A 2019 review of leading information management systems serving offshore wealth management firms
Updated on 25 March 2019, following Microgen demerger announcement.
If you are a regular reader of my content, you will be aware that my main area of focus is offshore trust administration and corporate services (TA&CS). I often get asked, which is the ‘best’ system, or what options there are to replace a particular IT system. This article provides a summary of the most common information systems used by TA&CS providers.
I will start by saying there is no ‘best system’. The best system will depend on the individual needs of a particular business. In my last post I described some of the typical buying factors that influence system decisions.
Over the last few years the TA&CS software sector has seen a lot of change and consolidation – not dissimilar to the industry it serves. Out of these changes three vendors have emerged with significant market share. The market is also served by many smaller providers with systems of varying quality, age and technologies.
The Big 3 Providers
The three systems/vendors that dominate the sector are:
- 5Series from Microgen Financial Systems;
- NavOne from Touchstone; and
- ViewPoint from ViewPoint for Business.
Microgen has been serving the wealth management market for over 30 years and has more than 400 customers in 32 countries. Their customers range from smaller independent organisations with a single office to some of the world’s largest organisations with multiple global offices.
Update: Microgen plc has announced that it is to demerge its financial systems business from the main group. Microgen Financial Systems will apply to list on the AIM market in 2019 and Microgen plc will rename to Aptitude Software Group plc in April 2019.
5Series is Microgen’s flagship product. It is a fully featured ERP system suitable for a broad range of wealth management businesses, including trust companies, corporate services providers and fund administrators.
5Series started life as a product called Oscar, originally developed by Cronus in Jersey. Microgen acquired Oscar and have developed it extensively into the fully featured trust and fund administration system that we see today. 5Series became the replacement for Microgen’s earlier and very successful 4Series product.
See https://www.microgenfs.com/wealth-management/microgen-5series/ for more information on 5Series.
Microgen has acquired many other products over recent years, but the only one still being actively sold is Quorum. With a particular focus on the Cyprus market, Quorum is used by auditing, legal, trust and specialist providers offering corporate secretarial and other professional services. It supports entity management, time recording, billing and company secretarial operations, as well as assisting compliance with regulations such as Anti-Money Laundering and Know-Your-Customer.
Other Microgen products including Alchemy, Elements, Jobstream and Primacy are still supported but are no longer being sold or actively developed. They are still widely used but all users will need to consider migrating to 5Series or switching provider in the coming years.
NavOne is a world-leading wealth management system, delivered by Touchstone and powered by the latest version of Microsoft’s leading business software platform – Dynamics NAV. It is used by small to large trust and fund administration companies, family offices and professional advisory firms.
Touchstone started life as Landsteiner, based in Jersey. Initially they developed bespoke billing systems for the utility sector based on the Navision ERP system (before it was sold to Microsoft and became Dynamics NAV). Development of a wealth management system was a logical extension given their roots in Jersey. They were sold to Touchstone Group by the original Icelandic founder in 2006. In addition to their Jersey office the wealth management division of Touchstone has offices in Australia and Singapore.
Following several name changes as the underlying product evolved, the latest version of the Touchstone product was launched as NavOne in 2013 coinciding with a significant refresh of the Dynamics NAV technology. This included integration with SharePoint and a Web Client.
Until the launch of NavOne, Touchstone was seen as being for the ‘big boys’ only with most of its clients being institutional bank or law firm owned trust companies. The modular nature of the underlying NAV 2013 product had the potential to significantly reduce the license/royalty fees Touchstone pay Microsoft. This means Touchstone can now sell NavOne much more competitively and has resulted in the product being just as suitable for small clients as large.
More information on NavOne and Touchstone can be found here: http://www.touchstoneone.com/
Founded in 1994 with the introduction of Administrator and only a handful of clients, ViewPoint has grown to be a world leading, holistic and best of breed solution for entity and wealth management professionals and private client practitioners the world over.
The company is based in Malaysia where it employs in excess of 80 staff. It also has a network of sales and support partners / agents based in various key jurisdictions around the world.
Like many of its competitor products, its core is the entity management system. Where Viewpoint differs from Microgen and Touchstone is that it has kept to the core principles of entity management and associated functions without trying to be a ‘one size fits all’ system across the whole wealth management space. Viewpoint probably has the largest client base of the ‘big 3’ with most of its large clients being multi-jurisdictional service providers with many offices in different parts of the world.
Viewpoint excels in producing most standard corporate forms and registers for over 20 of the most common jurisdictions in the world.
