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Current Special Report

OMNIMax Professional Reviewed

This month’s Special Report is a little different to previous ones. In it we conduct a review of the OMNIMax software package. Also you can take advantage of a special offer and buy a version of the financial planning software online

Friday, February 10th 2006, 12:05PM

by Diana Clement

There’s nothing worse for a techno phobic financial planner than a complex computer system. Chances are that it never works as the overpaid computer geek that installed it claims. Then it crashes on the busiest week of the year.

But unlike most software designed to sit on a planner’s computer or server, OMNIMax is an Internet-based system or “platform”.

Any bog-standard computer will run it with just an Internet browser, and Microsoft word, excel and outlook.

What it provides is a client management, plan writing and portfolio management service. Other features include client review and practice management functions.

When it comes to client management OMNIMax Professional, the version we reviewed key features included the ability to:

  • Store contact details for individuals, trusts, estates and companies
  • categorise clients: prospective, third party etc.
  • Assign a primary mailing group
  • Store client notes
  • Set up simple journal entries, alerts, and email reminders
  • Group clients under categories such as “gold”, “silver”, “golf” etc
  • Automatically generate letters and emails to groups of clients
  • Incorporate existing Microsoft Word document templates
  • Send emails that are recorded against the client
  • Manage events such as sailing or golf days · brand all correspondence with company logo etc
  • Gather fact find information with the client profiler.

We think that this section of the platform works best when the Microsoft Outlook integration is set up.

This allows OMNIMax Pro to interoperate with Outlook’s email, calendar and other features – thus providing a more comprehensive customer relationship management (CRM) experience.

Planners have the choice of either syncronising OMNIMax with their in-house exchange server or to reduce costs by contracting OMNIMax to host outlook/exchange server on their behalf giving them global access.

OMNIMax Pro automates plan writing incorporating multiple research templates, investment feeds and investment solutions.

The plan builder contains all of the standard stuff a planner needs such as recording client goals and objectives, income, expenditure and cash flow analysis, and modules that include regular savings plans, investments, life insurance needs analysis, income protection, medical cover, critical care, fire and general insurance and estate and tax planning.

Once completed, plans can be outputted to your own template in Microsoft word, or HTML for viewing on an Internet browser.

They are also sent to the back office. In fact much of the work happens in the back office – with some planners barely touching the software, says OMNIMax director Jonathan Taylor.

In terms of portfolio management, the platform supports data feeds from InvestmentLink, PPS, ING and OneAnswer and automatically updates pricing. It also updates NZSE, ASX, New Zealand and Australian unit trusts, UK listed trusts as well as supporting reporting in multiple currencies – which are automatically updated from feeds.

Other portfolio management features include:

  • searchable transaction event history
  • comprehensive portfolio reporting
  • dynamic creation of portfolio based on asset allocation
  • ability to build multiple portfolios on different asset allocation templates
  • automatic creation of order/instructions for purchase/sell
  • tax reporting
  • fund reporting
  • report output in HTML/Microsoft Word/CSV/XLS
  • ability to email or create a mail merge to all clients associated with a fund
    bulk entry of transactions.

If you’re more than a one-man band then one feature that is useful is the practice management section, which among other things allows you to report on planner activity.

It also enables you to monitor the progress of all invoices in the system The data is held on OMNIMax’s servers (aka big computers) in Christchurch. It’s held on an industry standard corporate SQL database, backup and disaster recovery solution - and the platform can be accessed from any Internet-connected computer anywhere in the world.

That includes a laptop connected wirelessly through Telecom or Vodafone, or even a handheld computer/PDA such as a palm pilot.

Realistically you need a broadband connection to the Internet and a normal-sized screen in order to get the most out of it.

One issue that concerned us was the ownership of data held on OMNIMax’s computers should a planning firm decide to move to a different system.

However says Taylor: “In the contract we are quite explicit about this. We have it in the contract that the data is the client’s and they can get it within a defined period.”

OMNIMax is also able to import data from other systems such as Goldmine and other leading products or set up a planning firm from scratch.

For a fee the company is also able to customise planners’ solutions to work with other software they currently use such as ACT.

One of the big problems with dealing with small software publishers – and most of the New Zealand-based software firms are minute – is the updating process.

Often it’s slow or the programmers behind the software simply don’t fully understand business needs.

But most of the features that we felt the product needed – such as a risk profiler are already “on the list” for inclusion in the product when we asked about them.

Nor did we feel, as we often do, that the initial response was that of a fob-off such as “our users don’t work like that”.

It’s also possible to have the program customised for individual planners’ needs.

There are a number of features “due for release” in early 2006. These include an Insurance policy register which will include insurance review, insurance reporting, ability to switch on client login to view own portfolio, and a risk profiling tool.

Some of the improvements that we could see include online help buttons on every screen, better integration with Outlook and an ability to synchronise data – even if you don’t have Exchange Server, more opportunities to create reminders and tag files for follow-up.

We would like to see a greater ability to customise the system without the need to pay for programmer time – such as the ability to add customisable reports. New users are flown to Christchurch for training in the program – paying just the cost of the flights.

Even so, not everyone picks up new systems in just a day or two – even straightforward systems such as the OMNIMax program.

The platform was first developed with the branch office of a nationwide firm in mind, says Taylor.

But it does have a not insignificant number of one-man-band-style and small practices. Turangi-based Carey and Peter Church who run Turangi-based Moneyworks , were among OMNIMax’s very first clients.

The pair had been keeping an eye on technological offerings for a number of years. It was only when they got the results from an ING Health Survey of their clients that they took the plunge.

The survey indicated that annual reviews were a weak point in the couple’s business – like most planners, says Carey.

“The OMNIMax facility for annual reviews looked very good. That sold (the product) on us as well as the Internet access.

“The other major reason that we love OMNIMax, is the back up and having all our data stored off site,” says Carey.

"We had a server meltdown in November, and we were thrilled that we could still use OMNIMax and do our annual reviews - and even print them out and get them to clients, and that part of our business didn't stop (the rest of it did for the two weeks it took to fix the server.”

Moneyworks’ clients are based mainly in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington and as a result the pair is on the road for three days a week.

They use down time during those days to connect to OMNIMax via the Internet – although most of the work is done by back office staff in Turangi.

The Church’s say that the bottom line for them is that they can save on the salary of one back office person thanks to OMNIMax.

Ultimately this package doesn’t yet contain every bell and whistle that a planner may require.

But what it does have is a darn site better than paper, pen and a filing cabinet – which more than a handful of planners still use. ·

OMNIMax™ is priced from $50 a month for the plan-writing module OMNIMax Lite™ on its own. OMNIMax™ Professional ranges from $150 - $500 per month per planner depending on the features chosen. Cost per planner reduces as the practise size increases. OMNIMax™ Corporate is priced on a case by case basis depending on the level of integration required.

ORDER you plan-writing package online here

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