

Envestnet | Tamarac builds an online university to help advisers master the company’s total office software

Training, or the lack thereof, can make or break the successful introduction of any new technology in a financial adviser’s business. (see Attend Redtail University and learn how to use Redtail CRM like a power user)

Fortunately, the time it takes to master many adviser technology tools has been decreasing consistently, since many applications have been thoughtfully updated with modern, intuitive interfaces and a uncluttered designs.

But when it comes to robust tools like portfolio rebalancing software, better design by itself just isn’t enough to make technology easier to use.

One example of this comes from the Advisor Xi suite of tools from Envestnet | Tamarac.

Better Adoption Through Training

Let’s walk through an example. Open up the Advisor Xi Rebalancer, and you don’t exactly know where to begin.

Tamarac University Online includes hours of video tutorials to guide users through various features

Tamarac University Online includes hours of video tutorials to guide users through various features

If you plan on rebalancing client accounts, your household positions first need to be up to date. That requires an update from your portfolio management software. Time to get some training.

Then when client account positions are current, you next need to compare current allocations with each client’s target portfolio. Time to create and define model portfolios. That requires training.

Next, when you identify what trades to execute to rebalance accounts, you need to know how to generate a trade file and submit it to the appropriate custodian. Training is required here, too.

The lists of processes goes on, and without proper training, acclimating to Advisor Xi (and to be fair, other similarly complex tools, too) can take much longer than originally anticipated.

Training On Demand

Envestent | Tamarac knows this all to well, and for years has been hosting live training events called Tamarac University.

Advisers new to Envestnet | Tamarac, as well as those looking to sharpen their mastery of the Advisor Xi suite, are welcome to attend the company’s two-day classroom style curriculum for a nominal fee.

But for advisers and back office employees unable to travel to the company’s live events in Seattle and Chicago, Tamarac University was not an accessible option for training.

Now the company is providing access to comprehensive, on-demand training through a new massive online training course called Tamarac University Online.

Tamarac University Online

All clients can now access Tamarac University Online through the Support & Training Center. Once in the Support & Training Center, a Tamarac University tab launches clients into Tamarac University Online.

Tamarac University Online features modules for all three of the products in the Advisor Xi suite: Advisor CRM, Advisor Rebalancing, and Advisor View.

Inside each module are dozens of courses designed to cover the primary functionality of each product.

An example of the curriculum found in each of the Tamarac University Online modules.

An example of the curriculum found in each of the Tamarac University Online modules.

As they navigate through the online courses, users are challenged with “knowledge check” activities to validate their lesson retention, followed by a final exam at the end of each course.

At any time, users with administrator privileges can monitor the progress of employees and advisors as they complete their training. In addition, users can complete evaluations at the conclusion of each course to provide feedback to Envestnet | Tamarac on the quality and organization of the curriculum.

Training Anywhere

Envestent | Tamarac invested in high quality learning management software to deploy Tamarac University Online, so the interface and user experience are overall very attractive.

The software is also HTML5 compatible, meaning Tamarac University Online can be accessed from any mobile device using the mobile web browser, so training need not be limited to one’s office computer.


Tamarac University Online is available to all users at no additional cost. What else is there to say?

Users gain access to comprehensive training materials which cover much of the curriculum offered in the live events without requiring the commitment of time and travel.

Nevertheless, connecting with other Envestnet | Tamarac users face to face is valuable in its own right, so the company will continue to host Tamarac University in Seattle and Chicago in the future.

If you’re a Tamarac Advisor Xi user and haven’t yet enrolled, contact customer service to get enrolled, or if you’re considering Advisor Xi for your office, ask for a brief introduction to the available training resources so you know how well you will be prepared to make a transition.

The Adviser’s Mobile World videocast: Watch the replay now

Technology available today allows you to decide when and where you want to work. Resources such as the cloud, integrated apps, and powerful mobile devices really do allow you to become the mobile adviser.

In this broadcast, I joined advisers Blair duQuesnay and Sunit Bhalla along with moderator Davis Janowski to cover all things mobile for financial advisers.

Just click the play button below to watch the live videocast of The Adviser’s Mobile World, hosted by InvestmentNews.

