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News August 14, 2006 Issue

Overcoming Spreadsheet Phobia

Do big spreadsheets give you the heebie-jeebies?

According to Adviser Compliance Associates partner Barry Schwartz, many CCOs "have this tremendous fear" of their trade blotters. "It may be fear of technology," he said. "It may be the fear of Excel™. It may be the daunting nature of 55,000 lines of trade."

In Schwartz’s view, such fear should not stand in the way of delving into the blotter to look for trends and patterns. "There is so much good information in it," he said.

And, added Schwartz, CCOs should not miss the opportunity to utilize tools that are already available to them. Excel (or Microsoft Access™) already sits on most computers, he noted. Instead of "going out and investing in all kinds of expensive software and trading and compliance modules that offer to do all kinds of forensic testing," said Schwartz, advisers should figure out what they already can do with Excel.

One way to "get over that initial fear" is by starting small, said Schwartz. "If 55,000 lines of trading is too much because you are looking at a year’s worth of trades, take a month, take a week." Ask yourself, "What could I learn if I look at this?"