Their core team of developers is supported by a network of professionals in their partner and satellite offices. In most of these locations the presence is not a dedicated Viewpoint office but an agent who will usually have other products and services in their portfolio. This network of agents allows Viewpoint to get early notice of impending changes in regulation allowing them to be much more proactive than their competitors in updating the software in relation to new corporate forms and regulations.
More information on the ViewPoint product can be found here: http://www.goviewpoint.com/
Other Administration Systems
There are a number of other providers offering ‘fully featured’ software solutions for the offshore wealth management market. Generally, these systems are either focused on single jurisdictions or don’t provide the full range of functionality and services offered by the market leaders.
The list of vendors and systems I provide below is not exhaustive but includes systems I have come across and worked with in the last 12 years or so. If you are aware of others please let me know.
Based in Guernsey, AcuSoft the company behind the Acumen suite of products is a small owner managed business with 3 employees. Acumen have been very successful in Guernsey, but is rare outside of this jurisdiction.
Acumen is a good entry level system for small trust businesses, but any business needs to consider the risks of working with such a small provider.
The core Acumen product for trust companies is supported by AcuFund and AcuPen for funds and pension businesses respectively.
Developed by DPN Software in the Isle of Man, Companion is typical of similar software products that grew to support the rapid growth of the offshore trust and corporate sector, over the last 25 years. Companion and its sister products from DPN provide a complete suite of products for managing trust, corporate services and associated businesses. It is very strong in its home market but isn’t often seen outside the Isle of Man.
Developed by Computer Performance Services Ltd of Nyon, Switzerand, the Concept suite of products is very rarely seen outside of Switzerland or by businesses who don’t have a substantial Swiss presence.
It is designed for Trustees, Family Offices and Asset Managers and is a reasonably functionally rich system, but isn’t really a viable product outside of Switzerland. It does support some of the complex Swiss reporting requirements which often have to be done as customised developments in other products. I have come across Concept when replacing it with other systems.
EnVisual is the flagship product from enSynergy the UK based software house, owned by an Australian company. It has been developed from the ground up for fiduciary and fund administration businesses. They have representation in the UK, Cayman Islands, BVI, Mauritius and Australia, largely through agents.
The product offers all the functionality expected of an integrated solution, including CRM and document management.
Fusion Systems is the Guernsey based provider behind the FlyingBoat suite of products. The core system, FlyingBoat-WMS is built on the InterBase database platform with a number of .NET add-ons.
Fusion have been successful in developing a standalone AEOI (tax reporting) tool known as FlyingBoat-TDE. It is SQLServer based and has a modern user-friendly UI. It can accept data imports via API or spreadsheet upload. It validates the data against schemas of most in-scope countries and produces the appropriate XML file for upload.
Phoenix Software is a Jersey company that has been around for over 20 years. The early versions of Phoenix were offered as an Oracle only product. Under new owners a SQLServer version is now available which has been largely redesigned.
PlainSail Wealth is a new product from PlainSail Technologies, a small UK based software house.
PlainSail is a modern task based system with a pleasing UI, designed on the principles of modern Microsoft applications. It has a lot of good functionality for managing tasks and clients, but lacks the detailed functionality of a mature T&FA.
Taskforce has been around since the 90s and did very well in the Crown Dependencies. It is built entirely using OpenSource technologies. Ongoing development is minimal, but the product is still supported by the owner and an outsourced development team.
Wealthworks+ is a new product from thewealthworks, the developers of Troika. The company has been around for over 20 years and has ticked along selling Troika to UK accountancy practices and law firms for managing trusts and probate. They had some early success in the offshore islands but hadn’t gained any new Troika offshore customers for several years.
Wealthworks+ has been built, using the company’s extensive experience in onshore and offshore trust administration and accounting, with modern browser based technologies.
I did a review of Wealthworks+ in 2018. You can read it here.
In line with the offshore trust and corporate services market itself, there has been significant consolidation in the providers of TA&CS software to these businesses over the past five years. Out of this consolidation three main players have emerged; Microgen Financial Systems with their 5Series product, Touchstone with NavOne and ViewPoint Software for Business with their product of the same name.
All three of these systems are highly capable, fully integrated systems, designed to provide the complete IT solution for most sizes of fiduciary based business. They all focus their core products on the offshore financial services market, with entity management and corporate services at the heart of all three.
Outside of these three systems, there are a number of other providers with software solutions for the trust and corporate services market, but these are either focused on single jurisdictions or don’t provide the full range of functionality offered by the market leaders. At best these are all niche players and cannot compete on a global scale.
If you’d like further information on any of the products mentioned in this blog please contact me, Paul Every, using the contact form on this website below or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, if you have found this article useful please subscribe to my email list using the link on the right had side of this page.