Technology has significantly impacted professional financial planning. Independent advisers, registered reps and even accountants have come to rely on sophisticated financial software designed to help them not only devise appropriate investment and retirement plans for clients but help them better engage clients as well.

Such programs typically provide historical data; the ability to directly compare two investments and visually represent the comparison in a way that is easy for the client to grasp; and a variety of equity evaluation formulas for stocks, including risk and volatility measures such as Sharpe, Beta and Sortino ratios. Other common features include the ability to back test and show the effects of rebalancing, dividend reinvestment and various taxation scenarios.

The top five financial planning software programs used by professional financial advisers, according to a recent survey conducted by T3, Adviser Perspectives and Inside Information are: MoneyGuidePro, eMoney, Money Tree, Advicent (NaviPlan) and Advizr. This survey polled over one thousand advisors with industry experience ranging from a few years to more than two decades, representing firms that rely on software for CRM, portfolio management and financial planning services.

MoneyGuidePro

MoneyGuidePro is the clear favorite, with 42% of advisors reporting it as their number one choice for financial planning software. Considered one of the most comprehensive programs and launched in 2001 by PIETech, it quickly rose to the top of the ranks and shows no signs of losing market share.

Part of MoneyGuidePro’s success is attributed to its visually engaging, user-friendly presentation. The main portal is designed to fully engage the client, including Play Zone where the client can input different choices and options to see potential effects. However, the advisor retains ultimate control of the program, including what parts of the program the client is allowed to see. MoneyGuidePro offers more interactive interfacing with third-party programs, listing more than 40 on its website.

One criticism of the program is that, because it does not rely on cash flow analysis, its stock performance projections may be less reliable. In 2014, the company unveiled myMoneyGuide, a sales presentation tool for financial advisors.

eMoney Advisor

eMoney offers a very in-depth program and is known for its detailed cash flow analysis module. Of over one thousand respondents who reported using financial planning software, just over 25% reported using eMoney. Additionally, the survey indicated that it is the top software program that advisors are thinking about adding to their arsenal of financial planning resources. A possible explanation for this is Fidelity’s acquisition of the software program in early 2015, giving the software a reputation of being both useful and trustworthy.

One of eMoney's strengths is its financial feed that provides real-time data, alerts and news, helping advisers stay on top of important client and market situations. Another noteworthy feature is the eMoney client portal (emX) that allows clients to access a printout of their finances at any time.

The survey also polled average user ratings for each of the financial planning software tools they included on the survey. eMoney ranked second highest ahead of MoneyGuidePro with an average user rating of 7.89 out of 10.

Money Tree

Money Tree's total market share brings it up to third on the list with almost 8% of survey respondents choosing it above all other programs. It is also the most popular software for participants who identified mainly as asset managers.

One of Money Tree’s best products is its Silver program. With a lower cost than programs such as MoneyGuidePro and eMoney Advisor, Money Tree’s Silver financial planning program is designed for use primarily by bankers. It offers good flexibility in its basic approach capabilities in that it can be focused on various goals, such as retirement, estate planning or educational funding plans. While not as comprehensive as some other programs, Silver is graded high on ease of use and integration with third-party programs, as well as its module for evaluating insurance programs.

Both Money Tree - Silver and Money Tree - Total are considered some of the best programs for running "What if?" scenarios, changing various input variables. In addition to this, Money Tree – Total offers both goals and cash flow based planning projections, an extremely useful feature that meets the unique needs of various clients.

Advicent (NaviPlan)

Advicent’s software received favorable responses from just under 7% of the survey’s respondents, with most citing NaviPlan as the preferred financial planning product. While Advicent offers multiple products designed to suit a wide range of financial advisor’s needs, NaviPlan is the most comprehensive and useful program available.

A cash flow based program, NaviPlan is most popular among dually-registered advisors as it is easily scalable to a differing number of clients and varying net worth. It includes retirement analysis of accumulations and distributions and comprehensive analysis of assets and liabilities, including debt.

NaviPlan offers one of the most detailed cash management modules and visually superior side-by-side onscreen comparisons of investments, as well as Monte Carlo scenario simulations to help keep information up to date.

Advizr

Rounding out the top five is Advizr, a relatively new competitor in the financial planning software market that is becoming popular at smaller advisory firms and among advisors with 1-5 years of experience. Founded in 2012, this software offers several sophisticated planning tools for retirement stress tests, optimization of Social Security, and more.

Advizr also offers a product called Advizr Express, a lead generation program focused around retirement readiness that might explain the software’s popularity among smaller and younger practices and aims at rapidly increasing firm growth. This financial planning software is also among the top five programs that advisors are thinking about adding to their practices, finishing a few spots below eMoney and MoneyGuidePro in this category.

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