A lot of positive developments probably went unnoticed early this month by advisers due to the catastrophe caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Among those that doubtless received short shrift was the launch of the long-awaited Schwab Advisor Center application for the iPad.
Schwab is the last of the four major custodians to come out with a dedicated application for accessing its platform on the popular Apple Inc. tablet.
Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services launched WealthCentral Mobile for iPad in January, and TD Ameritrade Institutional rolled out Veo Mobile for iPad in April 2011. But it was Pershing LLC that really got the ball rolling.
Pershing launched NetX360 Mobile for iPad in December 2010, and there have been almost a dozen updates since then.
As with all the custodial applications available for the iPad, the primary way advisers will use them involves client communications.
“We viewed this as a consumption device but also one that we can use in the future in conjunction with other things,” said Neesha Hathi, senior vice president of technology for Schwab Advisor Services.
Although she would not give specifics, Ms. Hathi acknowledged that the app was constructed to allow the possibility of collaboration with many apps available to Schwab retail clients.
“We knew we had to take an approach that makes it easy to build on and expand,” she said.
In its current form, the app provides only a subset of the features available to advisers from their day-to-day desktop login to Schwab Advisor Services but is fully HTML5 compatible — in other words, flexible and easily expandable.
Advisers can use it to check balances, positions and transactions. Schwab has created customized charts to display daily account movements and quotes, as well as to present the latest data on funds, indexes and stocks.
It will be most useful for on-the-go tasks: sharing reports with clients in meetings, taking a quick look at client's portfolio or tracking down a quick quote.
Advisers with valid Schwab Advisor Center accounts can download the app free through the iPad's App Store.
If the popularity of Schwab's iPhone application is any indication — there have been nearly 4,000 downloads since its launch this year — it likely will become the most downloaded custodial iPad app in only a short time.
RetiremapHQ.com from Boulevard R helps with 401(k) education efforts
Boulevard R is helping put advisers right in the middle of the conversation when it comes to 401(k) education.
Retirees are going to be increasingly dependent on 401(k)s or similar plans in lieu of pensions, but how can advisers get clients to increase their automatic deferral rate?
In the workplace, of course.
Boulevard R, a small retirement planning tech firm, has created RetiremapHQ.com, a new online education program that advisers can use specifically to educate plan participants.
Co-founder Matt Iverson worked with behavioral economist Dan Ariely on the project.
Retiremap employs an interactive iPad app designed to be driven by an adviser during on-site educational workshops that could accommodate up to 500 employees in a single day.
“There is no role for the adviser in the providers' platforms; they don't provide the adviser access or insight, and there is generally no way for the adviser to know who needs help among enrollees,” Mr. Iverson said.
“Plan sponsors are really looking for these sorts of solutions now,” he said.
Although Retiremap has an online component that uses e-mail activation links, the employer-branded iPad app, which is used in 30-minute on-site workshops, has the most impact, Mr. Iverson said.
These end up costing less per employee than sending out brochures, he said.
“You can lead the employees directly to the place where they can interface with their plan,” Mr. Iverson said.
Pricing is geared for plans with 250 or more enrolled participants and starts at $9,000 a year for the whole program. Boulevard R handles a lot of the planning and implementation.
“The idea is to free up the adviser while giving them a big educational differentiator with current and prospective plan sponsor clients,” Mr. Iverson said.
I first wrote about Boulevard R in 2007 and then again a year later, when the firm partnered with the Financial Planning Association on Starter Roadmap, a detailed financial online wizard intended to help consumers determine if they are financially on track for retirement. That online system has since morphed into Amp, another iPad tool, which allows individual advisers to customize their firm's marketing and branding.
Visit RetiremapHQ.com/how/ for more information and a video on the Retiremap program.
Updated platform Wealth Advisor Solutions Inc. version 3.0 of Adhesion
In addition to a lot of the new tools I report on, I keep pace with developments in platforms that are aimed at helping RIA firms to grow.
Among the niche players in this category is Wealth Advisor Solutions Inc., which has introduced Version 3.0 of its Adhesion platform.
Most significant among the new features are its suite of unified-managed-household tools.
AEPG Wealth Strategies began using Adhesion's platform three years ago to replace some of its other technology in order to scale operations and help streamline them for growth, said executive vice president and adviser Peter Needham, whose firm has $700 million in assets under management.
“With what we were using, it took our guys upward of two weeks to re-balance our portfolios,” he said.
Many other firms were, and still are, attempting to pursue growth by adding staff as they add clients — at best an inefficient approach.
Mr. Needham said that largely because of the platform efficiencies, the firm has been able to redeploy half the time of two employees away from operational details — especially client billing — and toward investment management.
“Most broadly speaking, we are at a point where we could double our [assets under management] without adding staff,” he said.
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