(click to watch on YouTube)

How to secure mobile devices against “WiFi honeypots”

WiFi "honeypots" impersonate trusted WiFi networks remembered by your mobile devices

“WiFi honeypots” impersonate WiFi networks remembered and trusted by your mobile devices

Financial advisers should use a VPN to protect mobile devices from “WiFi honeypots.”

WiFi is almost everywhere today. But when you connect to WiFi in your local coffeeshop or hotel for the evening, do you really know who is managing the connection?

Eavesdropping on Public WiFi

You place a lot of trust in unknown providers when you connect your mobile devices to public WiFi.

Most of the time, you’re likely not at risk of having data you send over WiFi intercepted by someone else. But a number of software programs and hardware devices for sale on the Internet allow users to do just that; sit on public WiFi and eavesdrop on unencrypted data being passed back and forth.

WiFi Honeypot

According to one hardware manufacturer, launching man-in-the-middle attacks is "as simple as setting up your typical home wireless router."

According to one hardware manufacturer, launching man-in-the-middle attacks is “as simple as setting up your typical home wireless router.”

Other devices are even more nefarious. Did you know that most of your mobile devices passively seek trusted WiFi networks to which they have connected in the past?

Your mobile devices remember trusted WiFi networks so you don’t have to repeatedly enter your password and/or approve the connection over and over again. Convenient, right?

Well, these nefarious devices called “honeypots” are built to respond to your mobile devices’ inquiry for a trusted WiFi network.

For example, when your phone broadcasts “is the ‘ApexWealthSecureWiFi’ SSID available?” the WiFi honeypot responds, “Yes, I’m the ApexWealthSecureWiFi access point, you can connect with me!”

And that connection now exposes your phone, tablet, or laptop to a potential man-in-the-middle attack (MitM).

Elude WiFi Honeypots

How do you protect yourself against WiFi honeypots?

First, ensure that you use https:// and SSL connections online as much as possible. Download and install browser plugins like HTTPS Anywhere for Firefox and Chrome (sorry Internet Explorer users, consider this one more reason to stop using that browser).

Implement VPN

Second, set up your own VPN, or virtual private network, connection that provides a secure, encrypted “tunnel” through which your Internet traffic is routed.

If you don’t have your own VPN connection available from your IT department, you can subscribe to one of several private VPN services, most of which cost roughly $50 per year.

For a more detailed review of VPN, read my latest column for Morningstar Advisor titled Secure Your Mobile Connections and increase your safety and security when using WiFi away from your authentic networks.

Avoid WiFi Altogether

When in doubt, avoid using WiFi altogether when you’re away from your trusted networks.

Instead, use your mobile device’s cellular connection (3G or 4G LTE), and if your device doesn’t have its own cellular modem, buy a mobile 4G LTE hotspot for $100 and use that (may I recommend an Overdrive Pro 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot from Virgin Mobile?)

Remember that there are people out there who will exploit vulnerabilities for a variety of reasons. Follow the recommendations above to reduce your odds of becoming a victim of a man-in-the-middle attack when using WiFi networks.

Financial adviser marketing tools for the Digital Age

inbound marketing

Get onboard with these top tools for marketing in the Digital Age

As a financial adviser, you have the potential to benefit tremendously from the proliferation of new online marketing tools.

Now that we’re fully enveloped in the Digital Age, you have many new techniques and resources at your disposal to market your business and services to those who can benefit the most.

What’s so different about marketing in the Digital Age?

Digital Age marketing is characterized by “inbound marketing,” as opposed to “outbound marketing.”

Inbound marketing is the free, value-add content you create and post online for others to find, based on their needs (and, more importantly, search engine queries). It’s what the person on the left in the image above is doing.

Outbound marketing is more traditional, where you advertise using billboards, email blasts, and prospect seminars in the hopes of exposing your company/brand/profile to as many people as possible. It’s what the bullhorn guy on the right of the image is doing.

So which Digital Age marketing tools should you start using?

I wrote a succinct guide to marketing in the Digital Age for the January 2013 issue of the Journal of Financial Planning.

Click here to read Tools for Digital Age Marketing from the Journal of Financial Planning.

The Financial Planning Flowchart (or why your clients will balk at paying your fees)

The BloombergBusinessweek Financial Planning Flowchart

The BloombergBusinessweek Financial Planning Flowchart

BloombergBusinessweek has managed to capture 80% of everything clients need for their financial planning in a one-page colorful flowchart.

