Technology Update

Tales from T3: What jumped out

New interfaces designed for Windows 8 and RT look like winners

Feb 24, 2013 @ 12:01 am

By Davis Janowski

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A prized new possession of mine is a decoder ring made on a 3D printer. I got it two weeks ago while attending the eighth annual Technology Tools for Today Conference in Miami.

In addition to that, I saw several beautiful new interfaces designed for Windows 8 and RT, and learned how advisers can better secure their firms against the latest in technology vulnerabilities.

Now that I've had a little time to mull things over, I thought I would share some of the highlights. While the sessions were useful and popular, I often find it most informative to visit the vendor booths — and there were more than 80 companies on hand at T3.

First, about that decoder ring. It was made by Al Lee, a research scientist at the Fidelity Center for Applied Technology. The center is a showpiece for Fidelity Investments and is a technology proving ground and testing facility — not for their own tech but for tech the firm should adopt in the near-term future.

THE GEE-WHIZ GUY

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(Gerardo Tabones)

Mr. Lee is an engaging figure and loves to share the cutting-edge technology that he gets a chance to kick the tires on. At T3, he inspired advisers with the only real gee-whiz stuff there, including the latest ideas on robots and robotics, interface designs and the possibilities of 3D printing technology.

He created copies of the decoder ring on the center's 3D printer and handed them out to some attendees. It was a real-world representation of where pure technology and mathematics — in this case, the ciphers one can create and decode with the ring — meets real-world innovation. He was making the case of how anyone with the know-how in the near future will be able to create or manufacture just about anything on the new hardware.

I saw plenty of other interesting exhibits, as well.

Top of mind, at least in terms of raw beauty, are a couple of new interfaces designed and developed largely around use of Windows 8 and Windows RT.

For the first, I have to acknowledge T3 co-founder Joel Bruckenstein for insisting I go check out the new Fusion Advisor Workstation interface from custodian Trade-PMR Inc. I'm already a fan of Trade-PMR's chief technology officer, Dennis Suppe, with whom I've spoken many times. But Joel's shove actually got me over to their booth.

Once there, I got to meet two of the firm's developers, Jared Pinchot and Steve Hopkins, who took me through the platform on a couple of different devices, including a Windows 8 desktop touch-screen device and a Microsoft Surface tablet.

I have seen an abundance of iPad applications over the past two years, but this was the first interface I've seen that takes maximum advantage of the latest in Windows design. While that might seem like an oxymoron, the interface, with its black background, is easy on the eyes and highly intuitive. And TradePMR has created easy-to-use widgets that advisers can deploy in the order of their choice on their dashboard home screen.

Similarly, I had a chance to spend some time with FinFolio founder Matt Abar and see the latest iteration of his portfolio management application, which also takes full advantage of Microsoft's latest development environment. For example, FinFolio users will make use of the ribbon, just like what one sees in the latest versions of Microsoft Office. The views available on the application offer quick access to all the “entities,” listing them on the screen along with their values, and “tool” windows let an adviser easily customize his or her work area.

INTRIGUING STARTUP

FinFolio's snazzy looking Windows 8 interface view, as on display at the T3 conference.
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FinFolio's snazzy looking Windows 8 interface view, as on display at the T3 conference. (Davis Janowski)

Now let's turn to the entirely new — in this case, the startup cloudRIA. I got a chance to speak with a few folks later at the conference who are already interested in adding their own wares to the firm's platform of third-party applications.

“It's a great way for advisers to have everything at once in an interface that is easy to use,” said Sheryl Rowling, co-founder of Total Rebalance Expert, referring to cloudRIA.

“We're the first re-balancing software [vendor] to work with him,” she said, referring to cloudRIA founder Ryan Terwedo. As to cloudRIA's set of offerings, she added: “What's great about it is, you are not married to anything on it.”

Many different categories of applications are being added, Mr. Terwedo said. For example, there are already document-archiving vendors and well-known mainstay applications including fully hosted and maintained access to online versions of PortfolioCenter, MoneyGuidePro and others.

Finance Logix founder and chief executive Oleg Tishkevich demonstrated the revamped client portal his firm is launching, with an open beta available soon.

The firm's financial planning software has long had online client questionnaires, but based on user feedback, including that of advisory clients themselves, many updates have been made to the user interface. For example, the colors will change from red to green when a client has completed a given section — say, when he or she finishes the insurance needs assessment.

Visit the online version of this column for additional news from the conference, including a look at Orion Advisor Services' new Orion Mail offering, the most important bits on Schwab Advisor Services and the Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services platform — as well as a disturbing image of me and my friend Bill Winterberg.

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