Wachovia Securities wants advisors to know where their clients want to be, not just where they are now. The firm plans early this year to unveil a new software package for its advisors to help clients figure out their retirement goals and the appropriate investments to get them there. The software, titled “Envision,” takes advantage of sophisticated simulations that help clients determine their risk parameters by first seeing what they'd like to live on when they retire.

“The approach is more of a goal-based financial planning module than a risk-tolerance based module,” says one Wachovia advisor. “These guys are looking at the probability of clients achieving their goals and how much risk is necessary in order to do that.”

The project has already been through beta tests and should be introduced to a couple of hundred Wachovia advisors sometime during the first quarter. It includes tools that prepare investment policy statements and asset allocators, but the more sophisticated part centers around the need-based analysis, to help advisors determine whether a client needs to consider perhaps taking more risk in their accounts to achieve a goal, or perhaps retire earlier (or later), spend less or more, and the like. A similar scenario has been developed to help clients save for a child's college education.

Wachovia officials would not comment on the Envision software, designed by FinanceWare of Richmond, Va., but advisors say it might be a strong recruiting tool based on how it services clients.

One advisor who was involved in the early testing last year says the software is both sophisticated and yet manages to be “streamlined” instead of confusing for clients. The software will also produce client reports with asset allocation details as well as an assessment of whether a client's portfolio is within the range of parameters set up by the broker and client.