Next to client service, compliance is a leading priority for financial planning firms. Planning software is one way planners seek to improve compliance efficiencies and minimise risk to their clients and business.

A new report has found financial planning software heavyweights Iress’ XPLAN, Rubik Coin and AdviserNETgain are still the top three providers of this software.

The Investment Trends study benchmarked six full-feature software solutions: AdvisorLogic, AdviserNETgain, Coin Office, AdviceOS, PlatformPlus and XPLAN. These were assessed across 638 criteria.

Highlighting the important role software plays in boosting practices’ adherence to compliance requirements, Ian Webster says,”Aligning compliance with increased practice efficiency should deliver a better business and more consistent client outcomes.”

This is the eighth year XPLAN has taken out the top ranking in the study, which has taken place since 2004. The report noted XPLAN had undertaken the most improvements and was ranked first for overall functionality.

Rubik’s Coin ranked second in the full-service category, but took top honours as the best superannuation scaled advice application.

Cameron O’Sullivan, GM of product, Rubik Wealth, believes these scaled solutions will be the way forward.

“The average is between five and six hours for a statement of advice (SOA). There’s no way that is all value-add [for the client],” he says

O’Sullivan says the traditional six hour SOA won’t change much. “The fact find is one of the most time consuming systems…it’s about making that a bit more efficient.”

Complexity of implementation

Complexity is a common criticism leveled a the biggest providers of planning software, and O’Sullivan agrees. “If you look at the comprehensive systems that people use today, that is absolutely the case.”

He believes it depends on which applications individual users require. For example, he says many don’t need the full revenue tracking or commission tracking components. “Adviser workbenches will be much simpler and more intuitive to use. That is where the industry is going,” O’Sullivan says.

He also anticipates there will be more outsourcing of some of the more time-consuming back-end work and processing, such as paraplanning. Larger dealer groups will increasingly move this to specialist internal, and smaller licensees will outsource to external service providers.

In terms of whether there is space for new market entrants in the planning software space, O’Sullivan says it is becoming increasingly necessary to specialise.

According to the Investment Trends study, new development is focused on advisers using mobile devices in client meetings. Advice applications like XPLANtouch, Coin Connect and WestPac Discover Your World support client friendly presentation and data collection.

These enable advisers to support their value of advice proposition where they spend most of their time with clients, while the practice manages client relationships and generates advice documentation.

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Glenn Freeman is a senior journalist for Professional Planner. He has around three years’ experience in financial services journalism, having also covered broader areas of business including M&A activity and energy. His journalistic experience includes five years spent abroad, where he was editor of an oil and gas title in the United Arab Emirates along with other in-house and freelance projects, which included stints in motorcycle and automotive journalism.