Financial advisor moves to real-time transactions

Fast electronic trading is within reach of more financial advisors as Performa Financial Group Ltd. gears up for a massive software conversion.

Montreal-based Performa will be implementing CTA Systemsource’s Money Products System (MPS) to facilitate real-time transactions for financial dealers.

The current economic slump has provided Performa with enough downtime to undertake the conversion of their older FoxPro-based back office system to CTA’s simpler software. “”We’re in a period where there’s not that much activity,”” said Jean-Daniel Côté, Performa president. “”So since we’re not that busy and we know we’re going to have to move to newer technology eventually, why not do it now?””

MPS will substantially change how Performa clients work day-to-day. Currently, queries are run nightly and output to an Oracle database, then uploaded to a Performa Web site for advisors to view. Under MPS, up-to-the-minute portfolios and statements will be available via a Web interface. MPS offers 300 different reports that advisors will be able to select from and view in real-time, and will allow financial advisors not only to view information but to make trades live via the Internet.

The time and cost savings for Performa will be significant. “”It’s a big step for us in eliminating paper,”” says Côté, who is pleased that the new system will allow dealers and advisors to function on a more autonomous, electronic level. And since MPS comes as a fully developed package, Performa will be able to save on internal development.

MPS is a scalable, SQL Server 2000-driven platform with a client-customizable front end that is used by approximately 15,000 independent financial advisors. CTA Systemsource first introduced the MPS base system in 1996.

Paul Smith, manager of marketing and business development at Toronto-based CTA, says one of the product’s key strengths is its ease of conversion.

“”A lot of people see conversion as being ‘Can you convert from system X to the MPS system?’ but it’s about knowing the methodology. Conversion is (our) area of expertise,”” says Smith.

“”(Conversion) truly is a skill set that will give Performa a stronger knowledge set, so they can ultimately recruit more advisors,”” says Smith. “”Performa will be able to promise new advisors that they understand the conversion and that their back office team can validate an easy conversion into their group.””

Whether or not the investor will be able to enjoy the fruits of MPS remains to be seen. “”It’s definitely something snazzy and cool to show the clients,”” Côté acknowledges, but hesitates to suggest that it’s something the investor will be seeing much of in the future.

“”Frankly it will depend from advisor to advisor. Some reps, who are very technology-oriented, will be very good at it and tend to use it in front of their client,”” said Côté, adding, “”However, I would say the typical financial advisor is using his or her two index fingers to type.””

To date, MPS has facilitated conversion of 15 systems (most of which were legacy back office systems) representing about $25 billion in assets.

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