Date: Mar 08 2022
The Eton Solutions platform, AtlasFive®, is a game-changing, comprehensive enterprise management system for family offices. It is a cloud-native application suite which facilities end to end family office management and has capabilities that include entity management, data aggregation, investment reporting, general ledger accounting, partnership accounting, transaction initiation and document management.
What makes for a "killer" family office application? What do ultra-high net worth individuals believe is missing from their family offices? What does the client value most?
The specifics vary by individual, but, at the core, the answer is information. Family members need to feel informed about their financial life and that their data is up to date. Consider the real-life example of a highly involved principal of a multibillion-dollar family office who felt the information and data his office could provide was nowhere near what he wanted. Like most family offices, his office could only offer reports several days (often weeks) after a month's close and reconciliation. The office simply did not have the tools and processes to operate the business on a daily information cycle. This particular family office principal decided it was time to invest in operational and technological changes to get what he valued most: timely, usable information.
Providing a true net worth (assets minus liabilities) and cashflow view on a next-day basis for all family office clients requires radical changes in many operational areas. It requires changes to the office's tools, business processes and workflows, and operational mindset. A family office exists to provide the highest value possible to the family or families it serves. To enable an office to meet those requirements, the family must be willing to invest in new technology and processes — and the office must be open to change.
"To Improve Is to Change"
Winston Churchill once said, "To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often." Many family offices recognize a need for change, but they fail to account for the difficulty of transitioning the status quo to a new way of operating. The prime reason for failure is that offices try to solve their problems without changing their fundamental processes while using existing tools and resources. Another problem is that offices often invest in the wrong technology—buying systems and solutions that weren't designed with a deep understanding of the needs of family offices. Those tools may look good, but they often prove to be a compromise that doesn't address the family office's actual requirements and intricacies.
What's necessary is a single, comprehensive platform that seamlessly connects everything happening in the office. It must keep track of a complete range of the family's investments, assets, and transactions, impacting each family member and legal entity within the office.
Furthermore, it can't just provide useful data for family members: it must also enhance office personnel's productivity and quality of work. Data should be entered just once, and analysis and reporting should occur within the same system. There is no need to export information from multiple systems and use spreadsheets to reconcile data. The result must be next-day reconciliation and reporting: up-to-date information for family members with less work from the office staff.
Customized Portals for Each User
The technology's functionality must also extend beyond enabling more current, accurate, and efficient data reporting. It needs to place all information and transaction approvals at the fingertips of individual family members and stakeholders—customized to their specific needs and clearances. Family members should see what they need to see when they need to see it—no matter where they are.
Ideally, it should be broken into three distinct portals to access the platform. These include one used by the office, another web-based portal for computer access by advisors and family members, and a third mobile application for secure 24/7 access. Each platform provides daily accessibility to current information as of the previous day. All three portals access the same data based on predetermined clearances unique to each user. In addition, the platform must be a transaction processor, powering the entire transaction process with auditable approvals and money movement.
How far away is your Phone Right Now?
When you think about the power of this approach within a mobile application, you realize what a game-changer it is. It's a killer app for the family office—an app that uniquely meets the needs of the office and family members. This technology needs to provide an entirely new level of information access, of transparency to investments, holdings, transactions, and documents. And it doesn't stop there. Family members will begin to insist on having constant access to transactions and bill pay features. A mobile phone, always an arm's length away, enables users to approve transactions from anywhere via a familiar application. Additionally, as money movements for transactions are processed, the user's daily cash position is adjusted.
A mobile app technology like this will put the power of understanding and tracking one's total financial position into the hands of family office clients for the first time.