Integrated adviser platform exceeds expectations

InvestmentNews: Davis D. Janowski, 11.12.2007

In a bid to expand planning services for advisers, Linsco/Private Ledger Corp. of Boston and San Diego is now offering WealthVision a platform that includes a customized version of eMoney Advisor 360, a wealth management solution. The vendor, eMoney Advisor of Conshohocken, Pa., announced the deal at the end of last month. Since that time, the platform with little marketing to the company's 10,000 advisers has attracted 850 users; LPL expected to have 600 users by yearend.

The eMoney arrangement follows the announcement of an upgrade to PortfolioCenter, from Raleigh, N.C.-based Schwab Performance Technologies, and Boston-based Fidelity Investments' announcement that it will roll out its WealthCentral platform by the end of next year.

The timing of the WealthVision announcement was not meant to inflame the competitive landscape but was "purely coincidental," said Kevin Keefe, senior vice president of financial planning at LPL Financial Services. LPL charges a monthly fee of $300 per adviser for use with an unlimited number of clients.

In contrast, eMoney Adviser costs $1,250 per adviser seat per year, with an additional fee of $250 per client per year if licensed directly from the vendor. Mr. Keefe said that advisers and their clients were very excited, not only about the eMoney addition but also the inclusion of iDoc, an internally created Securities and Exchange Commission-compliant document-and-file-storage utility.

"Our clients absolutely adore [iDoc]; it gives them the ability to have access to their personal private documents anytime online," said Marc Freedman, president of Freedman Financial Associates in Peabody, Mass.

The firm, which has $200 million in assets under management, has purchased a high-speed scanner to store client documents, and clients can access them online.

Of the eMoney addition, Mr. Freedman said, "frankly, prior to LPL adding it, the software was just too rich for my blood," adding that the LPL's volume pricing made it possible for him to adopt it.

"When it was proposed to us at the cost [at which] it was made available [to us], along with the services like support and other features, it was a no-brainer," he said.

For investors and advisers who want access to wealth management services on the cheap, a subscription to valueforum.com, an investment research and sharing site, might be in order.

The site offers nitty-gritty investment details, as well as performance numbers. Sophisticated investors will gain access to esoteric information that might help them make informed investment decisions.

For instance, the minutiae of dry bulk shipping were discussed on valueforum.com. That discussion helped Rich Callahan, a certified financial planner and investment adviser with Jeffrey Matthews Financial Group LLC of Millburn, N.J., make a decision to invest in that sector.

"Irrespective of my opinion, when you have something where you find many investors consistently beating the [Standard & Poor's 500 stock index] by two and a half times, you sit up and take notice," he said.

The typical investor on the site is a 55-year-old male professional with $1 million in investible assets (excluding primary residence).

Users are on a mission to invest for yield and income most through their own online brokerage accounts, said Adam Menzel, co-founder of valueforum.com. A 24-hour trial costs $6.99, a 12-month subscription is $219.99, and three-month and six-month passes are available, as well. The site is crammed with user- generated information.

But the site's bread-and-butter feature is a discussion forum where investors share their expertise in international business, medicine, chemistry, the physical sciences and other subjects. There are also pages for rating stocks, stock investment contests, group polls, investing resources and shared portfolios.

"I posted a question last night and got an answer back about an hour and a half later that had all the information I could want," Mr. Callahan said. "It's worth every penny. I get insights out of it that I'd need to be employed at a hedge fund or very large wirehouse to get."

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