For most Americans, the federal bailout of the banking industry over bad mortgage loans was the end of a long and stressful financial crisis. For accountants, it was only the beginning. From this point forward, every single organization will have to reassess its financial portfolio. Every fund, nonprofit and municipality will have to prepare for the possibility of massive financial setbacks. And for those accountants engaged in wealth management for their clients, every single portfolio will need to be rebuilt, retested and the client reassured about the viability of their future earnings.
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Complicating this process are three major factors:
*The worst isn't over yet. Whatever the short-term relief given by the federal government's actions, the damage done to the real estate and capital markets are likely to continue for a period of months, perhaps years.
*Risk profiles will change dramatically. For a majority of smaller investors, the ability to absorb risk will be negatively impacted by the loss of assets and capital that will make secured returns mandatory in the near term. Even among those who do not see substantial losses, the threat of loss is likely to reduce the willingness to accept risks.
*It will all need to be done immediately. Asset analysts not already engaged in the process will find it difficult not only to meet the demands of nervous clients, but also to have assessments and corrections ready in time for the end of the year and the impending tax season.
In this environment, a good set of asset allocation and portfolio management tools is a matter of survival for accountants rather than simple choice. Fortunately, 2008 finds the field replete with powerful and data-based applications that can handle the toughest of asset selection, testing and management chores.
Asset Allocation Analyst
Asset Allocation Analyst, a Web-based asset selection and analysis tool, helps differentiate a firm from competitors while advancing compliance-friendly investment policies for clients.
The core of the application is a structured approach to portfolio management known as Modern Portfolio Theory. Under this theory, an investor profile is created and an appropriate asset mix and class are allocated accordingly. While this structure addresses such standard tools as a client risk assessment and analysis of long-term objectives, Equisoft's solution differs in several ways.
The product includes a series of benchmark portfolios (asset mixes) representative of the range of typical investor profiles. These portfolios, as well as the Investor Decision Grid which leads to the selection of the appropriate benchmark portfolio, lead to the selection of a benchmark that can be used to select a suitable asset mix and build a custom portfolio. Client data may be imported from Aquila, Client Manager, Univeris, Winfund or the Equisoft XML format.
The upgrade to Version 2.5 brought a number of enhancements that include an ability to integrate the accounting firm's own recommended products into the Analyst; a company-defined currency converter; an enhanced needs analysis; integration of cash flows in each account; and expanded statistical time frame comparative analytics that include one month, one-year, three-year and five-year performance data.
A straightforward portfolio manager with a strong basis in current theory, the Asset Allocation Analyst offers the flexibility to be used as is or to be customized for each firm. Though not as well known in the United States as its native Canada, it nonetheless sports an impressive client list that makes it worthy of consideration by accounting firms south of the 49th parallel.
Geneva, an enterprise-level system, addresses the full range of disciplines involved in managing investments, from trading and operations to accounting and compliance.
More specifically, Geneva was built for global organizations with large transaction volumes related to investment portfolios; advisors who primarily serve global, multicurrency institutional clients; those who require real-time data access and error correction; and those that cur or shadow their net asset values in-house.
Designed via the Microsoft .NET interface, Geneva gives investment traders up-to-the-minute positions while enabling operations to reconcile transactions, manage exceptions and correct trade breaks. Accounting can work from a closed set of books, permitting management to analyze P&L at any level from feeder fund to strategy to trader. These services are provided across any currency or fund, with global location support and an excellent audit trail capability.
The system utilizes four key functions: flexible data access and query support through a new Geneva Data Browser; enhanced reporting based on the SQL Server Reporting platform; full investment, accounting and operational support for equities, fixed income, currencies, asset backed securities, and such complex derivatives as swaps and credit facilities; and the Geneva Workflow Manager, which manages data flow requirements through the use of eight pre-built integration accelerators, packaged components that allow data exchange between Geneva and other applications and can be configured to mirror the firm's workflow.
New are Geneva Desktop with bookmarks, workflow management, and exception processing; the Geneva Data Browser for customized, ad hoc queries; Geneva Reporting Services, which integrates with Geneva's reporting language and data model; the new user interface and enhanced accounting support for bank debt instruments.
Geneva, a different approach to portfolio management, focuses on the firm's portfolio operations rather than merely on the individual portfolios of clients. From this perspective, it is invaluable to larger firms with more robust financial management practices and corporate entities with diversified investments.
Captools/net, a SQL-based, scalable, multi-user portfolio management system features automated custodian data import interfaces, highly customizable automated reporting, portfolio re-balancing and trade generation, flexible fee billing and client contact management.
Captools/net provides the investment manager with a complete set of return on investment performance measures for client presentation and to assist in providing the manager with feedback on investment selection and timing. ROIs can be computed using AIMR/GIPS-capable time weighted and dollar weighted internal rate of return methods. ROIs can be computed for individual securities, groups of securities, portfolios or groups of portfolios, before and after taxes and before and after commissions and fees. Computations and reports also generate alpha, beta, standard deviation, correlation and other performance and risk-related statistics versus user-specified market indices, including a variety of user-specifiable synthetic indices.
Captools/net investment cost bases tracking simplify capital gains reporting, lower tax accounting costs, and can reduce capital gains taxes. Specific, average (single & double category), FIFO, LIFO tax lots are supported. An automated tax lot assignment function allows managers to select whether to minimize taxes or maximize gains (for loss offsets) when securities held in separate lots are liquidated. Tax rate tables are customizable for each portfolio to allow for differing tax rates and tax law changes.
Captools/net is the third generation of software for portfolio managers who want to focus on both management of the portfolio and its tax and ROI implications. Priced at about midrange for its class of products, Captools/net is offered in four Professional and three Enterprise levels, scaling according to the hardware requirements, pricing and capabilities of the system. The Level 2 Professional tier is likely to meet the needs of the majority of wealth management practices within accounting firms.
eWebPortfolio, a native Web-based accounting and portfolio management system designed for financial professionals, features global access, security and suitability for use either over the Internet or via a corporate intranet. The first portfolio management application developed specifically for the Web, it has made good use of its leadership position in real-time, immediate access. The site's portfolio management capabilities are built around trading activity, capturing trades and generating trade tickets, then modeling and synchronizing the portfolio. A basic modeling system allows a series of projected trades to be analyzed on a pro-forma basis, then transferred into the order management system.
eWebPortfolio's VSP+ provides a fully integrated portfolio management and accounting system, all reports, modeling features and data inputs function securely over the Web. It's "client link" allows advisors to give their clients secure access to their individual portfolio(s) and selected reports. More than 35 standard reports, with drill-down detail to the initial transaction, allow for fast and comprehensive analysis of the performance of the portfolio and individual assets, including tax ramifications. All reports are dynamically updated to reflect trades in real time. Reports can be output to Excel, and additional customized reports created.
eWebPortfolio offers a robust blend of real-time and updated data, portfolio construction, modeling, and rebalancing tools; back-office accounting, downloads from custodians or brokers; pricing; and corporate actions. Its real-time, access-anywhere orientation should be of interest to accountants with clients across multiple borders and time zones.
Ibbotson Associates literally wrote the book on asset allocation based on its expertise in capital market expectations and portfolio implementation. Approaching portfolio construction from the top-down through a research-based investment process, it serves mutual fund firms, banks, broker-dealers, and insurance companies worldwide. Ibbotson's methodologies and services address all investment phases, from accumulation to retirement and the transition between the two.