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Monday, October 20, 2003

Advisor Portal Expands Capabilities

by: Sean Hanna, Editor in Chief

AdvisorCentral has rolled out a pair of new initiatives at the ICI's Operations conference which started today in New Orleans. The efforts include an alliance with Bisys' FRC unit and allowing advisors to take transactions online.

Advisors are now able to use AdvisorCentral to make certain transactions, including subsequent purchases, exchanges and liquidations, through the Web-based platform said Harold R. "Harry" Groom, president and CEO. He added that the firm made a soft launch of the feature at the end of June and is now rolling the capability out to all of its users.

Advisors will also be able to make initial fund purchases through the system starting in the first quarter of 2004, said Groom. The open-architecture systems are built on the Fund Speed and Fund/SERV platforms.

"We want to stay with an industry standard and open architecture," he explained noting that six firms -- BISYS, PFPC, Sungard, Fidelity, Franklin Resources and Putnam -- are tied into the system. "We are using XML and open architecture capability as well as Fund Speed to provide industry solutions. That lets us be open to any TA system that wants to hook up."

Groom added that the transaction capabilities represent the finishing of what AdvisorCentral first set out to do and that the project was completed with input from both fund companies and reps.

Fund firms will also have input as the system is unrolled to more advisors. "We asked the fund companies to selectively pick who they work with," said Groom.

With much of the architecture built, Groom said that AdvisorCentral will be focusing more on both enrolling advisors and on teaching them how to use the system. He expects that effort to be a top focus during the fourth quarter.

Early this year the firm adopted a "mass enrollments" strategy in which it works with broker-dealers to enroll reps rather than rely on the reps to come to it directly. Groom predicts that strategy should push the number of brokers on the system to 65,000 by the end of the year from 9,000 in November of 2001. Currently the firm has commitments from broker-dealers for mass enrollments of another 50,000 reps, he noted.

Farther down the road Groom expects to expand the products on the system to include annuities and other vehicles. It is also working on ways to make the site an advisor portal.

"We would like to make the portal a place where those reps start to stay," said Groom. One way AdvisorCentral is planning on doing that is by offering contextual resources such as calculators and hypotheticals and other tools.

The firm has also forged a relationship with Bisys' Financial Research Corp. (FRC) to offer research to advisors. Groom said that this is the first time FRC is making some of its information available directly to advisors. The content and research will appear on AdvisorCentral within the next 30 days and is a repackaging of FRC's existing material. It will be provided free to advisors registered on the site.

"This information will be fund neutral and fund agnostic," said Groom. "The material will not be slanted in any particular direction to any fund group."  

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