Or has it?

Visit BloombergBusinessweek to view the Financial Planning Flowchart.

Here, in one fairly-straightforward graphic, clients have a roadmap to follow to address the essentials of their financial plan. When you connect with a new client or prospect, I argue that you largely repeat many of the same evaluations as you gather data, and possibly make similar recommendations, too.

What’s Your Value?

So how are you prepared to differentiate your value proposition and the work that you do over a flowchart? If you’re not prepared, you’re going to have a hard time justifying the fees you charge.

And if the financial planning decision-making process can be outlined in a flowchart, what’s to stop software designers from writing a program that automatically steps through all of these primary conditions?

I concede that the flowchart is a basic guide and good for a starting point, and it falls short of the complicated planning scenarios when trusts, estates, and multi-generational planning factor in to play. But for those advanced strategies, you’re talking about the needs of (and I’m certainly guilty of over generalizing here) “the 1%.”

You Can’t Charge High Fees for the Basics

For the majority of the general population who admit they could benefit from some financial planning, but just haven’t pursued an engagement with a “real” planner, they’re going to have a hard time justifying fees in the thousands of dollars for guidance they can follow from a magazine they can buy for $2.99 from the App Store.

This post isn’t intended to compress your planning services into something as simple as a flowchart, but rather challenge you to step up your offering while acknowledging the need for simplicity.

Complement Simplicity

A lot of people will get a good financial planning foundation established by following this chart.

So encourage it.

Complement the process.

And when clients, prospects, friends, and colleagues get to a decision point with no clear answer, you step in and shine with what you do best, and charge appropriately, too.

Because if you don’t, you run the risk of being replaced by an automated flowchart (aka robo adviser).

Online video for financial advisers: what technology you need to create and publish effective content

By now you’re likely familiar with the FPPad YouTube channel, featuring over 30 videos of interviews with financial planning technology vendors and thought leaders. The channel is quickly approaching 5,000 views collectively.

Perhaps you’ve been thinking about ways you can use online video to enhance your online presence. Video is becoming so ubiquitous on the Internet today that if you don’t have video content, others might view your firm as behind the times.

For this month’s Morningstar Advisor column, I reviewed a variety of techniques and technologies you can use to build a successful online video strategy.

Be sure to read Technology to Build Successful Online Video at Morningstar Advisor today.

Cloud computing for financial advisers: How to stay safe

Financial advisers recognize the benefits of moving to the cloud, but security remains a top concern

While speaking on a panel at the Technology Tools for Today (T3) Conference in Dallas earlier this year, I predicted that within five years, the majority of independent investment advisers would no longer have a server located in their office.

Clearly the trend of embracing cloud computing and services delivered over the Internet is gaining momentum, but financial advisers continue to be concerned about the security of data stored in the cloud.

In my latest column for the Journal of Financial Planning, I reviewed the practices advisers should follow when evaluating the security policies of any cloud provider.

Included is a sidebar titled 10 Key Elements of Cloud Security that lists the top essential questions advisers must ask when conducting due diligence. Use it as a guide as you try to determine whether a provider’s policies and procedures meet your expectations.

Read How to Stay Safe When Using the Cloud from the Journal of Financial Planning

Why Schwab’s new iPhone app doesn’t support trading

Schwab Advisor Center iPhone

Schwab Advisor Services’ first iPhone app lacks functionality offered by the competition, but opportunity remains for the leading custodian to catch up

In last week’s Bits & Bytes, you read about Schwab Advisor Services’ new iPhone app release. RIABiz posted this article shortly after the release with comments and perspective. The gist is Schwab’s 30,000 users across 7,000 firms can use Schwab Advisor Center on an iPhone to check client account balances, transactions, and positions in version 1.0.

Yesterday I spoke with Steve Hirsch, vice president of institutional web services for Charles Schwab, about the company’s decision to offer basic functionality in its first mobile app for financial advisers.

“We conducted extensive client research, asking over 400 [adviser] clients to rank the features and functions they would use most in a mobile phone app,” said Hirsch. “Out of a selection of five features, 66% of them chose access to account balances, transactions, and positions.”

