Let go of security concerns, embrace the cloud and go mobile, says adviser David O'Brien, a self-described “recovering tech guy” and founder of Midlothian, Va.-based O'Brien Financial Planning Inc.
“I've always maintained that for folks who [want to use mobile devices], they've got to embrace the cloud to take advantage of mobile technology,” said Mr. O'Brien, 48, who founded his advisory firm in 2006.
Having spent 18 years at General Electric Co., much of it doing IT-related projects, he is now a regular speaker on technology topics at industry events.
Going mobile is all about having more freedom and flexibility in the way you work, he said. “With everything in the cloud, it doesn't matter where I am — I can do business.”
'SYNC ACROSS THE CLOUD'
Mobility starts with having your e-mail, calendar and contacts on the Internet, he said.
“It all has to sync across the cloud, regardless of the e-mail system you use,” Mr. O'Brien said. Software and client data also have to be available via the Internet.
He likes Apple products for their ability to sync data automatically. Mr. O'Brien uses an iMac computer and a MacBook Air notebook, as well as an iPad and iPhone.
“Having the calendar and e-mail in the cloud lets you run errands, see important e-mails and show where you're supposed to be next,” he said.
Office computers are for doing “heavier work” such as analysis and planning, he said. “I view the iPhone as a phone. The iPad is where I read and do things.”
He finds his iPad especially useful in working directly with clients.
“In old days, I'd bring a laptop and some files to a meeting, but I looked like I was moving in for the weekend,” he said. “The iPad has everything I need. It gives you a low-key meeting, especially if you meet in a public place … It's discreet, like handing over a piece of paper … Clients can hold it, look at their financial plan or account, and it's very interactive.”
Mr. O'Brien acknowledges that many advisers are concerned about data security with mobile devices, “but they just need to do the due diligence to make sure their [technology] providers are desirable.” He uses Trend Micro Inc.'s SafeSync for Business, a secure online data storage and synchronizing program that allows remote access to sensitive business data.
“People get tripped up because they're afraid of [security issues] and never get to do what I do,” Mr. O'Brien said. “I can sit at the kitchen table a little longer in the morning and have a second cup of coffee with my wife … I can get a lot of that busywork out of the way with the tablet, like going through e-mails, without physically having to go to the office.”
And when he took a two-week vacation to Ireland last summer, “I was able to check in with my iPad everywhere,” Mr. O'Brien added.
One urgent issue arose when a client who was closing on a mortgage needed a copy of an account statement.
“I saw the voice mail [via e-mail], went into my online vault at my custodian, made a secure statement, put it in a secure folder and told [the client] how to get it,” he said. Within 15 minutes, the client confirmed receipt.
“This all happened while I'm sitting at the beach in Ireland,” Mr. O'Brien said. “And it's all because of the cloud.”