What is automation worth to you?
A theme at a recent roundtable we participated in was the cost/benefit of switching to the cloud, known as "going Xero" within certain circles. Not a chat about the security of your selfies, mind you, but about what a business gains or loses by overhauling their day-to-day workflow. The benefits of cloud are obvious if you're reading this blog. It's the pain of change that remains a barrier, and the psychological block we all have when it comes to sacrificing something that works for an unknown that's probably better.
We're guilty of this at Sharesight. For example, tracking sales and expenses within specific countries and then rolling this up to top line numbers is hard. Especially because our product is virtual. We use Xero to do some of this, but the job is really done in Excel. We know this isn't ideal, but at the same time it's what we're used to. We've investigated apps that work with Xero to do this on our behalf. They work brilliantly, but we just haven't quite made the switch.
We see this with Sharesight clients too, especially those who've tracked their portfolios the old-school way for years. There's a perverse satisfaction to keeping tabs on your capital gains and dividends in an Excel spreadsheet. Punching in data by hand reconfirms a genius stock pick after all! Even after they've begun using Sharesight, some clients ask us to build features that are already being done for them. You'd be surprised at how many people ask for tools that would basically allow them to reengineer the Portfolio Overview page or the Performance Report.
A lot of this boils down to the fact that a spreadsheet is a snapshot in time. A statement of your portfolio's position as at the moment you click "Save," whereas with Sharesight you're looking at your living, breathing portfolio each time you log in. Trade Confirmation Emails pile in automatically and the performance calculations are done on your behalf. Sure you can export reports to Excel and file them away, but why not just send your accountant a login? We've slayed the admin beast for you, and all of a sudden you have Sunday afternoon back. A client recently told us that working out his portfolio tax used to take him 4 hours. Now it takes him 40 minutes.
Spent part of the long weekend doing my taxes. Took 4 hours last year..40 minutes this year. All thanks to a free @sharesight account— Steven Leaney (@StevenLeaney) October 6, 2014
And that's what "going cloud" is all about: time savings. If Xero, Sharesight, or Receipt Bank can automate 90% of what used to take hours, then take the plunge. Even if using Xero + Sharesight + a collection of other applications increases your operating costs, think about what you can do with those free hours.
Make no mistake, automation that works is something worth paying for. Applications that are free or just a $1 per month probably aren't going to solve your problems, nor will they be around long-term. And what happens to your data after they disappear? For investors, Sharesight costs $275 per year. That's $275 for 20 years of historical price and dividend data across global markets, a service that listens for your trades, and runs you performance and tax automatically across 3 portfolios. We think that represents excellent value.
No app will be a silver bullet, but you must force yourself to think about what you'll do with your refund on time.