Nov 29, 2023

The questions I get asked most by firms about client portals often contain “Who?”

Who should build our portal?

Who offers the best vended solution?

How do we know whom to choose?

Of course, the answer usually depends on the firm. And unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all portal vendor in the investment management space, although some vendors do try to offer this.

Finding the right portal vendor is critical to your portal’s long-term success, but doing so isn’t easy.

Let’s discuss …


One of the first hurdles a firm needs to clear enroute to choosing who builds your portal is answering the age-old question of buy-versus-build. Realistically, the choice often comes down to the following critical points:

Decision factors:

  1. Do you have in-house development resources? If not, building a portal may not be the right path for you.
  2. Are you looking for a complex solution, with various internal and external use cases? Today’s vendor solutions are not yet capable of handling complex use cases.

Once you decide to look outside your firm for a third-party solution, then the real fun starts.

A caveat to note is that I assume before going on the hunt for a vendor, your firm has established a clear portal strategy and concrete roadmap. You understand your use cases, you’ve documented core personas, and have a decent overview of the actual required functionality for each persona.

Different Types of Portal Vendors

Let’s take a look at the different types of portal vendors and the pros and cons of each. Since there’s no true all-in-one solution for institutional asset managers (yet!), firms face some tough choices when it comes to the trade-offs.

BPM tool vendors

Business process management (BPM) tools offered by vendors like Tableau, Microsoft BI, Jaspersoft, and SAP Business Objects can be configured to act as the front-end for a client portal. These vendors are also, of course, very good at helping to alleviate internal pain points and frictions arising from inefficient business processes. However, while these tools offer some benefits, they also come with significant drawbacks.


  • Robust data visualization in dashboards
  • Often very friendly for business users


  • Limited vendor support in designing the portal to match your brand aesthetic
  • Often require someone at the firm with a vision for what the portal should look like and another individual with the skills to build it. Additionally, you’ll need someone to maintain the entire portal, a laborious process that often ends in an outdated portal.
  • These portals often lack document-vault functionality and offer little to no interactive reporting options — both of which are key end-client use cases for institutional asset managers

Client reporting vendors

In contrast to BPM tool vendors, client reporting vendors often offer a portal solution that is built for purpose. Additionally, many firms are already using a client reporting vendor, so extending that functionality to include a client portal sometimes might be the path of least resistance. But drawbacks here can accompany this approach as well ─ specifically, when a firm wants a portal that goes beyond the client reporting use case.


  • Often provides an option to share data structures/data mart with the client reporting tool
  • Some vendors allow users to share a report component or portal widget
  • Vendors are usually willing to work with clients to customize specific functionality
  • Can prove more cost-effective than choosing a new standalone portal vendor


  • Vendor support is typically needed to change the portal
  • May not readily support additional use cases like client onboarding

Standalone portal vendors

Standalone portal vendors present a third option. With this type of vendor, firms often face two options ─ either choosing an industry-agnostic portal vendor that builds out the front-end/UX or selecting an industry-specific portal vendor. Unfortunately, there aren’t many portal vendors specifically focused on asset management, so “industry-specific” in this case often means “banking” or “retail wealth management.”

While this doesn’t mean that these vendors can’t adapt to the asset management use case, firms should take the necessary steps to ensure that the vendor can truly deliver as promised. As with other types of portal vendors, working with a standalone portal vendor comes with the following advantages and disadvantages:


  • Robust functionality, including client communications, onboarding, interactive reporting, document vaults, etc.
  • Can meet multiple use cases across business lines


  • If the portal is not industry-specific or at least industry-adjacent, the learning curve for the vendor may be very steep
  • Integration with IT systems may not go smoothly, or may not even be possible with some vendors
  • Higher acquisition and operating costs compared to client reporting vendor portals

Choosing the Right Vendor

So, what now? How do you decide which portal vendor is right for you? As I mentioned earlier, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But armed with a good strategy and a solid roadmap, you should have a good idea of which way your firm is leaning. Once you arrive at that juncture, you’ll likely see a natural path forward.

Another viable option is to solicit outside help to guide the search-and-selection process. Cutter Associates’ portal expertise doesn’t focus only on strategy work — we also help firms with the search-and-selection phase and implementation further down the road. If you need help, feel free to reach out to us at [email protected].