Tablet apps improving adviser mobility

Aug 26, 2012 @ 12:01 am

By Liz Skinner

Just as the nation as a whole has embraced the iPad and other tablets for work and play, financial advisers are finding that certain mobile applications make their professional lives easier and more efficient.

“Advisers are starting to expect — or demand — 24/7 access to information that may or may not be on their servers, and tablets are a great way to deliver that,” said Adam Moseley, head technology consultant for Schwab Advisor Services.

Advisers are using their tablets more often in meetings with clients to review accounts and to share investment performance or holdings data, he said.

Some advisers connect the devices to a TV screen or pass out multiple tablets that they control during meetings.

Advisers like being able to provide what clients want immediately, without having to dispatch the information from the home office or lug around laptops, Mr. Moseley said.

About half the nation's advisers are using a tablet device, according to the InvestmentNews technology satisfaction survey, and the overwhelming majority of them — 86% — depend on the iPad. Regardless of whether they rely on the popular Apple Inc. product or one of the Android-operated versions, the tablets' usefulness depends on the quality of the apps the adviser downloads.

CUSTODIANS LEAD THE WAY

Many of the most-used apps are offered by the nation's largest custodians and allow remote access to information in client accounts, such as balances and investments, as well as trading within or between accounts.

Indeed, Pershing LLC's NetX360, Fidelity Investments' WealthCentral and TD Ameritrade Institutional's Veo Mobile are three of the more popular mobile apps with advisers.

RELATED ITEM Adviser mobile app and tablet usage

Schwab Advisor Services is due to come out this year with an app for the iPad that will allow advisers to see client accounts, Mr. Moseley said. The nation's largest custodian for registered investment advisers already has an iPhone app.

Ward Petty, an adviser with Benjamin F. Edwards & Co., which keeps client assets under custody with Pershing, said that the latter's iPad app allows him to perform all necessary client functions from the road, including sending out 1099 forms or research reports.

He also uses the app with clients during annual meetings to review their portfolios' performance.

“My proficiency has continued to increase as I use it, and I can navigate around the app even better than when I first started using it,” Mr. Petty said.

Printing from his iPad 2, however, is one thing that he hasn't been able to master quite yet, he said.

Printing is possible with the iPad 2 and iPad 3, the newest version, which has a high-resolution “Retina” screen. The iPad 3 costs between $500 and $830.

Several mutual fund companies also offer apps that advisers are using to research investments and receive commentary from portfolio managers and other investment professionals. Advisers can use the apps with clients to show details about certain offerings.

With certain apps, such as the one from Franklin Templeton Investments, advisers can e-mail information sheets directly to clients.

The Franklin Templeton offering and the Vanguard Advisors for iPad app both ranked high among the 448 advisers who responded to a question in the InvestmentNews survey about favorite industry apps.

Advisers also said that they use mobile apps by Bloomberg LP and Thomson Reuters, as well as tools from RedTail Technology Inc., which offers a mobile app free to subscribers to its customer relationship management software, and a document management tool from Laserfiche, a unit of Compulink Management Center Inc.

Investment management firm Brinker Capital Inc. offers an app that calculates relative returns versus absolute returns.

The Absolute Return Mixer leads advisers through eight questions about an investor's time horizon, risk tolerance and investing future. The result is a range of recommendations for absolute- and relative-return allocations.

ADVISER SINGS APP'S PRAISES

Lance Drucker, president of Drucker Financial Group, has been using the app since it came out in April. He runs through the question series with clients during investment meetings, connecting his iPad to a large flat-screen TV in his office.

Mr. Drucker likes being able to show graphically how much of a client's portfolio is aimed at relative return, versus absolute return.

“People really do want to understand how we get to the recommendations we make,” he said. “This allows them to be interactive and know how we got to a particular conclusion.”

Holly Thomas, principal of an eponymous firm, said that her iPad has boosted her productivity and allows her to have at hand all the documents she needs when traveling.

She uses the mobile device to post to her blogs through a WordPress app while out of town.

Oltis Software LLC, maker of Finance Logix planning tools, offers an app called Retire Logix that illustrates how different sources of retirement income stack up in addressing the clients' needs.

Interactive illustrations show a “money capsule” (picture the shape of a Tylenol gel capsule). Users can drag their fingers on sliders to change the assumptions used to calculate the amount of funds that would be available for needs and for wants.

Advisers can lead clients through the process during a meeting or send them a link to use the app themselves.

Of course, advisers occasionally use the tablets for something other than work.

Mr. Drucker's favorite personal apps include Skype — now a Microsoft tool — for video calls, and OpenEye, which he uses during his vacations to watch his black Labrador retrievers at their “spa.”

ALREADY HOOKED

Mr. Petty recently discovered an app on which he already is hooked. Called Tehda, it is the iPad version of TeuxDeux, a popular task management tool. Its electronic “to do” list lets him add a meeting on his iPad and have the appointment sync to his work desktop as well as his iPhone.

Tehda also bumps items on Mr. Petty's to-do list to the next day on the rare occasions that he fails to complete them on time.

lskinner@investmentnews.com Twitter: @skinnerliz

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