Asset allocation - dividing resources among different investment categories - is a way to lessen the risk of losses in a financial portfolio. Over the past decade, it has become increasingly critical to advisory firms seeking to better serve their clients, particularly high-net-worth clients. This roundup focuses on nine solutions for asset allocation, ranging from the simple and most basic to the most sophisticated. Each is designed to meet the needs of a different size of advisor, and each has a significant presence among accounting firms engaged in financial planning and wealth management.

AllocationMaster

Sungard Online Investment Systems

(949) 743-6363 / www.allocationmaster.com

Initially based on portfolio analysis concepts used by large endowment and pension funds, AllocationMaster has evolved through the use of quarterly updates that have allowed it to adjust rapidly to evolving theories of allocation and changes in the asset marketplace. Its portfolio optimization engine handles the complex mathematics of Modern Portfolio Theory, and there is a Monte Carlo simulation engine to project future investment returns. Recently added features include Section 529 Plan asset modeling and concentrated stock position modeling. It's a straightforward, easy-to-use allocation system with basic support for creation of financial plans, making it especially valuable for smaller accounting firms.

Asset Allocation Analyst

Equisoft

(866) 790-3141 / www.assetallocationanalyst.com

Asset Allocation Analyst is a Web-based allocation tool designed to serve the mass, mass-affluent, and high-net-worth segments. It provides portfolio construction, monitoring and rebalancing in a single solution, with access to over 30 Fundata and Morningstar Global data feeds, information on over 100 currencies, and access to more than 40 analytical statistics using traditional as well as probabilistic Monte Carlo simulations. The availability of the data feeds, combined with a Fund Factsheet generator, enables a firm to produce its own branded Fund Factsheets in English, French, Spanish and Arabic. Asset Allocation Analyst has strong appeal for its Web-based format, the quality of its client reports, and the simplicity of its Investor Decision Grid.

VisualMvo, MvoPlus and MCRetire

Efficient Solutions Inc.

(203) 744-4023 / www.effisols.com

Efficient Solutions Inc. offers a low-cost solution to provide Modern Portfolio Theory asset allocation services through mean variance optimization. Like other low-cost offerings, the company's three products are designed for both investment professionals and sophisticated personal investors. VisualMvo is a single-period mean-variance optimizer designed to construct the "Efficient Frontier." MvoPlus offers additional "Constant Ratio Asset Allocation" strategies, and also functions as a conventional single-period optimizer, or as a back-tester and optimizer of historical data. MCRetire is a Monte Carlo retirement simulator, which takes into account the fluctuations in investments. The Efficient Solutions product line offers two things that may appeal to allocation-savvy accountants - high value for the money and the ability to do asset allocations in a flexible and simplified way.

DynaPorte

Burlington Hall Asset Management Inc.

(908) 637-8694 / www.dynaporte.com

DynaPorte (for Dynamic Portfolio Optimization) takes a revolutionary approach to asset allocation, building an allocation and optimization program that takes into account the seasonal variations in assets, and providing the roadmap to work around seasonal declines. The impact of transaction costs and any borrowing to leverage the portfolio are included. Dynamic Portfolio Optimization results from changing allocations to each investment to avoid the worst losing months and target the highest gain months. DynaPorte takes a very different approach to asset allocation, but this may be useful for firms wishing to differentiate themselves from competitors using a standard system of allocation.

Morningstar Office

Morningstar

(312) 696-6000 / www.morningstar.com

Morningstar Office is a comprehensive investment planning and portfolio management platform for financial advisors and wealth managers. It features the most current Morningstar research and data; an embedded portfolio management system for import, reconciliation and performance reporting capabilities; practice and client management tools; a client Web portal; SEC document archiving; and more. Morningstar also offers optional back-office services, and its practice management tools are designed for use by both the sole practitioner and multi-advisor firms. The package price reflects Morningstar's prestigious position, but is not prohibitive for the small accounting firm.

SAGE

Financial Tapestry

(888) 427-1550 / www.fintap.com

SAGE (for Simplified Allocation Generating Engine) is a Web-based client-profiling and proposal-generation system designed to offer both an appropriate asset mix and to perform Monte Carlo simulations to produce a tailored investment strategy. SAGE performs both traditional risk-based profiling and Monte Carlo simulation-based analyses, then reconciles the two. Taxes, account fees and commission are factored in to the analysis, and the system generates a customized proposal with an appropriate mix of investment products. The Monte Carlo Financial Simulation offers a full-featured goal analysis. SAGE is a mid-range basic asset allocation tool, offering flexibility for the accountant in asset selection and comparison using the two most common approaches.

Portax and Portax Plus

Windermere Investment Associates

(503) 228-3941 / www.windinvest.com

Portax is a Windows-based after-tax asset allocation software program that optimizes portfolio composition using multi-period mean-variance analysis from Modern Portfolio Theory. Its focus on tax-aware analyses makes it attractive for accountants, given that most asset optimizers based on MPT don't consider taxes. There are two versions - Portax and Portax Plus. Both feature multi-period after-tax optimization of up to 100 assets and 120 periods. Portax features streamlined inputs, quicker analysis, and faster turnaround on client reporting. Portax Plus is a more sophisticated version, allowing for simultaneous modeling of multiple sub-portfolios (with differing tax status and estate planning functions), while optimizing the portfolio on an aggregate basis. Portax Plus, the version that is likely to appeal to accounting firms, carries an upper-range price tag, but accommodates scenarios that are more likely to occur with their clients.

Smartfolio

Modern Investment Technologies

+7 (985) 233 6156 (Moscow) / www.smartfolio.com

Smartfolio is a state-of-the-art asset allocation and portfolio optimization system that tackles the problems of quantitative portfolio management: parameter uncertainty, non-normality of returns, and uncertainty in investors' preferences. It offers a practical means of performing asset performance ranking, portfolio optimization, "Efficient Frontier" construction, analysis of portfolio risks, analysis of target shortfall probabilities, and the minimization of transaction costs that arise during rebalancing. Smartfolio is not easy for the novice planner to use, but more sophisticated accounting firms will appreciate its strong foundation and technical expertise.

Windham Wealth Advisor

Windham Capital Management

(866) 533-5529 / www.windhamcapital.com

The Windham Wealth Advisor is an online system for portfolio construction and wealth planning. It enables advisors to perform forecasting, asset allocation, and risk management. In particular, the asset allocation portion of the software allows the planner to identify multiple optimal portfolios based on a client's specific objectives, constraints, and tax rates. Windham's Wealth Advisor focuses specifically on the analysis of asset behavior during periods of market turbulence, incorporating estimates of a portfolio's exposure to loss through a given investment period, based on both analytic measures and Monte Carlo simulations. Accounting firms will particularly appreciate this approach in the current environment.

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