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Andrew Rafalaf
Andrew Rafalaf
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Fidelity Releases Online LifeStage Planning Tool for Financial Advisors

New release affords investment professionals with access to non-financial information to promote relationships with clients.

Fidelity Investments Institutional Services Co. has released a new portion of its financial advisor Web site AdvisorXpress that affords investment professionals with access to non-financial information that will enable them to promote the relationships with their clients. LifeStage Planning, as Fidelity is calling it, is first affording registrants to the site information geared for the "new retiree," but plans to add earlier life stage categories in the summer, including those for new parents and young adults.

Fidelity first began looking at creating this service last year after conducting research and focus groups that reviewed the way the Web has altered the investing process. With more and more people looking to invest online, either as their primary channel or as an alternative, financial advisors were telling Fidelity that they needed more powerful tools and services to retain clients and assets.

"The evolution of online trading and the Web has put a lot of pressure on them because it’s reduced trading commissions, and has made available a lot of research, screening tools, calculators and advice," says
Deidre Nectow, senior vice president, strategy and planning. "The demand for quality advice is going up, and the investment professional is asking how do I retain my clients?"

Fidelity’s research returned some interesting facts. Investors that choose to use a financial advisor – as opposed to the completely self-directed investor – are most interested in a trust relationship with someone who has their interests – both life and financial – at heart. In fact, 40% of these investors want to talk to their financial advisors in a broader terms, says Nectow.

Fidelity LifeStage Planning is parsed into three areas: Profile Your Clients, Search and My Clients. The profile section allows financial advisors to rate their clients’ life-time goals. As advisors chart their clients’ interests and dreams, the back-end database begins extracting articles and information that might be appropriate. Andrea Pollinger, vice president, product development, explains that the search function does not conduct a dynamic Web search, but instead combs through reams of data that Fidelity has stored in a database. These lifestyle articles come from the popular press or are provided by Forfield Inc., a Worcester, Mass.-based creator of content for financial advisors.

Polllinger admits that LifeStage Planning may very well evolve into a more complete customer relationship management (CRM) solution – merging this lifestyle data with portfolio holdings -- but for the launch of the online service, Fidelity was sensitive to the financial advisor’s desire to maintain a wall between the fund provider and portfolio data.

"We have a fairly large recordkeeping system for all the accounts, and to pre-populate these profiles with that information would be a lay-up," she says. "But, it’s a question of building the trust with our own clients, that we’ve done this as a convenience factor, not to pillage the database for other purposes. I don’t think it’s a question of whether we’ll do it. It’s just a matter of time."

As such, all that is required from an investment professional using the system is a name of the client.

While enabling financial advisors with the tools they need to compete in this changing world, the service is also intended to bolster the relationship these advisors have with Fidelity, Nectow points out. "It’s so competitive in the fund world that, to get an audience with a room full of brokers, it can’t be, did you see this Fidelity Growth Opportunity Fund’s performance last month? That’s not enough of a story" she says. "I think we have to find ways to educate and advance the business causes of our clients, otherwise they don’t want to hear from us. There is a necessity for us to do this, to gain access to them."

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