Choices for other functionality selections included access to account alerts and notifications, market news and information, move money capabilities, and trading.

Playing it safe

Schwab’s entry into the mobile app scene is long overdue, as competing custodians have offered mobile apps to advisers for well over a year. Two of them have even developed apps exclusively for iPad that offer features such as streaming market news (see Exclusive look at Veo® Mobile app updates for iPad from TD Ameritrade Institutional’s Jon Patullo) and trading in client accounts (see Fidelity WealthCentral Mobile now available for iPad).

So if you’re Schwab, there are two ways to enter this market.

First, you can survey what the competition is doing, match them on a feature-by-feature basis, and then raise the bar on functionality by developing features nobody else has. Remember Steve Jobs and the three new product launches of “a widescreen iPod, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a breakthrough Internet communications device?

Or second, you can ask users what they want, pick the top response, and build to that specification (The “we want a faster horse” scenario).

Schwab, with version 1.0, selected the latter.

Dipping a toe in the water

But to Schwab’s credit, they’re far from finished with the rollout of their mobile strategy. It’s just that with version 1.0 of Schwab Advisor Center, Schwab delivered only what advisers said was their number one desired feature.

Where’s the innovation in that strategy?

I challenged Hirsch to get him to divulge a bit more about Schwab’s future in mobile. Clearly, rolling out a basic iPhone app first was an easy win.

“We saw great utility in mobile phone devices as a vehicle for quick access to client accounts,” said Hirsch. “Advisers and consumers carry their phone everywhere 24×7, so we felt it was a great place to start by supporting immediate account access using devices widely held across a large base of users.”

Mobile potential

And on plans for the iPad app, expected by the end of 2012?

“The iPad app will have a different tenet than the iPhone app,” he said. “We’ll optimize what we present, starting with functionality similar to the iPhone app, but expand it well beyond that to take advantage of bigger screen real estate.”

Hirsch acknowledged that the app is anticipated to deliver much more functionality that what is offered today.

“Clearly, client reporting is priority for us, as well adding performance and asset holding features that advisors will use in client meetings and presentations.”

When asked about the ability to use the iPad in the account application process, including e-signature capabilities, Hirsch was guarded.

“These features are in Schwab’s domain, and we see tremendous potential here.” he said.


How to host effective conference calls and get the most out of what used to be a dreaded experience

Let’s face it: this guy in the photo above is your worst nightmare for conference calls. Wind noise, road noise, and constant interruptions break the discussion flow and disrupts the thought process of everybody participating in the call.

In today’s Morningstar Advisor Quickview update, I highlight a new service designed to reduce all the frustrating things about conference calls so you can focus on collaborating and getting work done.

Go read Supercharge Your Next Conference Call at Morningstar Advisor and try the service for your next call.

[VIDEO] TD Ameritrade Institutional’s Veo® Open Access to enhance trading, fee billing, and client on-boarding processes

Veo® Open Access, the award-winning integration platform initiative launched by TD Ameritrade Institutional last year, is getting additional upgrades this summer to further simplify advisers’ processes.

Several weeks ago, I met with Chris Valleley, director of the new Technology Solutions group for TD Ameritrade Institutional, and asked him about what’s in store for advisers currently using Veo®, the custodian’s account management and trading platform (see TD Ameritrade Institutional’s Jon Patullo discusses electronic signature and future enhancements of Veo® Open Access). The number of supporting integrations with Veo® Open Access Architecture continues to grow, now surpassing 60 vendors in all.

“Throughout the summer, we’re really focusing on those features where the vendor can push data back to Veo, [such as] things like trading and allocations,” Valleley said. (see Orion CEO discusses Veo® integration at the TD Ameritrade Institutional 2012 National Conference)

He discussed three key workflow enhancements planned for the near future: trading and rebalancing, management fees, and client on-boarding and electronic signature.

For example, Valleley highlighted how updates to Veo can streamline the quarterly process of submitting management fee invoices for accounts held at TD Ameritrade Institutional.

“Instead of creating [an intermediate] file and all the manual work that goes along with that, the [integrated portfolio management] vendor can then push the invoice directly to Veo,” he said.

Watch the full interview to get all the information on the progress TD Ameritrade Institutional is making with its integration platform.