Concept of digital investment tools / Aurielaki

We asked four advisors across Canada what they love about their planning software, and how it could be improved.

Here’s what they told us.

What are your favourite features in your financial planning software, and why?

Julia Chung, Partner, CEO and senior financial planner, Spring Planning, Vancouver; vice-president, Financial Planning Association of Canada

Software: NaviPlan

The biggest thing is the software’s long-standing history and my familiarity with it. I know how to manipulate it so that I can perform workarounds effectively, which is essential because no software can do everything. Additionally, it excels in providing detailed cash-flow analysis, handles income taxes quite well and accommodates clients with private corporations. Another standout feature is the ability to output every single data point I input into the plan, allowing me to save and transfer that information, if needed, in the future.

Lisa Elle, Wealth strategist, author and financial planner,
Ellements Financial Group, Cochrane, Alta.

Software: RazorPlan

I like that my financial planning software presents information to clients in a clear and understandable way. For example, when we’re conducting retirement analyses, the software allows clients to explore different scenarios, such as retiring sooner or later, adjusting their risk tolerance or saving more money. The software breaks down these options into a one-page graphic, making it incredibly client-friendly. Additionally, it’s user-friendly for my team, so my admin staff can easily input basic information.

Arthur Salzer, Chief executive officer and co-chief investment officer, Northland Wealth Management Inc., Oakville, Ont.

Software: NaviPlan

Its ability to handle complex family situations with multiple legal entities within the Canadian tax climate. The software is designed specifically for Canadian taxation, which is invaluable for our clients with holding companies, individual pension plans, RRSPs, family trusts, and more. While it maynot be the simplest software, its capability to address intricate financial scenarios sets it apart.

Cesare Salerno, Vice-president and regional director, high-net-worth wealth planning, BMO Private Wealth, Toronto

Software: Voyant

The software allows us to consider various client strategies, including corporate holdings and trusts, which many other programs don’t support. Additionally, its integration into our systems is very userfriendly, as it pulls data such as account balances seamlessly. The software’s projections are excellent and offer long-term planning. Perhaps the most valuable feature is its intuitiveness for clients. The software allows them to experiment with different scenarios — such as adjusting retirement age or spending habits — on their own so they can see real-time impacts on their plans.

What are your least favourite features/top annoyances with your financial planning software, and why?

Julia Chung: The software is undeniably complex, making it a bit challenging to navigate. Its output can be visually unappealing and is not easily exportable to Excel due to the extensive manipulation required. Trust planning is another area where it falls short, although this is a common limitation among financial planning software. Also, the amount of data entry can be intimidating to some users.

Lisa Elle: The software doesn’t provide as much detail as I would like it to in some areas. For example, if a client has multiple RRSPs with different institutions, the software lumps them together without specifying the income from each investment. While this level of detail may not be necessary for most clients, it can be limiting when I’m trying to provide a more comprehensive breakdown of their financial situation.

Arthur Salzer: Its lack of integration with other systems. Unlike some U.S. systems that utilize open APIs for seamless integration among client relationship management, portfolio reporting and planning systems, our software falls short in this regard. This lack of integration can be frustrating because it leads to inefficiencies, double typing and potential errors.

Cesare Salerno: The software is designed for digital platforms, making it fantastic for clients to take home and work with. However, this digital focus creates challenges when generating reports in paper format. It requires extra time and effort to edit the reports to make them visually appealing.

What is a feature that you don’t have but would like to have?

Julia Chung: As a pure financial planner who doesn’t manage wealth or sell financial products, I’d appreciate features that enhance the planning aspect of my practice. I’d like to see improvements in ease of updating and making minor changes. Currently, when I modify something, there can be a cascade effect, and I would benefit from a clearer understanding of the impact of these changes. I’m also exploring software with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities as it might offer solutions to simplify the data entry-heavy nature of financial planning software.

Lisa Elle: An application programming interface (API) that could automatically retrieve financial information from various sources, such as investment statements, bank accounts and even government sources like My Service Canada Account. This would eliminate the need for manual data entry and make financial planning even more straightforward for both advisors and clients.

Arthur Salzer: A secured API that allows it to communicate seamlessly with other systems. Many U.S. competitors already offer this capability, and I think it would enhance efficiency and reduce errors.

Cesare Salerno: AI assistance in optimizing account withdrawals during retirement calculations. For example, determining the ideal timing and amounts to withdraw from accounts like RRSPs, TFSAs, non-registered accounts and holding companies could save us a significant amount of time. AI could also assist with decisions like when to take Canada Pension Plan benefits, and provide recommendations to ensure that no financial planning details are overlooked.

This article appears in the December issue of Investment Executive. Subscribe to the print edition, read the digital edition or read the articles online.