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How essential is account-aggregation technology to a holistic financial plan?

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Account-aggregation technology is an automation system for gathering position and transaction information from investors’ retail accounts held at banks and brokerages. By building and maintaining these data feeds of retail financial services companies, aggregators help provide investors and their advisors with a centralized view of the investor’s full financial situation, which is then updated daily.

What is account aggregation and how does it work? From a financial advisor’s perspective, there are two sorts of client accounts:

Managed accounts: accounts containing assets that are under the control of the advisor. These accounts are typically held at the advisor’s custodian. Through the use of portfolio management and reporting software, the client’s data is captured through a direct link from the custodian.

Nonmanaged accounts: accounts containing assets that are not under the advisor’s control but are nonetheless important to the client’s financial plan. Examples include 401(k) accounts managed by an investor’s employer, personal checking or savings accounts, pensions and/or credit card accounts.

The concern for the advisor with nonmanaged accounts is that unless the client provides log-in credentials to access the website of the bank or brokerage where the account is held, the advisor cannot obtain information on the account. This lack of accessibility presents an inconvenience for advisors who wish to offer clients a holistic approach to financial planning and asset management. It would be quite troublesome, for example, to regularly update a client’s “personal net worth” statement if the advisor had to solicit the client’s help in ascertaining the value of each asset or liability account. Account aggregation services solve this problem in two ways:

  • By providing a convenient method of obtaining daily-updated position and transaction information about accounts held at virtually any retail bank or brokerage.
  • Protecting the privacy of investors, by absolving them of the need to disclose their username and password credentials for each aggregated account.

How can financial advisors use account aggregation? Advisors commonly use investor clients’ aggregated account information for:

Financial planning: to support the delivery of holistic financial planning services with a view of the total amount of assets held by the client and actively managed by the advisor.

Risk assessment: to assess the risk of a client or prospective client’s existing portfolio before the advisor begins managing the portfolio in question.

FINANCIAL PLANNING

A solid financial plan should begin with an understanding of an individual’s complete financial picture. Advisors can utilize account aggregation to understand the value of a client’s:

  1. Total assets, liabilities and net worth.
  2. Personal transaction history (expenses and income).
  3. Trends in asset, liability, net worth and transaction values over time.

Integrating account aggregation technology with risk assessment software creates a truly automated risk assessment process.

RISK ASSESSMENT

A risk-assessment analysis should be performed for all new client on-boarding, whereby:

  1. The client (or prospective client) provides the advisor with information about all of his or her current investment accounts and the holdings.
  2. The advisor assesses the riskiness of the client’s existing investment holdings.
  3. The advisor presents the results of this risk assessment to the client, along with recommended changes to the portfolio that the advisor deems necessary based on the client’s risk tolerance and financial goals.

Step one is where account aggregation supports the risk assessment process. Assuming that the client holds investments at some bank or brokerage, all he or she needs to do to give the advisor access is provide his or her account aggregation service with the appropriate log-in credentials. The bottom line? Integrating account aggregation technology with risk assessment software creates a truly automated risk assessment process.

Bleakley Financial Group’s advisors and clients are empowered by the advanced portfolio management platform, Orion Advisor Services. Orion provides Bleakley with a comprehensive range of services and a scalable platform for growth. Bleakley’s clients now have access to their investment portfolios, performance and secure documents, anywhere at any time, through a branded client portal and complimentary mobile app for iOS and Android. By eliminating their administrative burden, Bleakley can better focus on its core mission: serving as a trusted advisor and helping clients pursue their financial goals.

This article was originally published in the February/March 2016 issue of Worth.

Topics
Investing and the Economy

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